- The Washington Times - Friday, September 19, 2008

POINT-COUNTERPOINT

Each week, columnist Dan Daly and Redskins beat writer Ryan O’Halloran debate a football issue. This week: Which player or players have jumped out in the first two weeks?

Ryan O’Halloran: Before the season, I was never a big Jay Cutler guy. I thought the Denver quarterback would be just an average player even if he had above-average talent to play with. But he has been super impressive during the Broncos’ 2-0 start. He leads the NFL with 650 yards to go with six touchdowns. Some of the throws he made under pressure — including the two-point conversion — showed moxie and just a cannon of an arm.

Dan Daly: It’s hard to stand out in a place like Detroit with the franchise crumbling around you, but Calvin Johnson is pulling it off. I compare him to another big receiver the Lions had, Herman Moore, except that Moore was an inch shorter (6-foot-4) and didn’t have his first 1,000-yard season until his fourth year. I’d be surprised if Johnson didn’t do it this year, his second. He has speed and hands, and he’s a huge target; I think we’re looking at a future great - as long as his team has a half-decent quarterback, which is problematic in Detroit.

RO: If I’m Johnson, I would be inching closer and closer every week to bide-my-time-until-I-can-force-a-trade mode - that’s how pathetic the Lions have been in, oh, the last several decades. A rookie who has stood out is Tennessee running back Chris Johnson. Even though he was a first-round pick, I had never heard of this guy until late in the preseason. So far, he has carried the Titans’ offense (202 yards) and will be the bell cow with Kerry Collins trying to make timely throws.

DD: I love the first few weeks of the season, when guys like Johnson and Matt Forte, the rookie from Tulane who’s tearing it up for the Bears (215 yards rushing), seem to materialize out of nowhere. Running backs can have such an instant impact on a team - and there are so many good ones. In fact, you look at these two guys, plus Darren McFadden with Oakland, Jonathan Stewart with Carolina, Felix Jones with Dallas and a couple of others and, wow, this was a deep draft for runners.

WEEKEND PICKS

REDSKINS THIS WEEK

CARDINALS (2-0) at REDSKINS (1-1)

Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV: Chs. 5, 45

Line: Redskins by 3

Outlook: Another key game for the Redskins, who play next at Dallas and Philadelphia. The Cardinals have the best receiver duo in the NFL (Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald), but the Redskins will turn takeaways into touchdowns.

The pick: Redskins 34-27.

GAME OF THE WEEK

COWBOYS (2-0) at PACKERS (2-0)

Sunday, 8:15 p.m.

TV: Ch. 4, 11

Line: Cowboys by 3

Outlook: Points shouldn’t be a problem in this game. Tony Romo and Aaron Rodgers should both have big nights. A key in this game will be penalties — Dallas has 21 and Green Bay 20. A backbreaking flag will be the difference.

The pick: Packers 28-24.

UPSET WATCH

BROWNS (0-2) at RAVENS (1-0)

Sunday, 4:15 p.m.

TV: Ch. 13

Line: Ravens by 2 1/2

Outlook: The Browns are basically playing for their season; the Ravens are just glad to be playing. Cleveland’s defense stood up last week, and life will be tough for Joe Flacco. Plus, the Browns should take advantage of the Ravens’ rust.

The pick: Browns 13-7.

THIS WEEK’S LOCK

BENGALS (0-2) at GIANTS (2-0)

Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV: Ch. 13

Line: Giants by 13

Outlook: The Giants allowed 80 points in the first two games last year; they have allowed 20 points this season. The offense isn’t bad, either. New York is rolling through the soft underbelly of its schedule — it should start 6-0 heading into Pittsburgh.

The pick: Giants 37-14.

FRIDAY’S FIVE

Coaches who already are on the hot seat two weeks into the season — in order of most likely to be fired first:

1. Lane Kiffin, Oakland: He could be fired by the delusional Al Davis any week now regardless of how the Raiders fare.

2. Scott Linehan, St. Louis: If it weren’t for their cross-state rivals (Kansas City), the Rams would be the worst team in the NFL.

3. Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati: The Bengals are back to being the Bungals; they have scored 17 points in two games.

4. Romeo Crennel, Cleveland: Expectations were high entering the Browns season, but they’re 0-2 (both losses at home), and some of Crennel’s in-game decisions have been atrocious.

5. Mike Nolan, San Francisco: The 49ers got a huge win last week (overtime at Seattle), but Nolan is only 17-33, and former top pick Alex Smith is officially a bust.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

A look each week at one statistic and whether it was the difference between winning and losing. This week: turnover margin.

10-2

Record last week for teams that won the turnover margin. Three games were even. Only Minnesota and Philadelphia won the takeaway-giveaway battle but lost their games.

INSIDE THE AFC

* Pittsburgh is saying Ben Roethlisberger’s shoulder is sprained and not separated. Regardless, this could be a season-long issue since it’s unlikely he will make it through a game without taking a hit. The Steelers are at Philadelphia on Sunday and haven’t won there in 43 years. They will be without defensive end Brett Keisel, out for two months with a calf injury.

* The Chiefs will be starting rookies all over the field Sunday at Atlanta. Ex-Virginia offensive lineman Branden Albert gets his first start, and Herm Edwards will send out cornerbacks Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr. Second-year man Tyler Thigpen is the third quarterback to start in as many weeks for Kansas City. The Chiefs have lost 11 straight regular-season games.

* The Jets didn’t wait long to make a punting change. Ben Graham is out after averaging 34.3 net yards a punt in the first two games.

* Colts safety Bob Sanders is back to his even-year injury problems — he’s out four to six weeks with a high ankle sprain. In 2004 and 2006, he missed a combined 22 games; in 2005 and 2007, he missed only three.

INSIDE THE NFC

* Dallas quarterback Tony Romo improved to 11-3 in nationally televised games in the regular season by going 21-for-30 for 312 yards and three touchdowns. Of course, he’s 0-2 in playoff games, all of which are on national TV.

* Koren Robinson is back in the league, this time for a second stint with Seattle. The Seahawks have been decimated by injuries at receiver (six have been lost for the year), forcing them to trade for Keary Colbert from Denver and sign Robinson, who was out of football.

* Tampa Bay rookie cornerback Elbert Mack probably will learn his lesson Sunday. He will be serving a one-game suspension for a helmet hit on Atlanta’s Matt Ryan. It was Mack’s second offense — he was docked $5,000 for a hit on Houston’s Alex Brink.

* Why isn’t New Orleans using Deuce McAllister more? He had two carries for 10 yards last week against Washington. “It’s not something that I’m going to fuss and whine about,” he said.

* The Lions are 0-2 (again) and 31-83 since Matt Millen arrived, including 8-49 on the road. Detroit wide receiver Roy Williams already is complaining about coordinator Jim Colletto’s run-first philosophy.

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