- The Washington Times - Friday, September 26, 2008

POINT-COUNTERPOINT

Each Friday, columnist Dan Daly and Redskins beat writer Ryan O’Halloran debate a football issue. This week: the Detroit Lions finally firing Matt Millen.

Dan Daly: This is going to sound funny, but I’m happy for Matt Millen. He’s as good a guy as I’ve run across in sports, and I’m sure he has been miserable the last several years because of all the losing - and all the grief he has gotten. What his experience in Detroit shows as much as anything is that, hey, these GM jobs aren’t easy. Just because you’re smart and a longtime former player - a very good former player - doesn’t mean you can run an NFL team. In this fantasy league world, folks sometimes forget that.

Ryan O’Halloran: You’re happy for Millen; I’m happy for the football fans of Detroit. After so many coaching changes, so many subpar draft picks and so many other stupid decisions, this is something that should have happened years ago. Detroit has experienced recent success with the Red Wings, Pistons and Tigers, but it still took Billy Ford Jr. eons to act on getting rid of Millen. Maybe this will prevent the Lions from joining the CFL next year.

DD: Whoever replaces Millen will have this going for him: The bar has been set very low. But don’t forget, the problems didn’t start with Matt. The Lions are one of the few teams that have never been to the Super Bowl. Even when they had Barry Sanders, they were up and down. Put it this way: The Lions haven’t had a quarterback to get excited about since Bobby Layne. What was that, 50 years ago?

RO: The Lions don’t have a lot of pieces in place, so whoever takes over will inherit a major building job. The Ford family has tried a little bit of everything in the last 50 years - retread coaches, announcers-turned-GMs, respected assistants - and nothing has worked. Because of their history of incompetence in the football business, don’t be surprised if the Fords hire a college coach, which almost never works out.

WEEKEND PICKS

REDSKINS THIS WEEK

REDSKINS (2-1) at COWBOYS (3-0)

Sunday, 4:15 p.m.

TV: Chs. 5, 45

Line: Cowboys by 11

Outlook: Expect an offensive showcase because Dallas’ offense is that good and the Cowboys’ secondary has the potential to struggle. The Cowboys average 440 yards a game, but opposing quarterbacks have completed 68 percent of their passes against them. The key matchup is Terrell Owens vs. Shawn Springs.

The pick: Cowboys 34-27.

GAME OF THE WEEK

PACKERS (2-1) at BUCCANEERS (2-1)

Sunday, 1 p.m.

Line: Buccaneers by 1

Outlook: The teams come in off opposite performances in Week 3 - the Buccaneers rallied from 10 points down for the first time since December 1999 to win at Chicago in overtime; Dallas pounded the Packers at Lambeau. Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s interesting blitzes will be the difference.

The pick: Buccaneers 21-13.

UPSET WATCH

VIKINGS (1-2) at TITANS (3-0)

Sunday, 1 p.m.

Line: Titans by 3

Outlook: Now that Gus Frerotte has gone through his first game as a starter and Adrian Peterson is nearing full strength, the Vikings will hand Tennessee its first loss. The key will be Minnesota’s run defense. The Vikings this season have allowed 70.3 yards rushing a game; that’s the Titans’ strength.

The pick: Vikings 29-20.

THIS WEEK’S LOCK

BILLS (3-0) at RAMS (0-3)

Sunday, 4:05 p.m.

Line: Bills by 9 1/2

Outlook: This could be Scott Linehan’s swan song. The Rams have a bye next week before coming to the District, and benching Marc Bulger for Trent “My Brains Could Be Mush” Green and reuniting him with Al Saunders is Linehan’s last gasp. How about Dick Vermeil back as interim coach?

The pick: Bills 40-17.

FRIDAY’S FIVE

Teams that have winning records now but won’t by the end of the season:

1. Atlanta (2-1): The Falcons have benefited from a soft schedule but still have a rookie coach, quarterback and left tackle.

2. San Francisco (2-1): Its overtime win at Seattle two weeks ago was impressive, but the schedule is brutal - chiefly the entire NFC East.

3. Baltimore (2-0): The coach is new and the quarterback is a rookie so some valleys are inevitable, including December’s schedule (four 2007 playoff teams).

4. Arizona (2-1): The Cardinals showed against Washington they have some good pieces. This week’s game at the Jets is crucial. Win and they have a shot to go 9-7.

5. Green Bay (2-1): Had to include a long shot for this list. The Packers are banged up in the secondary, and the defense has allowed 373 yards a game.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

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

10-3

Record for teams that committed fewer penalties in Week 3. Only Atlanta, Miami and Tennessee won despite having more penalties (the total was equal in three games). The biggest disparity was Titans-Texans. Houston had only two penalties and Tennessee eight.

INSIDE THE AFC

cFormer Redskins cornerback Champ Bailey summed it up best: “We’ve got to be the luckiest team right now.” The Broncos are 3-0 despite their defense allowing 421.7 yards and 28 points a game.

cBuffalo is 3-0 for the first time since 1992. Of the last seven teams to start 4-0 a year after starting 1-3 or 0-4, all seven made the playoffs.

cThe Colts’ defense is vulnerable against the run again. Last year, Indianapolis allowed only two rushers to reach 100 yards; four backs have done it this season, which shows how much the Colts will struggle without safety Bob Sanders.

cExpect coaches from high school and college to start using the Wildcat formation. The Dolphins ran it last week - a single-wing setup with running back Ronnie Brown in the shotgun - six times at New England … and they scored four touchdowns. Arkansas used it with Raiders rookie Darren McFadden.

cDon’t expect a ton of rushing yards in Monday’s Baltimore-Pittsburgh game. The Ravens and Steelers are the top two defensive teams in the NFL, respectively. Since 2000, Baltimore (89.1) and Pittsburgh (89.5) rank first and second in rushing yards allowed a game.

INSIDE THE NFC

cAn interesting bye week for the Giants, who suspended Plaxico Burress - three weeks into a contract extension - for two weeks (one game) for missing a team meeting. The Giants said this was the last straw. Translation: Plaxico has been tardy for weeks.

cIt would behoove John Fox to work on snap counts and concentration in Carolina. The Panthers have 11 false starts in their last two games, including six at Minnesota last week. By comparison, the Redskins had three in their Week 16 win at the Metrodome last year.

cBig loss for the Green Bay defense - cornerback Al Harris is out against Tampa Bay with an injured spleen. Second-year man Tramon Williams will replace him. “We feel very confident letting him step in there and play,” coach Mike McCarthy said.

cBrandon Lloyd leads Chicago with 216 receiving yards and even has a touchdown. Lloyd took a shot at Al Saunders this week, saying the reason he may have given up on plays: “You’re sitting there [thinking], ‘Why’d the guy call that? It’s not going to work.’” Whatever.

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