- The Washington Times - Friday, December 11, 2009

POINT-COUNTERPOINT

Each Friday, columnist Dan Daly and Redskins beat writer Ryan O’Halloran debate an NFL issue. This week: In Monday’s Baltimore-Green Bay game, there were eight defensive pass interference penalties, and a few were iffy. Should the league reassess how it calls the penalty?

Dan Daly: Watching that game was like watching one of those basketball games where the officials call everything and the whole game is just one long parade to the foul line. Absolutely brutal. That said, I don’t think the refs had that bad of a night. Heck, one time they let an interference go. The thing I kept thinking was: It’s bad enough half these defensive players have forgotten how to tackle. Now they can’t even cover anybody without surreptitiously hooking his arm so he can’t make the catch. Seriously, what are they teaching these guys in all these minicamps and OTAs and voluntary workouts and whatnot? It’s embarrassing, but it’s easier to rip the officials than to rip the secondaries for lousy pass coverage.

Ryan O’Halloran: In the wake of the interference calls, I really expected somebody to report — heck, even ESPN during the broadcast since it has the resources — that this particular officiating crew had called more interference penalties than anybody else. I didn’t see it mentioned. Dan and I have had tons of conversations about how the tackling in pro football is putrid (see No. 30 on the Redskins). My thing is, the league doesn’t need to change the rules as much as offenses need to take advantage of flag-happy back judges and just start lofting passes downfield to create contact.

DD: I’ve gotta hand it to these teams. Usually when there are that many yards in penalties - 310 in all - it’s because there was a brawl and a bunch of players got thrown out or something. But in this case, it was just sheer ineptitude on the part of both clubs. Truly a low point for the NFL, if you ask me. I know there are some crews that are more hanky-happy than others, but the Ravens and Packers seemed to take the approach of: “These refs can’t keep calling ‘em like this all night. We’ll just keep doing what we’re doing, and eventually they’ll stop.” And they never did! Besides, if you’re going to holler about too many interference calls, then you’re going to have to explain to me why receivers running picks for one another - which is illegal - is as tolerated as it is. There’s interfering, in other words, being done by the offense and the defense. Just shut up and play is my attitude.

RO: Some say the rule should change to make it a 15-yard penalty instead of a spot foul that results in gains of 30, 40 or 50 yards. I doubt that will happen unless a Super Bowl or playoff game is decided by a questionable 62-yard pass interference call that puts the trailing team in field goal position to win it.

WEEKEND PICKS

REDSKINS THIS WEEK

REDSKINS (3-9) at RAIDERS (4-8)

Sunday, 4:05 p.m.

TV: Ch. 5

Line: Redskins by 1

Outlook: Sure, Oakland had a big fourth quarter to beat Pittsburgh on Sunday, and Bruce Gradkowski threw for 308 yards and three touchdowns. But this is the rare week when the Redskins have the stronger offense. The Raiders rank 31st in points and yards and aren’t much better defensively. If Jason Campbell stays upright, the Redskins fly home with their fourth win.

The pick: Redskins 27-19

GAME OF THE WEEK

EAGLES (8-4) at GIANTS (7-5)

Sunday, 8:20 p.m.

TV: Chs. 4, 11

Line: Giants by 1

Outlook: New York has another chance to get back into the NFC East race; the Eagles and Cowboys are tied atop the division. Both offenses are in the top eight in scoring, but look for the Eagles to try to pass their way to a season sweep of the Giants.

The pick: Eagles 28-24

UPSET WATCH

SEAHAWKS (5-7) at TEXANS (5-7)

Sunday, 1 p.m.

Line: Texans by 6

Outlook: Houston is the most disappointing team of the second half. A month ago, the Texans were 5-3 and poised for their first meaningful December. But they’ve lost four straight by a combined 19 points — all in the AFC South. Seattle has won two in a row and is one of only six teams with two players with 60 or more catches (T.J. Houshmandzadeh with 61 and Nate Burleson with 60).

The pick: Seahawks 17-13

INSIDE THE AFC

*Indianapolis goes for its record-setting 22nd straight regular-season victory when it hosts Denver. Obviously, having the top-ranked passing game helps, but a key reason the Colts can rally in the fourth quarter is a defense that has allowed only 17 points in the third quarter. The Colts can wrap up home-field in the AFC playoffs with one more win.

*These are strange days in New England. The Patriots can’t win on the road (0-5 in “true” away games), can’t run it (16th), can’t stop the run (15th) and can’t stop the pass (20th in yards per completion). “In the end, you’re either gaining ground on a team or you’re losing ground, and I always prefer to be gaining ground,” quarterback Tom Brady said.

*Future Hall of Fame cornerback Champ Bailey added another duty last week for Denver: covering kickoffs. Bailey made a third-quarter tackle at Kansas City, part of coach Josh McDaniels‘ philosophy of playing starters on special teams. Three Denver defensive starters play special teams. By comparison, four Redskins defensive starters and three on offense played on at least one special teams unit two weeks ago against Philadelphia.

*The Bengals were forced to scramble Wednesday when high winds forced them to travel 22 miles to an indoor soccer complex because Cincinnati doesn’t have an indoor facility. “It’s a pain. It’s a drag,” quarterback Carson Palmer said.

INSIDE THE NFC

*Dallas quarterback Tony Romo is in as holder for kicker Nick Folk, replacing punter Mat McBriar. The last time Romo held for the Cowboys, he made an infamous mistake in a January 2007 playoff game that allowed Seattle to escape with a victory.

*Carolina’s defense can’t stay healthy. Only five players have started every game, and if defensive end Tyler Brayton (concussion) doesn’t start Sunday at New England, it will be the Panthers’ 13th different starting lineup in as many games. They started the same defense in the first 14 games last year.

*Green Bay rookie linebacker Clay Matthews won NFC player of the week honors for his tour de force (six tackles, two sacks, one pass breakup and one forced fumble) against Baltimore. Matthews and his father became the league’s first father-son combo ever honored as players of the week.

*Already on the job 10-plus seasons, Philadelphia coach Andy Reid signed a three-year contract extension (through 2013) for a reported $5 million to $6 million a year. The Eagles have made the playoffs seven times in Reid’s first decade. “He has all the ingredients: leadership, football knowledge, the ability to gain the respect of everybody that he works with — especially the players — and assembling a staff,” Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said.

BY THE NUMBERS

44.4 Net punting average for Oakland’s Shane Lechler, which would break the NFL record (41.2) he set last year.

FOR THE BETTING PUBLIC

Five facts about the NFL betting lines as the final quarter of the season begins:

1. No team is better than 8-4 against the spread. Denver, Indianapolis, Arizona and New Orleans are 8-4.

2. Detroit (3-8-1) has the worst record against the spread. Eleven teams are under .500 against the spread.

3 Exhibit A on why the NFL is a precarious betting play: Twelve of the 32 teams, including the Redskins, are an even 6-6 against the line.

4. The Redskins are 0-6 on the road but 4-2 away from home against the spread.

5. Indianapolis is 6-0 on the road against the spread but only 2-4 at home.

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