- The Washington Times - Friday, January 2, 2009

AROUND THE LEAGUE

• All four road teams this weekend are favorites, but don´t count on a sweep by Indianapolis, Atlanta, Baltimore and Philadelphia. Since the current playoff format was adopted in 1990, there has never been an opening weekend road sweep. The AFC road teams have never swept the first round, but it´s happened four times in the NFC, most recently in 2005.

San Francisco’s Mike Singletary hasn´t wasted any time reshaping his first coaching staff. Singletary was officially named coach after the 49ers’ win over Washington on Sunday. By Wednesday, offensive coordinator Mike Martz, quarterbacks coach Ted Tollner and running backs coach Tony Nathan had been fired. Former Redskins linebacker Greg Manusky will be the defensive coordinator.

• Don´t rule out John Elway becoming a part of the Denver Broncos´ new brain trust. He has no NFL management experience but co-owns the Arena Football League´s Colorado Crush with Broncos owner Pat Bowlen. The stunning firing of Mike Shanahan has forced Bowlen to find a coach (his first priority) and then a front office face. Shanahan had complete control over personnel, which was his ultimate downfall.

• Following two woeful losses, Arizona hopes it got on track with its 34-21 win over Seattle last week. The Cardinals clinched the NFC West on Dec. 7 and then lost 35-14 to Minnesota and 47-7 to New England. The Cardinals host Atlanta on Saturday and will try to challenge the Falcons´ 21st-ranked pass defense. “We´re just going to play our style of football,” wide receiver Anquan Boldin said. “It doesn´t matter who we play, that doesn´t change.”

• Indianapolis won its last nine games, and the Colts´ defense deserves a large part of the credit. In September, it allowed four 100-yard rushers and nearly 200 yards a game. But only two runners reached 100 yards in the last 13 games. With a secondary that set an NFL record for fewest touchdown passes allowed (six), the Colts are the favorite at San Diego.

- Ryan O´Halloran

QUANTITY AND QUALITY

The Panthers´ DeAngelo Williams joined an exclusive club this season. He became just the sixth running back in NFL history to rush for at least 1,500 yards and average 5.5 yards a carry. Three other runners — Jim Brown, O.J. Simpson and Barry Sanders — have done it twice. Then there´s Walter Payton, who gained 1,852 yards in 1977 but missed out because his average was 5.46. And to think Williams didn´t make the Pro Bowl. The select company he joined:

•••

Order is as followed: Year, Running back, Team, Att, Yds, Avg

1958 Jim Brown Browns 257 1,527* 5.94

1963 Jim Brown Browns 291 1,863* 6.40

1973 O.J. Simpson Bills 332 2,003* 6.03

1975 O.J. Simpson Bills 329 1,817* 5.52

1984 Eric Dickerson Rams 379 2,105* 5.55

1994 Barry Sanders Lions 331 1,883* 5.69

1997 Barry Sanders Lions 335 2,053* 6.13

2002 Clinton Portis Broncos 273 1,508 5.52

2008 DeAngelo Williams Panthers 273 1,515 5.55

* Led league

— Dan Daly

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