- The Washington Times - Friday, November 20, 2009

POINT-COUNTERPOINT

Each Friday, columnist Dan Daly and Redskins beat writer Ryan O’Halloran debate an NFL issue. This week’s topic: the disparity in fines around the league, from Bud Adams’ ($250,000) to Tommie Harris’ ($7,500).

Dan Daly: Years from now - I’m totally convinced of this - people are going to look back on 2009 as the year the NFL went absolutely nuts. And one of the reasons is some of these fines that have been handed out. The league seems to be overreacting to everything. What happened on the sideline in Atlanta after LaRon Landry hit Matt Ryan as he went out of bounds was nothing by football standards. Did a punch get thrown? If so, I didn’t see it. And yet we’ve got a coach, Mike Smith, getting fined $15,000, Landry getting fined $7,500 and DeAngelo Hall raising a major fuss because Smith and the Falcons’ weight coach had the temerity to put their hands on him. What exactly did Hall, who was wearing a helmet and full pads, have to fear from a middle-aged man and some other guy who were standing there in street clothes? Honestly, it’s embarrassing.

Ryan O’Halloran: Most of these fines are comical. Remember, this is a league that has an official uniform police that docks players cash for socks and shoes violations. Bud Adams gets docked a quarter-million bucks for a couple of double one-fingered salutes. Pathetic. I love the passion. Plus, the guy is north of 85 years old - applaud him for just being able to stand. A fine should be based on potential harm to a player. Harris’ fine should have been higher (think $25K). And Brady Quinn’s $10K fine for trying to end Terrell Suggs’ season (chop block) was way too light. That was a suspension-worthy offense.

DD: It’s funny. The Saints ran a reverse a while back, and Drew Brees passed up the chance to cut down a defender and brush-blocked him instead. I said to myself, “Brees will end up starting in the Pro Bowl just because of that. All the defensive players will vote for him - rather than for Brett Favre, who was in the same situation earlier in the season and chopped a guy.” By the way, is it just me, or is there no such thing as a 15-yard penalty anymore? Seems like it’s always 15 yards plus some money. For goodness’ sake, we’re playing football here. I wouldn’t have fined Landry a dime. He hit Ryan above the waist just as he was stepping out of bounds. If you want to throw a flag, fine, throw a flag, but the fine was piling on.

RO: If Landry would have hit Michael Turner above the waist on the Redskins’ sideline, there probably wouldn’t have been a penalty, much less a fine. But Landry hit the wrong player in the wrong location. I would love to get Roger Goodell’s take on these fines and what justifies the amount and the penalty in each case.

WEEKEND PICKS

REDSKINS THIS WEEK

REDSKINS (3-6) at COWBOYS (6-3)

Sunday: 1 p.m.

TV: Ch. 5

Line: Cowboys by 11

Outlook: Dallas was rolling until it was stonewalled last week in Green Bay, its offense limited to a garbage-time touchdown. The Cowboys have called for coordinator Jason Garrett to call more running plays, which makes sense against the Redskins’ 24th-ranked rush defense. There are some one-on-one matchups Washington can win but not enough to have its first winning streak in more than a year.

The pick: Cowboys 27-21

GAME OF THE WEEK

CHARGERS (6-3) at BRONCOS (6-3)

Sunday, 4:15 p.m.

Line: Off

Outlook: When Denver won at San Diego last month, the Broncos rolled into their bye 6-0 and a healthy lead over the 2-3 Chargers. But the gap has closed, and the AFC West lead is on the line. Denver quarterback Kyle Orton (ankle) missed practice Wednesday, and if Chris Simms starts, the Broncos are really in trouble. The Broncos’ collapse continues.

The pick: Chargers 28-24

UPSET WATCH

EAGLES (5-4) at BEARS (4-5)

Sunday, 8:20 p.m.

TV: Chs. 4, 11

Line: Eagles by 3

Outlook: The Eagles again will be without Brian Westbrook (concussion), and quarterback Donovan McNabb has labeled this a “must-win.” The Bears haven’t played since Nov. 12’s five-interception stinker by Jay Cutler. But Chicago’s woeful defense - with help from Eagles coach Andy Reid - will stop Philadelphia in the red zone to seal the win.

The pick: Bears 17-16

INSIDE THE AFC

*Pittsburgh’s road to a second consecutive Super Bowl is becoming more and more difficult. Losing to Cincinnati basically means no division title and three road wins to reach Miami. The Steelers’ 226 yards last week were the second fewest in their Heinz Field history. “There was just something missing all day, and I don’t know what it was,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said.

*Raiders coach Tom Cable finally had enough of JaMarcus Russell. Cable benched the quarterback Wednesday, and Bruce Gradkowski took over. He started one game for Cleveland last year and 11 games as a rookie in Tampa Bay three years ago. Russell has 14 turnovers and completed only 46.8 percent of his passes this year. “This is where we’re headed and what we’re going to do,” Cable said. “[Gradkowski] will take this team and go with it.”

*Cleveland’s offense is so bad it makes the Redskins look like the Greatest Show On Grass. The Browns (1-8) are averaging 8.7 points a game, on pace for the third-worst output in the modern era. Tampa Bay (1977, 7.4) and Atlanta (1974, 7.9) were terrible in a 14-game schedule. The lowest 16-game average is Seattle in 1992 (8.8).

INSIDE THE NFC

*The race for home-field advantage between Minnesota and New Orleans heats up this week. Each team has only three games against teams with winning records, and only Minnesota (Dec. 28 at Chicago) plays a cold-weather game. Because the Saints would have to lose two more games than Minnesota, they get the edge.

*Arizona is favored to start 5-0 on the road for the first time in franchise history. The Cardinals visit St. Louis, where Kurt Warner made his name. On the road this year, Warner has a 72.6 completion percentage, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions. Helping the Cardinals’ offense is rookie running back Beanie Wells, who is averaging 67.8 yards rushing in the last four games.

*Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris was docked $20,000 for his tirade against officials Sunday in Miami. “I got fined, and I’m more than happy to give my money to a charity of their choosing,” he said. “I’m fortunate enough to be in a society where I can be fined that much money and give it to charity and move on and not hold a grudge. I learned my lesson.”

DRIVING TEAMS CRAZY

Sustaining drives is again the key to success this year. The top five offenses in yards a drive are a combined 36-9, and four lead their division:

TeamYards/driveRecordPPG

Indianapolis36.89-028.0

New England36.46-328.8

New Orleans35.29-036.8

Dallas34.76-324.9

Pittsburgh33.46-323.0

Note: The Redskins average 29.2 yards a drive and 15.6 points a game.

BY THE NUMBERS

1-16 Record for Dallas this decade when it rushes fewer than 20 times. The Cowboys had 14 rushes in Sunday’s loss at Green Bay.

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