- The Washington Times - Friday, November 27, 2009

RARE COMPANY

By rushing for at least 125 yards and averaging 5 yards a carry the last five games, Tennessee’s Chris Johnson joined Jim Brown (1958) as the only other back to achieve the feat. The duo’s numbers:

BROWN

Opp. (Att.-Yds.-Avg.-TD)

L.A. Rams (24-171-7.1-2)

Pittsburgh (17-129-7.6-3)

Chi. Cardinals (34-182-5.4-3)

Pittsburgh (19-153-8.1-1)

Chi. Cardinals (24-180-7.5-4)

JOHNSON

Opp. (Att.-Yards-Avg.-TD)

New England (17-128-7.5-0)

Jacksonville (24-228-9.5-2)

San Francisco (25-135-5.4-2)

Buffalo (26-132-5.1-2)

Houston (29-151-5.2-0)

POINT-COUNTERPOINT

Each Friday, columnist Dan Daly and Redskins beat writer Ryan O’Halloran debate an NFL issue. Which of the remaining unbeatens - Indianapolis and New Orleans - has the best chance to go 16-0, and which has the best chance to win the Super Bowl?

Ryan O’Halloran: Indianapolis’ schedule sets up favorably toward a run at 16-0. The Colts will be favored in each of their games, and the three road games are Houston, Jacksonville and Buffalo, so it’s not as if weather will be a constant issue. This team really is an interesting story. The Colts don’t even try to run it (31st in NFL) yet are tied for fourth in points. Peyton Manning has worked in his new receivers with hardly any transition, and the defense has overcome several injuries, most notably to safety Bob Sanders. I also like the Colts’ chances of winning the title. The Saints will have the tougher road in the NFC playoffs and might get tripped up.

Dan Daly: What’s really scary is that we might have had three teams with a shot at 16-0. Had the Vikings been able to finish off that late drive against the Steelers… I can’t help thinking back to 2005, when the Colts started 13-0 and then kinda shrugged at the idea of a perfect season. Tony Dungy started saying things like, “We don’t want to do anything to jeopardize our long-term goals,” and Indianapolis sagged down the stretch, lost a couple, then got upset it in its first playoff game by Pittsburgh. If the Colts get to 13-0 again, I wonder if they’ll feel the same way - or if Peyton Manning will say, “I don’t want to get pulled out of any games. This is history we’re going for. The Patriots almost did it two years ago; let’s see if we can go them one better.”

RO: The Colts could face that decision if they continue to lap the rest of the AFC, but New Orleans will really have to keep its foot on the gas because Minnesota is only one game behind and its schedule shapes for a 15-1 or 14-2 finish - but the Vikings may pull up and rest Brett Favre in the finale if they know home-field is unattainable. But the presence of the Vikings is why New Orleans has a tough road to the Super Bowl even if it doesn’t have to leave the Superdome. It hasn’t happened yet, but what will the Saints do, and how will they react if somebody stops them offensively and they get behind? The Saints’ defense is 19th against the run.

DD: I like the Saints’ chances because I think they’ve got enough of an inferiority complex to want to go undefeated - to need to go undefeated, even. This is a franchise that has never accomplished much of anything - and suddenly immortality is staring it in the face. Why not go all-in if you’re them? The game against the Patriots on Monday night is their big hurdle, I’m convinced. If they can get past the Patriots, I think they might make it. The Redskins certainly aren’t going to beat them. Dallas and Tampa Bay can’t score enough to beat them. And Carolina on the last day of the season won’t have anything to play for. That leaves Atlanta - at the Georgia Dome in Week 14. If I were a betting man, I might take the Falcons and the points, but I’d be surprised if the Saints didn’t win the game.

WEEKEND PICKS

REDSKINS THIS WEEK

REDSKINS (3-7) at EAGLES (6-4)

Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV: Chs. 5, 45

Line: Eagles by 9

Outlook: The Redskins have won two straight and three of four at Lincoln Financial Field and nearly won at Dallas last week, so the environment won’t be intimidating. What should scare the Redskins is Philadelphia’s big-play ability (13 touchdowns of 20-plus yards) and pass rush (its 30 sacks are tied for second in the NFL).

The pick: Eagles 23-17

GAME OF THE WEEK

PATRIOTS (7-3) at SAINTS (10-0)

Monday, 8:30 p.m.

TV: ESPN

Line: Saints by 2

Outlook: New England blew its chance at handing Indianapolis its first defeat two weeks ago, and you know Belichick and Brady don’t want any company in the 16-0 club. Expect the Patriots to have some tricks to stop Drew Brees and the ball-hawking New Orleans defense.

The pick: Patriots 34-30

UPSET WATCH

CARDINALS (7-3) at TITANS (4-6)

Sunday, 4:15 p.m.

Line: Titans by 3

Outlook: This is the most bizarre point spread of the week considering Tennessee is coming off a short week and Arizona is 5-0 on the road for the first time since 1948. The Cardinals’ offense has at least 400 yards in three straight games, and even if Matt Leinart starts for a banged-up Kurt Warner (who plans to play), Arizona will outscore Chris Johnson.

The pick: Cardinals 28-20

INSIDE THE AFC

*Part of the reason Pittsburgh is 6-4 and on a two-game losing streak is kickoff coverage. The Steelers have allowed four kickoff return touchdowns in the past five games.

*Indianapolis may be undefeated, but the Colts aren’t leaving much margin for error. Since blowing out St. Louis 42-6 last month, the Colts have won their last four games by four, three, one and two points. Indianapolis is the first team in NFL history to win four straight games after trailing in the fourth quarter. The 10-point total is also a record for a four-game stretch. “Winning close games, you’ve got to have great leadership in the locker room,” linebacker Gary Brackett said. “You’ve got to have guys with great fortitude.”

*Baltimore’s season is on the line Sunday against Pittsburgh. The Ravens have to produce more in the first half. They’ve outscored opponents 151-83 in the second half but haven’t scored a first-half touchdown since Oct. 4.

*It’s surprising this isn’t happening more often - the Texans said Wednesday that someone has been posing as linebacker Brian Cushing on Twitter. The team said the user is BrianCushing56 and that they were forced to issue a statement after the imposter criticized the officiating in the loss to Tennessee.

INSIDE THE NFC

*Dallas’ 7-6 win over the Redskins was the lowest combined point total in the teams’ 99 regular-season and playoff meetings. The previous was a 9-5 Redskins win in 1978. The Cowboys’ winning point total was their lowest since a 6-2 win over Cleveland in 1970.

*The heat is on Seattle general manager Tim Ruskell. The Seahawks are a woeful 7-19 since their playoff loss at Green Bay in January 2008, they’re last in rushing, and first-round draft pick Aaron Curry (49 tackles, two sacks) has been demoted to third downs. Coach Jim Mora said Curry has hit the rookie wall. Ruskell has been unable to replace Shaun Alexander, and his draft history has been spotty. It has been a rapid fall for the Seahawks, and Ruskell could be in trouble.

*Brett Favre signed a two-year, $25 million contract with Minnesota during the preseason, and he’s delivered so far - the Vikings are 9-1, and he has 21 touchdowns. Said owner Zygi Wilf: “To have that leadership in the locker room and on the field is something we didn’t anticipate him having that great of an impact, but he certainly has.”

BY THE NUMBERS

3

Teams that have clinched the division after 11 games since 1990 - the 49ers (1997), Eagles (2004), Patriots (2007).


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