- The Washington Times - Friday, October 30, 2009

POINT-COUNTERPOINT

Each Friday, columnist Dan Daly and Redskins beat writer Ryan O’Halloran debate an NFL issue. This week’s topic: What are the most interesting statistics of the season so far?

Dan Daly: How about this one: Jay Cutler has thrown two more interceptions (10) than JaMarcus Russell (eight). And yet Cutler just had his contract extended by the Bears, while Russell finally got benched Sunday in Oakland. Here’s another one: Aaron Rodgers has been sacked more times than any other quarterback (25), but he still has the second-best passer rating (110.8). That, to me, is remarkable. I wonder whether any quarterback has ever led the league in being sacked and in passing. I tend to doubt it. By the way, Peyton Manning, who’s tops in passing (114.5), has been sacked a grand total of twice.

Ryan O’Halloran: The Saints are on pace to provide us with all kinds of offensive statistics this year. New Orleans has reached 45 points in four of its six games, and here’s the one that is mind boggling - 11 players have at least one offensive touchdown. That’s remarkable. As an NFL personnel director told me last week, the Saints are turning into the new “Greatest Show On [Field] Turf.” On defense, Denver has undergone a transformation with old friend Mike Nolan running the show. The Broncos have gone from allowing 28 points and 374.6 yards a game last year to 11 points and 262.5 yards in a 6-0 start this year.

DD: First of all, I already used the word “remarkable.” So knock if off. But speaking of that Saints defense… have you noticed what Darren Sharper has been doing at the age of almost 34? The guy has intercepted six passes in the first six games - and returned three for scores. I never thought I’d see another defensive back take a serious run at Night Train Lane’s record of 14 picks in a season, but Sharper might have an outside shot. For one thing, his offense scores tons of points, so opponents are going to be playing catch-up a lot, and that means putting the ball in the air a lot. Also, his three touchdown returns are one off the record, and his return yardage (317) is only 41 off the record. And finally, my hero Wes Welker is leading the league in receptions (46) despite missing two games. Has anybody ever done that?



RO: I just hope I can be in Canton when you introduce Welker at the Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremony. I love watching Sharper play because his football IQ is so high, he’s always anticipating plays. One last statistic that is only going to get worse as bad teams lose the few good players they have because of injuries - blowouts. Through seven weeks, 29 games have been decided by 20 or more points - a sign of just how many woeful teams there are this year - and the Redskins haven’t even been blown out yet. Last week, six games had margin of victories of 28 points or more. That equals some bad December football.

WEEKEND PICKS

GAME OF THE WEEK

VIKINGS (6-1) AT PACKERS (4-2)

Sunday, 4:15 p.m.

TV: Chs. 5, 45

Line: Packers by 3

Outlook: Minnesota lost for the first time last week when it handed Pittsburgh the game, allowing two defensive touchdowns in the fourth quarter; the Packers have beat up on Detroit and Cleveland the last two weeks. The Vikings go to Lambeau Field knowing they will be able to harass Aaron Rodgers - Minnesota sacked him eight times in last month’s victory. Weather won’t be an issue (high of 46 degrees), so Brett Favre will make his first trip to Green Bay a winning one.

The pick: Vikings 35-34

UPSET WATCH

DOLPHINS (2-4) AT JETS (4-3)

Sunday, 1 p.m.

Line: Jets by 3

Outlook: New York’s only win in the last four weeks was at Oakland, which finally benched quarterback JaMarcus Russell. The Dolphins cost themselves a 3-3 record by blowing a huge lead against New Orleans, so they know the season is on the line. Miami will start two rookie cornerbacks (Sean Smith and Vontae Davis), and the Jets will be without defensive tackle Kris Jenkins and running back Leon Washington. Edge to Miami because Jenkins won’t be around to clog up the Wildcat.

The pick: Dolphins 28-24

INSIDE THE AFC

c Baltimore gets left tackle Jared Gaither back this week against Denver, though the Ravens may slide him to right tackle (rookie Michael Oher switched to left tackle in Gaither’s absence). Gaither injured his neck Oct. 4 against New England and missed two games after he needed to be carted off the field. Oher and Gaither will need to be on point against the undefeated Broncos. Denver’s Elvis Dumervil leads the NFL with 10 sacks.

c Despite traveling to London and being 5-2, the Patriots were given only a four-day break during their bye. New England arrived stateside Monday night and practiced Wednesday and Thursday. Several veterans pointed to the overseas trip as a bonding experience. “That was important,” tight end Benjamin Watson said. “As a team, we don’t usually get to go on those field trips. We were forced to hang out together and eat dinner together and go out and experience a new city together, so it was good.”

c Former Browns general manager Phil Savage teed off on Cleveland coach Eric Mangini and GM George Kokinis during an athletic club appearance in Alabama this week. “They took what we did have going there and they just dismantled that even further,” said Savage, who does radio work for Alabama football. “We left two quarterbacks [Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn] behind that both seem ruined right now.”

INSIDE THE NFC

c Anybody else think the Eagles’ use of Michael Vick at quarterback only disrupted what Donovan McNabb was trying to accomplish? Vick was in for six snaps against the Redskins, and the plays netted 20 yards. This version of Vick was unable to get to the edge except for a 9-yard run. “At some point, it’s going to click,” he told reporters Wednesday. “We’re going to do it. I don’t know when it’s coming, but I know what we do have. We’re saving it for when the time is right.”

c Maybe the Redskins should have waited a year to draft a bunch of receivers. Check out the production from NFC rookie receivers - Minnesota’s Percy Harvin (23 catches, 285 yards), Chicago’s Johnny Knox (21, 266), Jeremy Maclin of Philadelphia (18, 246) and the Giants’ Hakeem Nicks (16, 315). Nicks has touchdowns in four consecutive games.

c St. Louis has been outscored 211-60 during an 0-7 start, but the Rams play at Detroit on Sunday. The Rams have played their best two games on the road (9-7 loss to Redskins, 23-20 loss to Jacksonville). “We don’t talk about streaks,” Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo told Detroit reporters. “Is it tough at times? Yeah. But we fight through it. We’ve got a good group of guys in here, a lot of character, and we’re hoping that’ll all pay off in the long run.”

BAD START=BAD FINISH

The Redskins are 2-5, which doesn’t equal end-of-season success. Here are the last five times the team started 2-5 and how it finished:

YearFinal recordComment

2009?Injuies mount, speculation about future continues

20065-11Jason Campbell replaced Mark Brunell in Game 10

20046-10Patrick Ramsey replaced Mark Brunell in Game 9

20018-8Marty led team to 5-5 and then 8-8 but was fired

19956-10Defense allowed 20 or more points 11 times

BY THE NUMBERS

189.5

Average yardage differential for Cleveland - 414.9 allowed, 225.4 gained.

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