- The Washington Times - Friday, September 11, 2009

POINT-COUNTERPOINT

Each Friday, columnist Dan Daly and Redskins beat writer Ryan O’Halloran debate a football issue. This week’s topic: What will be the first shock of 2009?

Dan Daly: Injuries - like the one to Tom Brady last year - are impossible to predict, even though you know there’s going to be a major one in the opening couple of weeks. But how about this: The Cowboys are going to miss Terrell Owens in the passing game terribly, much more than anyone imagines. Roy Williams is no T.O., and Jason Witten can pick up only so much of the slack. You look at what happened to the Eagles’ passing attack the season Owens got suspended (2005) - and unlike Donovan McNabb, Tony Romo doesn’t have a Brian Westbrook to throw to out of the backfield.

Ryan O’Halloran: For the Eagles, the shock part will come starting in Week 3 when Andy Reid discovers that Michael Vick can be a perfect citizen and still be a distraction to a team because McNabb will be bent out of shape. But for the early going, what will be stunning is anything good by Oakland, St. Louis, Kansas City or Detroit. These teams will be woefully overmatched by their opponents and will confirm just how big a building job is ahead of their new coaches and just how incompetent the previous regimes were in constructing the roster.

DD: Here are some other possibilities for the first big shock: The Patriots won’t miss Richard Seymour much at all. (Just as they didn’t miss Lawyer Milloy, Ty Law and Asante Samuel all that much, though they still desperately miss Doug Flutie’s drop-kicking). Heck, they went 11-5 last season without Brady. Another: LaDainian Tomlinson, whom a lot of people were starting to write off last year, will bounce back from his recent injuries and take the early lead in the AFC in rushing. Finally, head coaches, in a stunning development, will stop firing offensive coordinators and start firing defensive coordinators.

RO: A couple of things that will stun me - Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford following in the footsteps of Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco. Sanchez especially doesn’t have enough experience to lead a quick start. Somebody besides Arizona establishing themselves as the NFC West favorite. I just don’t see Seattle, St. Louis or San Francisco challenging the Cardinals this year.

WEEKEND PICKS

REDSKINS THIS WEEK

REDSKINS AT GIANTS

Sunday, 4:15 p.m.

TV: Chs. 5, 45

Line: Giants by 6 1/2

Outlook: A win and the Redskins should start 4-0 and 5-1; a loss and, well, nobody expected them to win anyway. What they want to avoid is the offensive train wreck that was their last trip to the Meadowlands. The Giants represent the first of many tests for the Redskins’ retooled offensive line. New York’s running game will challenge the Redskins’ deep defensive line.

The pick: Giants 16-13

GAME OF THE WEEK

BEARS AT PACKERS

Sunday, 8:20 p.m.

TV: Chs. 4, 11

Line: Packers by 3

Outlook: Green Bay’s offense scored 92 points in the first three preseason games, and Aaron Rodgers threw six touchdowns and no interceptions. New Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler completed 62 percent of his passes, so expect a lot of points to be scored in this NFC North faceoff. The Packers’ 3-4 defense debuts as does Chicago coach Lovie Smith as defensive play caller.

The pick: Packers 31-27

UPSET WATCH

BRONCOS AT BENGALS

Sunday, 1 p.m.

Line: Bengals by 2 1/2

Outlook: Cincinnati is the favorite by default - that’s how tumultuous things have been in Denver this season. But Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer was limited to one preseason game because of an ankle injury so he’ll be rusty. The Broncos get receiver Brandon Marshall back from suspension, and Kyle Orton (finger) should be ready to go.

The pick: Broncos 24-17.

INSIDE THE AFC

*Cleveland fans and media learned Brady Quinn was the starting quarterback… from Terrell Owens’ Twitter page. It was a busy Wednesday for the Bills receiver, who also trashed his team’s decision to run the no-huddle offense by saying he’s not a fan (“No, not really, but I have to deal with it”) and jabbing Week 1 opponent New England (“No [surprises] but I might bring my spy camera out”).

*If Indianapolis beats Jacksonville on Sunday, quarterback Peyton Manning will tie Johnny Unitas’ franchise record for career victories (118). “That’s something so many people contributed to, and I’m proud to have been a part of that,” Manning said. “The goal has always been to win, and that’s what Unitas was, a winner.”

*Is it possible that Baltimore’s second-ranked defense will be better this year? Maybe. Although they lost coordinator Rex Ryan, linebacker Bart Scott and safety Jim Leonhard, the Ravens have added safety Dawan Landry (who missed most of 2008), tackle Kelly Gregg (missed all of last year) and free agent cornerback Domonique Foxworth. “We have a corps of guys who are dedicated to each other,” linebacker Ray Lewis said. “Anytime you have that type of chemistry, it’s almost impossible to come back and not have the same defense.”

INSIDE THE NFC

*Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre will start his 270th consecutive game when he makes his Vikings debut Sunday at Cleveland. But Favre said this week he “may not” play all 16 games and would “absolutely” sit out a game if warranted. “I feel good,” he said. “I’m not going to lie to you. I’m not physically or mentally 100 percent. I don’t know at 39 if I’d ever be 100 percent physically.”

*Interesting development in Philadelphia, where Macho Harris - a fifth-round draft choice from Virginia Tech - moved from corner to strong safety and then won the job from Quentin Demps. The Eagles’ coaches liked Harris’ tackling ability. Said Demps: “He just had that hunger.”

*The overhaul in Detroit is massive. The Lions have 31 new players, including 17 of 25 on defense and nine of 10 defensive backs. “[Changes] are a fact of life in the NFL when you have a season the way we had last year,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “So it wasn’t unexpected. It was necessary.”

*Green Bay’s shift to a 3-4 defense has impacted outside linebacker A.J. Hawk. When the Packers go nickel, Hawk is off the field in favor of linebackers Nick Barnett and Brendan Chillar. In dime, only Barnett stays on the field.

BY THE NUMBERS

269 Consecutive regular-season starts for Vikings QB Brett Favre, one short of what the NFL believes to be the record, set by former Vikings defensive lineman Jim Marshall.

TOUGH OPENINGS

When Detroit visits New Orleans on Sunday, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford will become the sixth passer chosen first overall in the draft who started Week 1. Only David Carr has been victorious:

Player (team, year)Att-Co-YdsTD-IntResult

David Carr (Houston, 2002)10-22-1452-1Beat Dallas 19-10

Peyton Manning (Indianapolis, 1999)21-37-3021-3Lost to Miami 24-15

Drew Bledsoe (New England, 1993)14-30-1482-1Lost to Buffalo 38-14

Jeff George (Indianapolis, 1990)13-24-1601-1Lost to Buffalo 26-10

Troy Aikman (Dallas, 1989)18-36-1840-2Lost to New Orleans 28-0

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