Wednesday, October 8, 2008

NFL Week 5 -- and MLB Playoffs

The fact that the Washington Redskins beat the Philadelphia Eagles 23-17 on Sunday wasn’t the surprising or impressive part – that Washington came back from being down 14-0 to do it was.

Jason Campbell wasn’t spectacular – though he was solid again, passing for 167 yards and again committing no turnovers. Clinton Portis ran all over an Eagles defense that looked gassed at the end, and Antwan Randle-El must’ve had memories of his college days when he lobbed that touchdown pass to Chris Cooley.

More impressively? A defense that held down an offense led by Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook, not to mention the fact Washington pulled this off in Philly. The Redskins have already played their three NFC East road games this year, and sit 2-1 in those contests. While it’s entirely possible for New York, Dallas and Philadelphia to walk out of FedEx Field with a win, the fact that Washington came out of the toughest stretch of its 2008 schedule with a winning record is a good sign.

Also a good sign are the next three games for Washington: home against St. Louis, home against Cleveland and at Detroit. Those three teams have combined for one win so far this season, and it’s entirely possible the Redskins could go into their Monday night contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers with a 7-1 record.

Don’t print out the Super Bowl tickets just yet, but the Redskins won’t the doormat of the NFC East this season.

Other Random NFL Musings

-Where did Aaron Rodgers go? After lighting up the professional football world for the first two weeks, Green Bay’s new quarterback has lost three straight games – including an inexplicable home defeat on Sunday to Atlanta. Add a nagging shoulder injury to the equation, and Cheeseheads everywhere have to be wondering if Ted Thompson made the right move running Brett Favre out of town after all.

-Sure, the Colts are 2-2 right now, but they could easily be 0-4. Houston practically gave that game to the Colts in the final five minutes on Sunday, and there is definitely something wrong in Indy. The team has yet to win in its new building, the offensive line appears to be a large revolving door, and I’m not sure how much more Marvin Harrison has in the tank. Yes, Peyton Manning and Tony Dungy are still there, and Indy might still make the playoffs, but the ship’s starting to take on water.

-It was nice to see Denver finally bring a defense to the game in Sunday’s 16-13 win over Tampa Bay. If the Broncos are hoping to become a serious force in the AFC, they’ll need a defense. I’ll grant that the Buccaneers aren’t the most explosive offensive team in the world, but Bronco fans have to be pleased with the fact that their team managed to hold a team under 20 points. Jay Cutler’s got that offense going; the Broncos need stops to be a legitimate contender.

-Am I the only one noticing that the Titans are a better team without Vince Young? I almost hate to suggest it, but Tennessee is 5-0. Kerry Collins isn’t turning the ball over, Chris Johnson’s proving to be a very good running back and the defense is hitting people upside their collective heads. Even if Young’s healthy, I consider keeping him on the bench, but if I must use the No. 3 overall pick from 2006, I start using that Wildcat offense Miami seems to have mastered.

-All the credit in the world to Detroit Lions coach Rod Marinelli for refusing to quit on his team, in spite of the Lions’ woeful 0-4 start. While Marinelli said he wouldn’t argue if management fired him – the way it did two weeks ago with general manager Matt Millen – Marinelli said the last thing he wanted to do was quit, and that he took the suggestion as a personal insult. I love guys who pledge to stick with it in spite of tough times – any players who fall in line with Marinelli will be better for it in the long run. Former Falcons coach Bobby Petrino could learn a lot from Marinelli.

Then There Were Four

The Dodgers and Phillies will face each other in the National League Championship Series, while the American League Championship Series will have a decidedly AL East feel, with the Red Sox and Rays squaring off. While MLB executives, guys whose entire lives sometimes revolve around television ratings are probably praying for a Dodgers-Red Sox World Series – and the bevy of potential storylines therein – that’s not necessarily a given.

The Phillies haven’t been this far into October since 1993, when Mitch Williams served up the World Series to Joe Carter and the Toronto Blue Jays. But Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Co. are primed for this trip, though Manny Ramirez and the Dodgers won’t be a tough out. I have a hard time picking against any team managed by Joe Torre, but I think the Phillies have too strong a lineup and a good rotation.

Not to mention, Brad Lidge hasn’t blown a save all year.

As for Red Sox-Rays, I can easily see this going seven games. I can understand why everyone might pick Boston, really I do; the Red Sox have won two of the last four World Series, and they have all this postseason experience and pedigree. But the Rays have shown tremendous grit over the season, winning games when they absolutely had to.

Tampa Bay won the season series 10-8, and it seemed every time the Rays needed to win to hold off the Red Sox, they did. I also like the resolve Tampa Bay showed after losing Game 3 to the White Sox, bouncing back to win Game 4 and take the series. I think this is that rare team that won’t let a lack of experience bother it, so I like Tampa Bay in seven.

So sorry, guys – we won’t see Manny, Nomar Garciaparra and Derek Lowe invading Fenway in Dodger uniforms. No “Manny Being Manny” as the Boston faithful rain down the boos. Phillies-Rays in the World Series, where I like Tampa Bay in six.

Is there a reason for that pick? Not really, but the Rays have been defying reason the whole season.

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