Cheer up. We don't have to worry about Colts-Seahawks, the matter of who'll play and who'll rest, who'll try to win their varsity letters, etc. It's not even worth handicapping. Instead we're going to concentrate on the struggling masses, the nail-biters--teams like the Giants and the Redskins, who meet this Saturday with the NFC East still to be decided.
The Giants look like a lock, with a two-game division lead, but right now they don't match up well with the Skins. The New York offense is wounded up front. Both tackle spots were manned by backups against the Chiefs last weekend, and it was only some inspirational running by Tiki Barber that pulled the Giants through. I'd call his 220-yard game one of the two greatest performances by a runner I've ever seen in Giants Stadium, the Emmitt Smith "separated shoulder game" in January 1994 being the other one.
The Washington defense showed a mean streak against Dallas on Sunday, and with tackle Cornelius Griffin fully recovered from a hip injury, the unit will be difficult to handle, especially by a banged-up O-line. It wouldn't be so bad if New York could go to a quick-drop, short-pass attack, but Eli Manning is not a rhythm passer. He needs time to survey the field, and you never know when he'll start spraying his throws.
A loss by the Giants here and in Oakland in the finale--a possibility because the Raiders also can get after the passer--coupled with two Redskins wins will give Washington the division title, based on a better record within the NFC East. Yes, I like the Redskins to win this weekend.
Kansas City-San Diego is an interesting game but a tough one to handicap. We don't know whether it was the real Chargers we saw against the Colts or a team stoked to a fever pitch by the hype surrounding the game. Another road trip, this time to Arrowhead for a significant divisional battle, might mean a slight letdown.
LaDainian Tomlinson has sore ribs, but I think Drew Brees will be good for about 320 yards on the K.C. defense. On the other side of the ball I'd have Shawne Merriman, the demon rusher who took Indy apart almost single-handedly, coming from the left side so he doesn't have to lock horns with Chiefs tackle Willie Roaf, who did a good job on Giants end Osi Umenyiora last week. Gets complicated, huh? I'll give San Diego the road victory.
Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks must have stolen Michael Vick's playbook once upon a time, because he sure knows how to read the Falcons' QB. Will anything change since the last meeting, won by the Bucs 30-27? Yeah, the score, but Tampa Bay will beat Atlanta again.
The Cowboys, hammered so severely by Washington, will drop another one at Carolina. And finally, on Monday night we'll get a look at the Ghost of Super Bowls Past when we watch the Patriots win their 10th against the Jets. The Pats have already won the AFC East, and the game will have little effect on their postseason positioning, but New England seems to be taking a joyous attitude regarding football these days, now that so many wounded regulars have returned.
Last week: 5-2 Season: 76-38
Dr. Z writes for the Web every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at SI.com/football.
¬†DIVISION OF LABOR
After causing the Cowboys to lose their heads, the Redskins' D goes after the Giants.