Quick Slants - Week 8
Washington (4-2) at NY Giants (4-2)
Mark Brunell has quietly put together a very good season. He's first in the NFC in QB rating, with 1492 yards passing, and a 12-2 TD-to-INT ratio. Having Clinton Portis in the backfield certainly helps, as his 4.4 yards per carry is providing great balance. Plus, the Redskins defense has been stellar. In terms of yardage allowed, Washington is fourth-best in the NFL with 266.0 per game, and their schedule hasn't been all cupcakes (last week's mismatch against San Francisco excluded), as their opponents have a combined record of 22-17, good enough for the 9th toughest schedule so far (in contrast, the Giants opponents are 19-22).
The Giants had a stirring win last week, but I'm still not sold on their defense, which is the second-worst in the NFL. Look for Eli Manning to have some troubles in this game, which could have huge playoff tie-breaker implications for both teams.
Philadelphia (4-2) at Denver (5-2)
Denver is trying to rebound from a game they should have won, but lost, while Philadelphia is coming off a gift-wrapped win. I like the Broncos in this game because they can smother an already anemic Eagles running game - how can you be 4-2 when you're only averaging 57.5 rushing yards per game? To put that in perspective, the second-worst running team is Arizona, but they're averaging 71.2 yards per game. Jake Plummer makes me nervous, but frankly, so does Donovan McNabb.
Buffalo (3-4) at New England (3-3)
The return of Tedy Bruschi is overshadowing this game in New England, as Patriots fans are coming to grips with the reality that the Pats are not going to steamroll their way to the Super Bowl this year. But this game is critical to the AFC East race. With the Jets on a bye, and the Dolphins facing a tough task as the Saints return to Louisiana (Baton Rouge), the winner of this game will gain a huge advantage. If the Patriots win, they could have a two game lead in the loss column.
But can New England slow down Willis McGahee? That will probably be the key to the game, as Buffalo is one of just 4 NFL teams that average more rushing yards per game than passing yards (Houston, Atlanta, and Chicago are the others). New England's defense has been a disappointment this season, and while Bruschi should provide an emotion lift, he can't play cornerback or defensive line, which have both been hard hit with injuries.
Baltimore (2-4) at Pittsburgh (4-2)
I feel obligated to write about this game, but it doesn't interest me much. Baltimore still has one of the top defenses in the league, but they can't score, averaging just 11.5 points a game. Even the pedestrian-paced Steelers offense should have no trouble topping that.