Yea, you read right. The Redskins lead the NFC East. Of course, they’re in first by the slimmest of margins, and it’s ridiculously early to track division and conference standings. On the other hand, the NFL tracks division and conference standings week-to-week, so ‘why not we’ as they used to say in Philly?
The Redskins are the only NFC East team with a division win. They’re also the only NFC East team with positive net points. Applying those criteria, they’re ranked 5th in the NFC. If the playoffs began next week … ah, forget it. Seriously though, it’s not exactly a sin to monitor the Redskins’ place in the standings this early. At the soonest, it won’t be until after week 4 that we’ll have our first dependable understanding of the Redskins’ personalities on offense and defense. We already know the defense will blitz, but we don’t know how well they’ll play the run, or how frequently opponents will burn them deep when they do blitz. We know they’ll pass the ball as often as they want to, provided the O-line protects McNabb. But, what degree of balance between the run and the pass does the 2010 edition of Mike Shanahan want to achieve? Give it a couple more weeks and then decide.
Tonight, my main questions aren’t about the Redskins. They’re about the Rams’ offense. Will Sam Bradford stick mainly to his two early favorites – Stephen Jackson and Mark Clayton? How much will the Rams need the services of their 3rd-string rookie tight end and rookie defensive tackle? They’re basically down to three bodies at each position. Will the Rams gain more than their average to-date of 4.1 yards per play, and hold the ‘Skins to less than their early average of 5.9? Will the Rams’ defense be a little more stingy in terms of yards and points yielded than the Redskins’ defense?
If I’m St. Louis, I’m running Stephen Jackson into the ground, throwing to him out of the backfield, and throwing to the wide-outs as my second option on most passing plays. If I’m Washington, I use this game to sharpen my running game somewhat, but first go to the air as often as needed to establish a two-score lead.
It doesn’t appear either offense will kill itself by committing more turnovers and penalties than the other. Statistically speaking, this has all the makings of a relatively close game. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t put any stock in the early patterns, as they can’t even begin to be called trends. There is one element I would count on though – few mental mistakes by both teams.
This game’s going to come down to quarterback play, which is why I’m picking the Redskins to win by at least 7. If this game was going to be played in December when McNabb might be limping and Bradford was starting to show signs of maturity as a Pro, I’d pick the ‘Skins by 4.
Check in with us for in-game highlights. And, don’t you dare turn the game off early in the 4th quarter if either team has less than a three-score lead. Neither of these teams is going to quit until time expires, and neither defense can yet be counted on to hold a lead without help from their respective offenses.