Fellow Followers of JC,
Sunday was good. Ok, Sunday was really good. Father Joe, Son JC, and the holy Greg and Al threw a complete game. The Skins spanked the Lions en route to a little more national respect and talks of being a contender in the NFC, that's right, a con-ten-duh. Personally, I'm not drinking the Manischewitz just yet. My giddyness levels are low and my super bowl hallucinations have been minimal. Why? Because, despite the fact that the Skins seem to be a top-6 NFC team, they haven't done anything to show that they can make it to the big show, or at least win a road divisional round playoff game. I know I'm jumping way ahead of myself, and this is a week-by-week league, but I will only get super-psycho excited when I know the Skins have a legitimate shot at playing the Cowboys in the NFC Championship game. Thanks to the schedule makers, we don't have to wait long to make a determination. The Packers are considered by the prevailing consensus the second-best NFC team, and because of their weak-sister division, it is likely the team of cheese will host a wild card and/or divisional playoff game. My heart believes the Skins can win this week, show us that they and the Cowboys will duke it out for NFC dominance all year, and use this victory as a catalyst for great things. My mind tells me that the Packers rarely lose two in a row in Lambeau, Jason Campbell still has only played a handful of road games, and that four quarters ago the Skins offense looked as anemic as it ever has over the past three years. X's and O's say both defenses are stellar and just like the Packers home opener against the Eagles, special teams and turnovers will determine the outcome. We got three more days until we know just how good our boys are - if they win on Sunday I might book a ticket to Dallas, not for the third Sunday in November, but for the third Sunday in January.
1) JC - Number 17 was perfect on Sunday. It's pretty hard to believe that this guy could have a perfect game at such an early stage, especially considering he was without Moss for the entire game and ARE for the second half, but I guess our boy is all growns up. Peter King, who is as NY-centric as a reporter comes and never sheds his love towards the B&G said JC is a top 10-12 QB in the NFL right now. Watching some of the highlights last night, here's what I really liked. 1) His Accuracy - I know he threw for a high percentage, but what was more astonishing is that he threw those balls in the perfect spots. 6 passes - the Cooley TD and 2Pointer, the two McCardell balls, the Sellars seam route and the ARE slant - couldn't have been thrown anywhere else. Jason's throwing lasers, anticipating the defense, and leading his receivers to the ball - this only a few weeks after he was being critiqued (by me) for being erratic and telegraphing his passes. His progress is stunning. 2) His Playmaking - 2 plays, the Sellars passing TD and the Cooley 2Pointer, were designed to get Jason out of the pocket, improvise, and break the defense down while on the run. That's exactly what he did. First on the Sellars play he drew the entire Detroit LB corps to the sideline with him before throwing back to big Mike (who made a great play by curling back to the middle of the end zone). On the Cooley play, JC made a similar play, but threw across his body and threaded the needle through oncoming defenders. To me, what's most exciting about Campbell's progress is his ability to throw the ball over the middle of the field. Sometimes it seems the Skins coaches don't have faith in the young guy and water down the playbook to protect him. They need not do that anymore. Jason can throw the ball everywhere and keep this offense moving with his arm. That is awesome.
2) Andre Carter - The guy is a man-beast. He doesn't have a single ounce of fat on his body and has some of the quickest feet for a man of his size. He's got 8 sacks in his last nine games and a whole lot of hurries to go along with that. I don't know if it's fair to call this guy another Redskins free agent bust. Carter's ability to speed rush is making the Skins front four much better than it's ever been and has now cleared the way for the Skins LB's and secondary to worry about coverage. One point to ponder - the Lions o-line is pretty weak. They've given up the most sacks in the league. I don't know if Grilliams will be able to get pressure on Favre this week by rushing four like he did against the Lions - the Skins might have to take one more person out of coverage to make sure Favre feels the heat and makes some mistakes.
3) The O-Line and CP - The Skins aren't moving the ball on the jumbo sets. The word has spread that when Mike Pucillo comes in and the Skins have an extra blocker, the Skins are running up the gut. It might work with Randy Thomas, Dock and Jansen, but it ain't working with the new guys up front. Portis and Betts are getting knocked back on these plays and the Skins aren't getting good yardage on first down runs still. Portis did look great on Sunday - but mostly it was out of spread sets where the Skins lined up three recievers, showed pass and ran Portis to the edges, where he can turn the corners and make guys miss. The direct snap was effective once, but I don't see that play being part of the repertoire every week. (I have a hunch the Skins throw Randle El in that same formation and have him throw down field). I'd like to see CP crack 20 carries this week. It seems his carries 10-17 have been a lot better than 1-10. The more they feed him the better he gets. Green Bay's got a great run defense who will only allow yards once they're worn down. The Skins need to stick with CP in this one, even if he gets off to a slow start.
4) ARE/WRs - I hope ARE is healthy this week, because he has become big trouble for defenses. Opposing DBs cannot keep up with this guy. He gets open off his routes and he alludes defenders once he catches the ball. I'd be a huge plus for the offense if they can have both of the speedsters out there this week. Which brings me for an interesting What to Watch For: the Pack corners love bumping at the line and disrupting quick timing routes. The Skins did a lot of that last week against soft Detroit corners. It will be interesting to see what our WRs can do off of Woodson and Harris and if Campbell will stay patient and not force bad throws if the GB corners have their way with our pass catchers. I think the Skins will take some more down field shots than they did last week also - Tana and/or ARE can outrun both GB corners, while the GB safeties looked vulnerable over the top late in the Chicago game.
5) GB - No Running and Quick Passing - The Pack don't have much of a running game and like the Lions last week, have the best passing offense in the NFL. The Packers looked great in the first half on the ground but lost all momentum with the run in the second half. If the Skins stop Wynn/Morency/Jackson quickly then they can turn their focus to combating the aerial assault which the Pack will inevitably go to on every play. The Pack's brand of passing is different from the Lions though. Favre likes getting the ball out very quickly, usually hooking up with Driver and Jennings on slants. As opposed to Kitna, who needs time to set up and let his receivers get down field (thus making him vulnerable to the sack), Favre will take quick drops and sling it out fast. I don't think the Skins can just rush four and drop guys way back like they did last week. If they rush four, Favre won't have a hand in his face on the quick stuff, and if they keep the safeties downfield, the corners won't be able to stop the quick routes. The Skins need to: a) somehow force Favre out on the run where he tends to make more mistakes, b) knock some heads off early by inching up Taylor and Landry on those quick slants. If the Pack receivers become shy going over the middle, the Skins defense will have a huge advantage. It will be really interesting to see what defense Grilliams throws out Favre - lets just hope our boys are as good as they were last Sunday.
7) Injuries - From what JLC's saying, Moss seems back to 100%. I'm kind of glad the temps around here dropped, so the injured guys can get used to running in the colder weather. ARE hasn't practiced and doesn't seem as sure about playing as he was on Sunday. My gut is that he doesn't play and used one more week to get the hammy healthy (this is the same guy that said Tana wouldn't play against the Pack). The coaches don't want Daniels to play with the shoulder dislocation (even though he wants to), that'll probably be a game-time decision. Marcus Washington's hammy has also prevented him from practicing. I think he dresses. What bothers me about Washington is that he seems to have something new every couple of weeks. The trend needs to end.
8) How it plays out - Before the season I had this marked as a three point loss. All indicators point to tightly-contested, defensive clash. Here's what I'm thinking though - maybe the Pack aren't as good as their record says, or maybe we are just better. It was a similar thought I had before we played Philly - "we should lose this game, unless we are actually better than them." Do I make any sense here? The Packs wins: Philly (in a game they should have lost), New York (somehow they caught the Giants before they remembered how to play defense), San Diego (also got this team at a bad time), and Minnesota (1-3). Ok. I don't think that really proved anything, but "that's why they play the game." I'll stick with my early season prediction for this one and hope the Skins surprise me.
Parting Shot - Walking out of my abode near Dupont Circle this morning, I felt DC's first autumn winds strike my bones - a glorious sensation that symbolized Fall's arrival and the start of the NFL's stretch run. The temperature is dropping, the Skins have a quarter of their season under their belt, and now take their travelling show to the hallowed grounds of Lambeau Field for a tilt with the legend in front of a national TV audience (temps expected to be in the high 50s, btw). It's good to be a Skins fan right now - pretty... pretty... pretty good.
Closing Numbers (I'm an ESPN thief):
The Skins only played the Packers once between 1988 and 2001 (I guess it's because the Pack were bad when the Skins were good and vice versa).
The last three match-ups since have not been pretty at all:
1) 9/24/2001 - Lambeau Field - Monday Night Football - Packers 37, Redskins 0
2) 10/20/2002 - Lambeau Field - LaVar knocks Favre out of the game and we still get spanked - Packers 30, Redskins 9 (I got so drunk watching this game, I had to call in sick for a mid-term I had the next day.)
3) 10/31/2004 - FedEx Field - "Thrashgate" (the infamous illegal motion call that negated a CP game-tying TD) - Packers 28, Redskin 14.
That's right boys and girls, since these two teams started hooking-up again regularly, the Skins have been outscored by the Packers 95-23 and 67-9 at Lambeau.
Cheer up, though. Stats are stupid anyway.