By MARK F. GRAY
If someone had told Mike Shanahan that his team could go into their bye week at 5-3 when the Washington Washington Football Team opened training camp in July he probably would have shrugged it off as wishful thinking. However, with victories in their final two games before the hiatus the Washington Football Team can set themselves up with better than a puncher’s chance at making a post season run.
The Chicago Bears are step one in their quest to reach the milestone of winning consecutive games twice in the same season since 2007. There is no such thing as an easily winnable game for this edition of the Burgundy and Gold. However, the Bears are a favorable matchup for Washington if they can put the clamps on Chicago’s rushing attack. Last Sunday night the Indianapolis Colts capitalize on the defensive game plan to clamp down on the passing and gouged them for 177 yards rushing.
Mike Martz reluctance to make a commitment to the ground game has exposed an offensive line that is in more disarray than Washington’s. Though committed to the 3-4 scheme the Washington Football Team 4-3 package will be something the Bears figure to have trouble with. The New York Giants left Bears quarterback Jay Cutler battered like a piñata after 12 sacks and Washington’s bookends of Brian Orakpo and Andre Carter are salivating at the though of that sitting duck under center.
Against the Bears Washington should be able to get their first consistent pass rush all afternoon this season and with their new penchant for playing physical which could make for another painful Sunday for Cutler. Martz would be well served to make running back Mike Forte a significant part of the offensive game plan to keep them from teeing off on his quarterback.
Chicago’s defense needs only to look at the way Indianapolis was able to get pressure on Donovan McNabb to feel confident that Julius Peppers could wreak havoc against rookie Trent Williams whose toe injury is making progress although he was laboring at times against the Colts. As their offensive line continues to develop the rushing attack is making strides as well. The Bears have to now consider Ryan Torain as a legitimate threat coming off the first 100 yard game of his career which could open up their passing attack.
For the first time this year “Jurassic” Joey Galloway has been replaced at the top of the depth chart by Anthony Armstrong as the youth movement on offense has made its way to the receiver position. They even worked in a deep pass to the diminutive Brandon Banks last week as they try and get more touches to potential playmakers in their lineup.
Banks could be the same kind of wildcard for the Washington Football Team that Devin Hester is for the Bears. Banks is averaging 19.4 yards per punt return and has been flirting with making a big play over the last two weeks. Meanwhile, with Mike Sellers and Lorenzo Alexander as the catalysts, the Washington Football Team are yielding only 17.4 yards per kickoff return but they had better fix the problems with the punt coverage unit that is ranked 24th and faces the challenge of trying to contain Hester.
The next eight quarters will answer a lot about how the rest of this season will play in Washington. Nothing will come easy for this team but the two NFC north opponents give them a chance to make up for the losses to the AFC south teams that have them trying to keep pace with the Giants and Eagles in the NFC East.
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