By MARK F. GRAY
Coaches normally try to deflect the attention surrounding point spreads heading to any game but Mike Shanahan violated that sanctity earlier this week. With the Washington Washington Football Team a two point underdog to the Detroit Lions heading into Sunday’s matchup Shanahan actually admitted that he would “remind” them of the lack of respect from the odds makers in Las Vegas.
Regardless of what the prognosticators of those games of chance say a win over the 1-5 Lions would send the Washington Football Team into the bye week at 5-3. Considering most observers thought five wins would be the total for the entire season the week long respite would even more enjoyable knowing that they had navigated the toughest part of the schedule two games above the .500 setting them up for a stretch run to the post season.
However, this is a better Lions team than the one who beat the Washington Football Team last year to end their historic string of futility. Detroit is the best 1-5 team in the league especially since they were robbed in the season opener by a bogus NFL rule and they had a chance to beat the New York Giants despite being reduced to their third string quarterback for the final drive in the Meadowlands.
Washington has yet to put a full game together although things are point towards a team that is coming together. The offense has been sporadic, the special teams have been inconsistent, and the defense has bent but nonetheless made enough game changing plays to win a couple of games for them. But Shanahan’s discipline and game management has kept them in every game except versus St. Louis which looms as the signature disappointment so this week stands as a referendum on how legitimate a contender they are.
According to Greg Cosell of NFL Films the Lions have the best offensive line in the NFC North. As fate would have it Washington faces Detroit after their bye week which has allowed them to get Matthew Stafford ready for his return. It will be interesting to see if the Washington Football Team can get enough pressure on Stafford to force him into the number of mistakes that Jay Cutler made last week that sent DeAngelo Hall’s jersey to the Hall Of Fame. Conversely, against a receiver like Calvin Johnson it will be even more interesting to see if Hall can stay away from giving up the big play as was the case against the Colts’ Pierre Garcon.
The team has finally realized they have to get Albert Haynesworth on the field and have stopped trying to force him into playing nose tackle in the 3-4 and now is turning him loose as a pass rushing specialist in their 4-3 package. He delivered in his first game back with a sack and a forced fumble against the Bears but, his pressure forced Cutler into those mistakes while allowing Brian Orakpo to collect a sack as well.
With Ryan Torain emerging as the consistent rusher the offense needs, the streaky nature of Donovan McNabb has become the source of much debate. Though he doesn’t make mistakes, there are plays that have been left on the field because of passes not being delivered where receivers could get them in a position to score.
Sunday is a midterm exam for the Burgundy and Gold and a win over Detroit would be huge because it is a game that playoff teams win.
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