I tried all week to be nervous about Sunday. Listened to my gut. Gave it my best objective, intellectual effort.
Couldn’t do it.
And it’s not like I gave the opponent short shrift...
I watched Monday night. I saw Cleveland rise up and take out the undefeated defending Super Bowl Champion Giants in front a raucous, re-energized Kennel Club.
I watched last year’s out-of-nowhere media darling, QB Derek Anderson, play lights out, throwing for 300-plus and two scores.
I watched WR Braylon Edwards haul in five passes for 154 yards and a TD, looking every bit the part of the mercurial 21st-century wide-receiver superstar.
I watched RB Jamal Lewis, he of 295-yard potential, grind out 88 tough ones against the defending champions’ celebrated defense.
I watched the Cleveland defense harass and/or bait Eli Manning into happy feet and essentially throwing away the game with three “wtf was he thinking?” interceptions.
I even watched Head Coach Romeo Crennel do a pretty good impression of a guy you really don’t want to piss off.
No doubt about it, the Browns looked pretty good. And they’re coming to Washington this weekend confident their two-game win streak has righted their ship. Thing is, Sunday isn’t going to be about Cleveland.
It’s going be about the Washington Redskins.
Yes, Derek Anderson had a great game. Good thing too, given his numbers on the season.
Derek Anderson (29th): 76-of-146 (52.1%), 853 yds (170.6/gm), 5 TD, 6 INT, Rating 64.1
Jason Campbell (Eighth): 115-for-179 (64.2%), 1262 yds (210.3/gm), 6 TD, 0 INT, Rating 96.2
Does the disparity guarantee a Redskins win? Of course not. Just that one team has a clear edge, and it isn’t Cleveland.
Yes, Jamaal Lewis has been, and can be, a monster. He’s probably going to need to be.
Jamal Lewis (17th): 90 carries, 323 yds (64.6/gm), 3.6 avg, 1 TD
Clinton Portis (First): 136 carries, 643 yds (107.2/gm), 4.7 avg, 6 TD
Does the difference guarantee a Redskins win? Of course not. Just that one team has a clear edge, and it isn’t Cleveland.
Yes, Braylon Edwards had an impact game against the Giants. And it helped his overall numbers.
Braylon Edwards (67th): 16 rec, 259 yds, 15.6 avg, 2TD
Santana Moss (14th): 29 rec, 443 yds, 15.3 avg, 3 TD
Does Moss’ superior production, even on the heels of two quiet games, guarantee a Redskins win? Of course not. Just that one team has a clear edge, and it isn’t Cleveland.
I understand TE Kellen Winslow, Jr. will play. Probably a good thing.
Kellen Winslow, Jr. (54th): 19 rec, 170 yds, 8.9 avg, 1 TD
Chris Cooley (11th): 30 rec, 345 yds, 11.5 avg, 1TD
In fact, if you’re a serious numbers guy, this game hardly looks like a matchup at all.
Passing: WAS (17th), 201.7 ypg; CLE (26th), 161 ypg
Rushing: WAS (Third), 152.3 ypg; CLE (23rd), 98.4 ypg
Scoring: WAS (14th), 20.5 ppg; CLE (27th), 15.6 ppg
Passing: CLE (11th), 188 ypg; WAS (13th), 202 ypg
Rushing: WAS (Sixth), 83.8 ypg; CLE (25th), 137 ypg
Scoring: WAS (23rd), 19.5 ppg*; CLE (25th), 20.4 ppg
* 21 of 117 total points surrendered from two punt returns and one fumble return. Defense itself has surrendered 16 ppg.
FG: WAS (Sixth), 12-for-15, 126 pts; CLE (22nd), 8-for-9, 89 pts
Punting: CLE (19th), 21 punts, 44.8 avg, 0 TD; WAS (21st), 26 punts, 39.6 avg, 2TD
Well, at least in perhaps Washington’s weakest area, punting, the Browns have the edge. Does that advantage mean the Brown will win? It helped the Rams. But two weeks in a row? You decide.
I know what you’re thinking—it isn’t about numbers. Hell, the Redskins had even more favorable statistical matchups going into the Rams debacle.
And of course you’re right. I know it, too. Thing is, the reason I’m not nervous about this game has little to do with statistics (though it felt pretty good to look ‘em over). After a week of wrestling with the idea, turns out the real reason I’m not nervous is because of what the numbers say.
And what they say to me, in no uncertain terms, is that this game isn’t about what Cleveland does, it’s about what Washington does. Because the Redskins are the better team. If the numerical evidence hasn't driven the point home, watching them play this year has.
The 2008 Redskins have been no fluke. Since halftime of the opener against the Giants, they have been physical, consistent, and well-coached. Their gameplanning, playcalling, and in-game adjustments have been sound—sometimes inspired. Their playmakers have made plays. Their role players have, with few exceptions, played their roles well. And with one glaring exception, they have protected the football and not beaten themselves.
If the Redskins play their game—physical, fundamentally sound football—and avoid shooting off so many toes they can’t stand up at the end like last week, they will win. Perhaps comfortably.
Cleveland can come in and play well—I actually kind of expect they will—but unless the Redskins play overly-generous hosts again, turn the ball over repeatedly, and hand the Browns points, it won’t be enough. Not two weeks in a row. Not with the nasty aftertaste of squandering a precious “W” they know should have been theirs still in their mouths.
As was the case last week, there is every logical reason to expect the Redskins to come away with the win. Last week, they fumbled one away. The Rams know it, the Browns know it, and far more importantly, you can bet the Redskins know it.
Says here it won’t happen again—not this week.
Much as I’ve waited for trace amounts of Norvousness to bubble up in my gut this week, as they have so many times before, I can’t feel them. And much as I’ve wracked my brain for coldly analytical, objective reasons to doubt this week, I can’t hear them. This team looks different, and this team feels different.
This isn’t a Turner, Schottenheimer, Spurrier, or even Gibbs II team.
It’s a Jim Zorn team...and remarkably, six short weeks into his debut season, that already means something.
So I’m not fighting it.
Those of you who have read my stuff for any length of time know I view football seasons as forests, not stands of trees. I rarely make game predictions. But when my gut talks, I tend to listen. And when my brain happens to sync up with it, despite trying out all the best counterarguments...I’m willing to lay it on the line.
This isn’t cockiness. This is one of those rare instances where logic and gut feeling achieve harmonic convergence and make beautiful music.
Clinton Portis: 120 yds, TD
Jason Campbell: 230 yds, TD
Shawn Suisham: 3-4
Special Teams or Defensive TD
Washington 30, Cleveland 16