- Adam Schefter, NFL
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Helmet-to-helmet hits in the NFL this season have nothing on the Washington Redskins. They've been a veritable demolition crew.
Check out the key players KO'd by the Redskins:
In Week 2, Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson suffered an ankle injury that still plagues him.
In Week 3, Rams running back Steve Jackson strained his groin versus the Redskins.
In Week 6, Colts tight end Dallas Clark suffered a season-ending hand/wrist injury, wide receiver Austin Collie suffered a thumb injury that required surgery and running back Joseph Addai injured a shoulder that could sideline him for a couple of weeks.
Then last Sunday, Chicago linebacker Lance Briggs left the game versus Washington in the first quarter when he aggravated his ankle injury.
Detroit, a team with quarterback Matthew Stafford returning from his separated shoulder, should be warned: Playing Washington is hazardous to a team's health.
Now, on to this week's 10 Spot:
Nobody studies more video or knows more football than ESPN football analyst Ron Jaworski. That's what made his comments on ESPN Radio earlier this month so startling. Speaking about Peyton Manning's play this season, Jaworski said he has noticed "little signs now that the deep sideline throws are not as accurate as they used to be, there's not the zip on the ball that there used to be. Maybe Father Time might be catching up with Peyton Manning a little bit Maybe there does come a time when the skills start to diminish a little bit." Whoa. Now, Jaworski is in Indianapolis for Monday night's game between the Texans and Colts. There will be production meetings in which announcers meet with players. Usually announcers ask players questions. This time, a certain player might be asking a certain announcer questions. One NFL scout expanded on Jaworski's thoughts and said Manning "always stood in the pocket and didn't care if he got hit. Now, he's smarter, is throwing the ball away quicker and is avoiding the hits. With his offensive line not as good, he wants to stay healthy." But without injured tight end Dallas Clark (out for the season) and wide receiver Austin Collie (thumb surgery), Manning faces one of the sterner challenges of his career.
Houston has no pity for Manning. In its most recent game, Houston lost one of its top players and leaders, Pro Bowl linebacker DeMeco Ryans, to a season-ending ruptured Achilles. Texans defensive coordinator Frank Bush texted a rough sketch of his initial thoughts on what to do without Ryans last week: "[Brian] Cushing takes a larger role, but we've got to manufacture a middle 'backer." The choice he made was Cushing, who will be shifted to middle linebacker while Kevin Bentley, coming off arthroscopic knee surgery, moves to strongside linebacker. But replacing Ryans is only one concern. Bush and the Texans must also fix a pass defense that ranks last in the league (306.2 passing yards per game). And in the next two weeks, they square off against Manning and San Diego's Philip Rivers.
The streaks are on the line in New England on Sunday. It's not just the Brett Favre streak of 291 consecutive regular-season starts. (Favre's streak, by the way, is more impressive than Cal Ripken's 2,632-game streak for the Orioles.) It's also Tom Brady's streak of 23 straight regular-season home wins at Gillette Stadium. Should Brady lead the Patriots to another victory Sunday, he would move to within one home win of the record that Favre set with the Packers at Lambeau Field from 1995 to 1998. Brady could tie the record for most consecutive home wins in the regular season in his next home game, Nov. 21 against the Colts, and set the record with another home win on Monday night, Dec. 6, against the Jets.
In each of the past seven seasons, and in nine of the 10 seasons of this decade, one of the NFL's last-place teams has gone from worst to first. This year's central candidate to continue the NFL's streak of worst-to-first division winners is Kansas City, which already has won as many games as it did last season. Kansas City's next eight opponents have a combined record of 19-34. Here's the Chiefs' remaining schedule: vs. Buffalo, at Oakland, at Denver, vs. Arizona, at Seattle, vs. Denver, at San Diego, at St. Louis, vs. Tennessee and vs. Oakland. Kansas City's superb play, and its soft schedule, will make it a lot more difficult for San Diego to make the type of comeback it did last season, when it overcame a 4-8 start to win the division.
While Kansas City surprisingly has jumped to the lead in the AFC West, Seattle has done the same in the NFC West. It has done so with the most seasoned quarterback in the division, Matt Hasselbeck, leading the way. Hasselbeck has gone 10 straight quarters and 97 consecutive passes without throwing an interception. Considering Hasselbeck was intercepted 10 times in the final four games last season, he and his team have made significant strides. With division rivals St. Louis, Arizona and San Francisco now using quarterbacks who entered this season having started a combined two NFL games, Hasselbeck is by far the division's most experienced quarterback.
When Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin played at William & Mary, he caught 20 touchdown passes. But one of his most significant contributions at the school came about 17 years ago, when he helped host the visit for a 17-year-old Richmond, Va., prospect named Darren Sharper. Whatever Tomlin said worked; Sharper attended William & Mary. "We've been friends since we were kids," Tomlin said. "He was more talented than the rest of us. He had no business on William & Mary's football team. His career's beared that out." The two men later teamed together in Minnesota, when Tomlin was the Vikings' defensive coordinator and Sharper their safety. Now, they will meet Sunday night in New Orleans in a battle of the past two Super Bowl champions. By the way, William & Mary in the '90s became a veritable football factory; it also produced Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott.
It's a season of statistical oddities, especially at quarterback. After seven weeks, only three quarterbacks have passer ratings over 100: Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger (122.4), Indianapolis' Peyton Manning (103.4) and Buffalo's Ryan Fitzpatrick? Yes, Fitzpatrick, who has 11 TD passes and only four interceptions, has a passer rating of 102.2. He is a major surprise for Buffalo, which remains winless. The Bills, whose defense is in disrepair, still will have a hard time passing up a franchise quarterback with their top pick in April, but Fitzpatrick is going to give Buffalo an issue to debate.
It has not been hyped like a Manning meeting, but this weekend is the Grimm family reunion. It will start Friday night and conclude Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium, where Cardinals assistant head coach Russ Grimm and Cardinals offensive quality control coach Chad Grimm will square off with Buccaneers safety Cody Grimm. Two nights before the game, Russ Grimm plans to take his sons to dinner. They will discuss this season, but not their game in which Tampa Bay will attempt to win its franchise-record fifth straight road game. Cody Grimm, who replaced suspended safety Tanard Jackson in the Buccaneers' starting lineup, has intercepted two passes and recorded 29 tackles.
Head coaches usually are measured when they speak, guarded even. Not the head coaches in New York and Tampa Bay. During his team's bye week, Jets head coach Rex Ryan proclaimed: "[Bill] Parcells is right. You are what your record says you are Absolutely, it's hard to say we're not the best team in the league." Now, Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris is taking classes at Rex Ryan University. After the Buccaneers beat the Rams, Morris remarked: "We're the best team in the NFC. Yeah, I said it. We're the best team in the NFC." Hmmm. It's worth pointing out Tampa Bay is 4-2 with a minus-30 point differential (98 points for, 128 against). The 1-5 Lions have a +6 point differential (146-140).
Watch out for the Lions over the season's final 10 games. Stafford returns from the separated shoulder that sidelined him the past five games. Detroit already has played four of its first six games on the road, and will play six of its final 10 at home. Its next two road games are at 0-6 Buffalo and 1-5 Dallas, which just lost quarterback Tony Romo (fractured left clavicle) and will lean on former Lion Jon Kitna, perhaps for the rest of the season. Plus, the Lions are playing in the NFC North, a division the other three teams have struggled to seize. Chicago has significant quarterback protection issues, Green Bay has major injury concerns and Minnesota has questions at quarterback.
The Schef's specialties
Game of the week: Minnesota at New England. Wide receiver Randy Moss' return to Foxborough, Mass., is overshadowed, the surest sign of this game's multiple storylines.
Upset of the week: Carolina over St. Louis. The fact that the Rams are mentioned as a possible upset victim is the surest sign of how much progress Steve Spagnuolo & Co. have made.
Adam Schefter is an ESPN NFL Insider.
Consider yourself warned, Matthew Stafford. The Redskins are hazardous to their opponents' health, Adam Schefter writes.