The Washington Redskins are 2-0 and in first place in the NFC East, and it is Dallas Week. What more do you want in life? OK, the team is far from perfect, and the Redskins-Cowboys rivalry certainly is not what it used to be, but let's not dwell on the negative, at least not quite yet.
Let me get this out of the way first on the signficance of a 2-0 start. Since the NFL went to the current eight-division format in 2002 58 percent of the teams that start 2-0 eventually make the playoffs. The Redskins are also among just 7 of 32 unbeatens so far. Also, keep in mind in each of the past 15 seasons, at least five clubs made the playoffs that were not in the postseason the previous year. Also, in eight straight years, a team has gone from worst to first in their division. The Detroit Lions and Redskins are the leading candidates through two weeks.
Now that is out of the way, let's get into why the Redskins should be far from satisfied with the start. Also, is Dallas Week still a big deal anyway? All that is in this week's edition of Chain Reactions, as well as conference realignment and how it effects the Georgetown Hoyas.
Winning Ugly is Still Winning
Championship teams win games when they do not play their best. No, I'm not here to stay the Redskins are a championship team. However, it is a good sign that they could pull the win out over the Arizona Cardinals despite not playing their best football with the costly turnovers, a blocked field goal, 29-percent red-zone efficiency and an awful third down efficiency of 35 percent.
Rex Grossman had numerous balls batted down at the line of scrimmage, and yes, a very Bad Rex moment in the red zone on the team's first drive. However, in the end, he made plays and had big onions on that fourth-down touchdown pass to Santana Moss.
Also, the head Shanahan is far from satisfied and not ready to proclaim anything after two good weeks.
"You just won two games; that's about it," [Mike Shanahan] said. "I don't think our players are overly excited that we're 2-0 because they understand we've got a big game Monday night against Dallas. Things change very quickly, so our concentration will be on Dallas. I'm not really concerned about what our record is."
On the other hand, everyone would be very concerned about the record if it was flipped to 0-2. A win is a win, and as the great Al Davis used to say, "Just Win Baby!" So far, so good with 14 more opportunities. There will be better teams ahead and sloppy play will cost you games down the road, but 2-0 is 2-0.
Redskins Are Well Grounded
All the talk about sticking with the run has stuck through two weeks, although in the second half on Sunday, it seemed a little more pass happy. Maybe that was because the Cardinals were keying on it and the Redskins were trailing. Either way, the two-headed monster of Tim Hightower and Roy Helu, or "Helltower" as some fans and media are already dubbing them, was very effective in wearing down the Cardinals defense. The two combined for 170 yards on 30 carries, and the rookie Helu showed his style is perfect for Mike Shanhan's running game.
"We've been talking about it since the first preseason game," Shanahan said. "We're going to emphasize the running game and hopefully we can become good at it and be very consistent. I think the only time we haven't been consistent in it was our first regular season game against a pretty darn good defensive team. We're just a hair away on a few plays and we're going to continue to work on that."
The commitment was my biggest issue with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahans's play calling in year one. However, the production of five yards per carry should make it easy to stick with i.
Defense Dominating On Third Down
The defense has yet to play with safety Laron Landry, which should only add to the team's most improved unit so far. The much-maligned 3-4 scheme is much better with a couple of nose tackles that actually want to play the position. London Fletcher is flying around like a rookie, and the rookie Ryan Kerrigan is playing like a veteran.
There's plenty of good stuff so far on defense, but nothing is better than the third down numbers. The Redskins held the New York Giants to 1 for 10 on third down in Week 1 and the Cardinals 3 for 9 last Sunday. Overall, that's a 20 percent conversion rate. Now, they have to put up that kind of performance on the road in Jerry World on Monday night.
Dallas Week: Does it Still Matter?
Well, apparently it does to someone at the Disney Network that is carrying the game and bringing it to the nation next Monday. Sure, the rivalry has lost its luster since the George Allen and Joe Gibbs 1.0 eras, but for real Redskins fans, nothing makes your blood boil more than that annoying star on the side of the helmet and the plastic-faced owner on the sideline.
Grossman, though, is saying all the right things in a Good Rex moment to Redskins Radio.
"When you’re talking Redskins-Cowboys, it’s the biggest rivalry in football. So Monday night, the whole thing, we’ll be ready."
The biggest reason the rivalry has lost so much steam from the good old days is both franchises have not been very good. Also, free agency took its tool, especially under Norv Turner when he signed a bunch of former Cowboys that were not that good. The low moment came when Deion Sanders became a Redskin.
That all being said, this weeks game sets up with plenty of drama with the surprising Redskins 2-0 start and everything going on with Tony Romo. Romo played with a punctured lung, ribs, no right arm and a blind fold in rallying to be the mighty San Francisco 49ers. You get the point. Also, the first road test for the Redskins as well. Monday Night cannot get here fast enough.
ACC Expansion Hurts Hoyas
The ACCis going with the safety in numbers approach to counter all the craziness of conference realignment. They have pulled in Pittsburgh and Syracuse, and UConn would like to join them. These moves are made with football $$ in mind, yet this move looks better on paper for basketball. I could go on and on about college sports being out of control in their chase of the almighty dollar. We wonder why the "student athletes" grab anything they can under the table. These are the alleged educators screwing each other over.
It could be especially damaging to the Georgetown Hoyas, who do not play big time football, along with St. Johns, Seton Hall, Providence, Marquette, DePaul and Villanova (who would like to be in the new Big East). No one knows what is in store for the Big East, but we do know the basketball-only schools will not get much of a voice as the conference meets with the football schools to figure out the next move.
The collateral damage to the exodus of Syracuse will be heavy for the Hoyas. The Georgetown-Syracuse rivalry has historically been the best in the conference. It has also been the best draw at Verizon Center for the Hoyas, but after this season, that is likely gone.
The bigger question is what will the Big East do next? How about dialing up my alma mater Old Dominion I have the number. Ask for Dr. Camden Wood Selig.