Dr. Z's Forecast

September 26, 2004

REDSKINS QUARTERBACK Mark Brunell wilted under the Giants' pass rush on Sunday in the Meadowlands and left the game early with an injured hamstring. His replacement, Patrick Ramsey, threw three interceptions. Thus the Skins were one of the upset victims in Week 2.

Some 1,400 miles away, in Dallas, the Browns' defensive backs were racing Vinny Testaverde's marshmallow passes--the classic matchup, man against ball--and the D-backs won three times. (That's how many interceptions they pulled down.) Oh, yes, the Cowboys won because they matched Cleveland pick for pick.

These are the quarterbacks who will grace our TV screens on Monday night when Dallas meets Washington. It used to be one of the keynote matchups of any season. Now they are just a pair of 1--1 teams struggling to find themselves, but the game is intriguing because we don't exactly know what to expect.

The Redskins' defense, which buried Tampa Bay under a blanket of blitzes in Week 1, couldn't put a serious dent in the Giants' Kurt Warner. I don't think defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will turn his blitzers loose on Testaverde, because Vinny's too quick getting to his hot reads. I think the Skins will try to confuse him with exotic coverages, baiting him by having the DBs play off the ball, and then break on it quickly. The soft stuff Testaverde threw against Cleveland, especially on the out-patterns, is an invitation for quick-breaking cornerbacks.

Dallas coach Bill Parcells and his defensive coordinator, Mike Zimmer, like to bring pressure and aren't afraid to commit extra people to do it, but against the Browns they didn't have to. The front four, especially end Greg Ellis, was doing a good enough job by itself. But when a team has seven turnovers, as Washington did against New York, its future foes get a bit bolder.

Will this be a high-turnover game? Probably. Who do I like? The answer is the Cowboys, because they'll do more damage to the Redskins' attack than vice versa.

In one of those scheduling oddities the Cowboys' and the Redskins' opponents last week meet on Sunday. Tom Coughlin's goofy fines seemed to light a fire under the Giants, and they played harder than, well, since they smacked Warner, then with the Rams, for six fumbles in the opener last year. Or maybe they played hard despite the fines. At any rate New York's pass defenders were closing on their targets against the Redskins and not playing tentatively, as they did against Philadelphia two weeks ago. The Giants are the pick.

The Lions are hot. If they win at home over the Eagles, we'll be reading a week's worth of features about how they've finally turned the corner. It'll be interesting, but I don't think they're there yet. Philly will win it. The Packers will run for a lot of yards on Indianapolis, just as Tennessee did, but I like the Colts' offense at home. A vote for Indy.

Tampa Bay and Oakland replay their Super Bowl ... they what? Oh, sorry. That was a million years ago. The Raiders get the nod at home. The Dolphins couldn't do much on Sunday night against a Cincinnati defense that gave up 438 yards to the Jets. Likewise, a Bengals attack that showed verve and imagination in Week 1 looked as if it were marking time until Miami handed it the game. What do I read from this? The Dolphins will lose to the Steelers, and the Bengals will fall to the Ravens.

--Paul Zimmerman

Dr. Z's Inside Football, every week during the season at si.com/football.

COLOR PHOTOGLENN JAMES/WIREIMAGE.COM IN A RUSH Ellis will try to disrupt Washington's passing attack.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)