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Redskins buck trend, see stock rise

Posted: Friday, October 03, 2008

Being the worst team in the NFC East is like snagging the final spot on the Fortune 500.

If the Dallas Cowboys are the division's equivalent of Wal-Mart Stores, then the Washington Redskins would be the Scana Corporation, a $10 billion energy-based holding company.

There's nothing wrong with that.

And there's certainly no disappointment around the D.C. area, either.

Off to a 3-1 start, the third time in the past four years they've broken through early, the Redskins have quietly gone from the preseason basement to the living room of the NFC with a stunning 26-24 road victory over the Cowboys on Sunday.

(And I called it, although I changed my pick to Dallas at the last second -- honestly.)

The turnaround began last year with the death of safety Sean Taylor.

Following a string of four consecutive losses, Washington finished the season with four straight wins in sneaking into the playoffs with a 9-7 mark.

Sure, they lost by 21 to Seattle in the opening round of the playoffs, and yeah, they fell by nine to the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants in the season opener this year. But the Redskins win over Dallas demonstrated how far this team can actually go.

The Cowboys were predicted by many to run away with the division title and perhaps even take an undefeated record deep into the season, maybe mirroring the Patriots remarkable run of a year ago.

However, Washington promptly put the brakes on that.

Trailing by seven after the opening frame, the Redskins lit the scoreboard for 17 in the second quarter and snapped a 1-for-12 mark at Texas Stadium.

"I've always said this is going to be a process," first-year coach Jim Zorn said afterward. "We have to maintain our composure after this win, too. We're not going to the Super Bowl next week."

Right. But how about 18 weeks from now?

The 'Skins have as good a shot as anyone else.

With the revivals of Clinton Portis, who's averaging 92.2 yards per game, and Santana Moss, who has already found the end zone three times, and the emergence of quarterback Jason Campbell, Washington is compiling 26.3 points a game during its three-game winning streak over New Orleans, Arizona and Dallas.

More importantly, though, is what the offense isn't doing.

Campbell and Co. have yet to commit a turnover through four games, providing a relatively easier path for the defense, which is on the field less than expected.

Every coach says whoever wins the turnover battle will likely emerge victorious.

And as a reporter, it's the most commonly used phrase since Bill Belichick reinvented, "It is what it is."

But the stats don't lie. This year alone, teams that lose the turnover battle are 10-35. Last year they went 34-168.

"We focus on it enough in practice," Campbell said of being turnover free. "You don't want to start thinking about it all the time."

He and the rest of the team might want to start thinking about their first division title since 1999, when the Arizona Cardinals were still misplaced in the East. Because while Washington is toiling in successful anonymity, the rest of the division is engulfed in turmoil.

T.O.'s running his mouth again.

Plaxico Burress is suspended this week for skipping a meeting.

And the entire Eagles squad is listed on the injury report.

Luckily for Washington, they travel to the City of Brotherly Love on Sunday with the mind-set of pulling off another major upset on the road in the 149th all-time meeting between these two teams. And it won't be easy, as the Eagles (2-2) boast the third-best defense, tops against the run, and sixth-best offense in the league.

Then again, winning in Dallas wasn't a piece of cake.

And this time, when they top Philly, despite being six-point underdogs, it shouldn't come as any surprise.

Not to them, not to the Eagles and certainly not to you.

The Redskins, with upcoming games against St. Louis, Cleveland and Detroit, an abysmal 1-10 combined, could be 7-1 by the time November rolls around.

At that point, the Cowboys, Giants or Eagles should be comfortably settling into the role formerly held by the 'Skins.

Or should I say, Scana.

REDSKINS, 28-24.

Tennessee (minus 3) at Baltimore

Monday morning quarterback controversy in Tennessee.

RAVENS, 24-17.

Seattle (plus 7 1/2) at N.Y. Giants

Matt Hasselbeck gets his receivers back. Eli Manning loses his best one. Still ... GIANTS, 31-27.

San Diego (minus 6 1/2) at Miami

The Chargers haven't won in Miami since 1982. The Milwaukee Brewers hadn't made the playoffs since then, either. So ...

CHARGERS, 41-24.

Chicago (minus 3 1/2) at Detroit

Matt Millen's gone. Detroit wins. Not a coincidence. LIONS, 24-21.

Atlanta (off) at Green Bay

Aaron Rodgers' consecutive starts streak could be snapped at four. PACKERS, 23-14.

Indianapolis (minus 3 1/2)

at Houston

Slump-buster game for Indy. COLTS, 34-18.

Kansas City (plus 9 1/2) at Carolina

KC has finally figured out how to win -- hand off to Larry Johnson. CHIEFS, 23-20.

Tampa Bay (plus 3) at Denver

Tampa, like Denver at this time last year, is a baseball city now.

BRONCOS, 24-13.

Buffalo (plus 1) at Arizona

How are the Cardinals favored? BILLS, 30-29.

New England (minus 3 1/2)

at San Francisco

Pats earn first-ever win in San Francisco. PATRIOTS, 31-20.

Cincinnati (plus 17) at Dallas

I hope Pacman tackles Chad Johnson when he kisses the star.

COWBOYS, 24-17.

Pittsburgh (plus 4 1/2) at Jacksonville

Jags make it five straight over Steelers. JAGUARS, 27-14.

Monday

Minnesota (plus 3 1/2) at New Orleans

Daunte Culpepper could be suiting up for Minnesota next week.

SAINTS, 29-17.

LAST WEEK: 9-4 (spread); 11-2 (straight up)

SEASON: 32-27-1 (spread); 36-24 (straight up)

Comments and criticisms may be sent to Clarion sports reporter Matthew Carroll at matthew.carroll@peninsulaclarion.com.



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