Nov 7, 2004, 1:52 AM EDT
In 1999, I owned a Dodge Caravan. Today, I own a Dodge Caravan.
I said the other day that the Washington Redskins own the Detroit Lions. As a historical fact, it was accurate. But the car I own today is the same as the one I had five years ago in name only. In some ways it’s better and in some it’s worse, but it’s a very different vehicle.
And the Lions are a very different team from the one that the Redskins whipped year after year from the sixties through the ‘90’s. In some ways they’re worse but in other ways they’re better.
They may be worse at running back. I like Kevin Jones and he may well turn out to be a very good player, but right now, in November 2004, he’s not Barry Sanders or Billy Simms.
They are probably better at quarterback. Joey Harrington is making baby steps towards his potential but right now he’s superior to Greg Landry, Jeff Komlo, Gary Danielson, Erik Kramer, and Gus Frerotte, just a few of the quarterbacks the Lions lost to the Redskins with.
Roy Williams is certainly the best receiver Detroit has had since Herman Moore, but he may or may not play in Sunday. Even if his ankle permits him to play, the rookie will find it tough going against either Shawn Springs or Fred Smoot.
If Williams is either on the sidelines or shut down, then, the Lions’ ability to score will hinge on two things: Jones’ rushing and the ability of Harrington to find alternate targets such as Az Hakim or former Washington tight end Stephen Alexander.
Still, all of this adds up to the worst offense in the NFL; that’s what the total yardage ranking will tell you, anyway. But they’ve averaged almost 20 points per game, so they’re not all that bad.
Detroit is a middle of the road defense, not great, not terrible. They appear to be weaker against the pass than against the run. Of course, when they’re playing the Redskins, that’s frailty vs. frailty and power vs. power.
Jones won’t find much running room against the patched-up Washington defense and Gregg Williams will scheme to harass Harrington into some sacks and an interception or two. Kicker Jason Hanson’s leg won’t be deterred at all, so let’s say that the Lions get a TD and three Hanson field goals for a total of 16 points.
Normally, a prediction that a team will give up just 16 points would lead to a prediction of victory for that team. However, the Redskins have scored over 16 just once this year, so that’s the key.
Getting to 17 is the key for the Redskins. I think they’re capable of doing it, but they haven’t demonstrated the ability to do so in a winning effort thus far this year. That makes it difficult for me to predict that they will.
In the late going it will be Detroit 16, Washington 14. Ola Kimrin will have a field goal attempt to win it. It will smack off of the upright and 16-14 is the final.