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Keeping an Eye on the Other Beasts in the East

And round and round the NFC South we go! In Week Four, the Giants handled the Chiefs and will pass them on to host the Cowboys on Sunday. The Redskins squeezed past the Bucs and ship them off to face the Eagles.

Because of their bye week, the Panthers last played against the Cowboys and will now host the Redskins. And for those unbeaten Giants...they get to sit at home while the Jamarcus Russell-led Raiders pay a visit. 5-0 looks to be an expected reality for them.

The combined record of teams the Beast plays this week? 1-14.

More Beasts in the East after the jump.


Philadelphia Eagles (2-1)

Last game:Bye

Next up: Home vs. Tampa Bay (0-4)

The bye week allowed the Eagles to rest their injured starters, which included RB Brian Westbrook. With rookie LeSean McCoy productively available, the team has the option of rotating backs.

Mornhinweg was asked if the days of one feature back in the NFL are over. "This is a tough, physical game," Mornhinweg said. "It's become very specialized as well. Many teams have a normal-down back and then a third-down back and then a change-up guy. I think it's been over for quite some time with a few exceptions with those rare special players, which Brian was and is."

The question is whether Westbrook would benefit from less work at this stage of his career. "You don't know that," Mornhinweg said. "I would think that Brian, when he's healthy, could handle a big load."

Healthy offensive weapons and a new, but old familiar face will take the field against the Bucs.

Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook will start on offensive, with Michael Vick in the Wildcat as a bonus. Newly signed Jeremiah Trotter will rotate at middle linebacker with Omar Gaither. Kevin Curtis may be held out as a precaution, but the Eagles still have DeSean Jackson and Brent Celek to catch passes, along with rookies LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin.

Buccaneers quarterback, Josh Johnson, is a big fan of Donovan McNabb and is looking forward to playing against him.

"I've watched him his whole career," Johnson said. "He's a special player. I feel like it's an honor just to go out and finally see him live and be on the other side of the field."

After a rough first start last weekend at Washington, Johnson can benefit from a good example. He arguably played too timidly and lacked the sort of dynamic plays McNabb has made a career of — though that's probably expected given the difference in age (23 versus 32) and experience. Johnson finished 13 of 22 for 106 yards with one touchdown and one interception for a 67.6 passer rating.

Jeremiah Trotter, who has played for both Philly and Tampa, may only play on running downs.

Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, though, emphasized incumbent starter Omar Gaither still figures into the plans. "It's important to understand that Omar Gaither is a heck of a football player," he said. "And his impact on this defense will not change."

Asked about Trotter, signed during the bye, McDermott said, "It's important that he comes in and handles things one step at a time, doesn't look to try to do too much, just does what his role calls for."

The Eagles may be extending Andy Reid's contract soon.

Here's the pregame vid link for Tampa at Philadelphia.


Washington Redskins (2-2)

Last game:16-13 Home Win vs. Tampa Bay

Next up: @ Carolina (0-3)

Redskins owner, Daniel Snyder, hired offensive "consultant" Sherman Lewis to help out on that side of the ball. Hmmm...

At some point soon, however, Lewis is expected to make recommendations on how to improve an offense that ranks 27th in the league in scoring with an average of 14 points. Owner Daniel Snyder determined that Zorn, who had never been a coordinator or head coach in the NFL before Snyder gave him both jobs, needs outside help, and as Lewis watches tape, he will develop opinions about Zorn's schemes, Zorn's ability as a play-caller and the team's talent level.

Through all the Cutler-talk and the loss to the Lions, Jim Zorn stands by his QB, Jason Campbell.

"When there was speculation that we were going to get another guy to come on board and compete against him he worked hard," Redskins coach Jim Zorn said. "So that's just the way it was. He just worked hard, and worked extremely hard to get himself ready. There's never been another issue."

Well, other than the four-turnover game last week, the kind of sloppy effort (albeit in a 16-13 win over Tampa Bay) that had folks wishing the talk had turned into something tangible.

"Up until last game, I was having a pretty good season," Campbell said. "You couldn't tell, after we won against St. Louis, we still got beat up pretty good because we didn't win the way people thought we should have won. But our objective is just to win the game. It's not about how pretty it is. It's just about us winning the game."

Panthers' safety Chris Harris could be back this week to make things tough on Campbell.

"It’s always good to have all of your guys out there at one time and being on the same page," said linebacker Na’il Diggs. "Chris got all of the reps in camp and we kind of got accustomed to his style of play and just hearing his voice. So it’s big to get him back. It’s good to have somebody back there with a vast knowledge of this defense."

The Panthers have sorely lacked in creating turnovers and that’s an area Harris has excelled in in the past. He set a team record with eight forced fumbles two years ago.

Newly signed DT, Hollis Thomas, comes in ready to contribute to the Panthers' defense.

"I knew the head coach, Spags (Steve Spagnuolo), from when I was in Philadelphia, and he said he needed to get some young guys playing and see what they had, so I understood," Thomas said. "He said he wished I could have a three-week vacation and come back, but that's not the nature of the business. My agent called Carolina and the rest is history, one day old."

The Panthers knew well of Thomas' exploits, having faced him as a division rival during three seasons (2006-08) with the New Orleans Saints. Head coach John Fox also conferred with Thomas when he was a free agent on the open market.

SB's Cat Scratch Reader breaks down Carolina's offense vs Redskins defense.

Here's NFL Game Center for Washington @ Carolina.

New York Giants (4-0)

Last game: 27-16 Win @ Kansas City

Next up: Home vs. Oakland (1-3)

While some reports suggest that Eli Manning is a game-time decision, it sounds positive that he will play Sunday. If not, David Carr would get the start.

Manning, of course, practiced for the first time this week on Friday, taking about half the snaps with the first-team offense during the Giants' practice. If he had a setback overnight, the Giants probably wouldn't have allowed him to take the field Saturday morning. But, when Tom Coughlin addressed reporters on Friday, he said he would let Manning participate if he had "made some progress overnight."

If Eli's foot bothers him, the Giants will have to rely more on their running game. This is an area the Raiders could look to control.

[T]he Giants will be hard pressed to get off the edge because one of the Raiders’ few strengths is the play of their DEs: Richard Seymour and former Cowboy Greg Ellis. The Giants will have their work cut out for them to block those two, especially since starting TE Kevin Boss likely won’t play because of his ankle injury. TE Darcy Johnson will have to show off the blocking skills he’s developed over the past two years while rookie OT William Beatty will have to be a big force as a second TE.

Because of a torn meniscus, Giants' LB Michel Boley will miss the remainder of the season. Chase Blackburn and others are expected to take his place.

Blackburn technically will replace Boley in the starting lineup, but in reality it will take several people to replace what Boley was able to do. Losing him creates a chain reaction of change throughout the defense. Because Boley is such an athletic linebacker, he was able to stay on the field in sub packages and help with pass coverage.

Now the Giants likely will take the linebacker off the field in those situations and replace him with safety Michael Johnson as the nickel linebacker.

Oakland's offensive linemen have their work cut out for them this week.

The Giants are coming off a five-sack performance against Kansas City last week and are allowing just 115 yards passing per game. A matchup against the league's lowest-ranked offense featuring a rebuilt offensive line must have the Giants' eyes lighting up.

JaMarcus Russell says he's the leader of the Raider offense. Is he?

"Yes I feel [I am the leader] because if you look at it, the quarterback touches the ball every play. If I can do the smallest things to get guys in position to become successful, then that’s what I look at it as. If anything is not going right, I might get a 2-yard gain or anything just to spark the guys to get going and move forward."

However, on Monday Cable all but said the offense has no leaders, "Until the offense finds their leaders, who those guys are going to be, I think you're leadership's gotta come from anywhere on this football team."

Michael Bush will start at RB for the Raiders.

Here is the long list of injured Giants.

OUT: LB Michael Boley (knee), DT Chris Canty (calf), LB Bryan Kehl (finger), CB Aaron Ross (hamstring). DOUBTFUL: TE Kevin Boss (ankle). QUESTIONABLE: QB Eli Manning (foot), RB Danny Ware (elbow). PROBABLE: RB Ahmad Bradshaw (ankle, foot), WR Domenik Hixon (knee), G Rich Seubert (shoulder), LB Clint Sintim (groin), DE Justin Tuck (shoulder).

Sure, the Giants beat up on the Bucs and Chiefs the last two weeks and get another seemingly easy one against the Raiders. But in Week 6, they go to New Orleans, which will be coming off their bye.

"If the Saints and Giants were playing this weekend, I’d make New Orleans a 4-point favorite," Sheridan said. "In my NFL power ratings, right now, the Saints are the best team in the NFC, followed by the Giants. If the Saints were playing the Giants or (AFC power) New England, at home, they’d be a slight favorite. "None of us know if Eli Manning is totally healthy."

Here's the preview video for the Raiders @ Giants.