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Keeping an Eye on the Other Beasts in the East

The premier matchup this week in the NFL is the one between the two unbeatens: the New York Giants and the New Orleans Saints. Whichever team wins this battle in the Big Easy, could be considered the best team in the conference. Minnesota is the only other undefeated team in the NFC; it plays host to 3-2 Baltimore on Sunday.

The one win between Oakland and Kansas City suggests that Philadelphia and Washington could both be victorious this weekend. The Eagles are flying high while the Raiders are looking less competitive each week. The Chiefs gave the Cowboys a run for their money in Week Five, and should be able to do the same against a frustrated Redskins team.

More Beasts in the East after the jump.


Philadelphia Eagles (3-1)

Last game: 33-14 Home Win vs. Tampa Bay

Next up: @ Oakland (1-4)

Tomorrow, the Eagles will enter the Black Hole relatively healthy.

Guard Todd Herremans (foot) and cornerback Dimitri Patterson (quadriceps) are out for tomorrow's game at Oakland. Wide receiver Kevin Curtis (knee) is questionable, but he is making the flight west. Defensive end Darren Howard sat out yesterday's practice with a toe contusion, but he's probable. And that's it.

For the first time this season, coach Andy Reid will have to make some tough decisions regarding who will dress against the Raiders and who will be inactive.

"It's a good problem to have," Reid said.

Herremans has been out all season but is making progress and he could be back for the Monday night game at Washington on Oct. 26. He ran with the scout team yesterday in practice and will have a scan of his left foot - where he suffered a stress fracture - on Tuesday.

Andy Reid doesn't want his team to look past the Raiders.

"It's a frame of mind," Reid said following a short practice Friday at the team's NovaCare Complex. "It's how you handle that time, it's not necessarily the schedule as much as how you handle that schedule. That's the important thing here, from the time we get on the plane until the time we play the game, that you utilize that time wisely.

"That's what we need to do. I have a lot of new guys on this football team and this is the first time that they've been with me on a two-day trip. I expect certain things and I know that the veteran players will be a good example."

Donovan McNabb will "mentor" Jamarcus Russell during pregame.

McNabb wants to make sure Russell stays positive despite a rough start to his third season that has raised serious questions about whether the No. 1 overall pick in 2007 draft has become a draft bust.

"Understand that every quarterback in this league has been through some sort of struggle, but believe that you can pull yourself out of it," McNabb said of his advice. "The guys around you have to make plays. ... Not all the negative aspects of what's been going on should fall on JaMarcus because it's a team game."

Here is the preview video link for the Philadelphia Eagles at Oakland Raiders.


Washington Redskins (2-3)

Last game: 17-20 Loss @ Carolina

Next up: Home vs. Kansas City (0-5)

Whether Jim Zorn's job is in jeopardy or not, Washington's players want the organization to speak up.

If the team doesn't intend to fire Zorn, the players said, the coach should be given a public vote of confidence so that players won't have to bear the responsibility each week of responding to speculation about their embattled coach.

The players, who spoke on condition that their names not be used, said they had hoped management would soon release a statement endorsing Zorn to silence any doubts about his immediate future to eliminate what they said has become a daily distraction.

"I wish someone upstairs would just say he's going to be our coach for the season," said one of the players. "That way, we don't have to answer any more questions about it and everybody knows we're in this boat together."

LT Chris Samuels may miss the rest of the season with an injury that could force him into retirement, says Matt Mosely.

The six-time Pro Bowler, who already had been ruled out of Sunday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs, will have the injury re-evaluated Tuesday, sources told The Washington Post.

Samuels suffers from stenosis, a narrowing of the spine that causes him to wear a neck brace for extra protection when he plays, and was already dealing with significant knee pain all season, according to the paper.

The Redskins' defense is licking their chops in expectations of a struggling K.C. offense.

The Redskins have 10 sacks, including six in the last two games. Andre Carter leads the way with 3.5 sacks and rookie Brian Orakpo has 2.5. The defense is ranked 11th in the league in sacks after finishing 28th last year. Kansas City is struggling on the ground--Larry Johnson is averaging just 2.4 yards per carry--so the pressure could be on Cassel to move the ball through the air.

Cassel has been sacked 14 times this season, 28th worst in the league, as the Chiefs’ offensive line has struggled in pass protection. He was sacked four times last Sunday vs. Dallas and five times the week before by the New York Giants.

Punter, Hunter Smith, is a game-time decision because of a groin injury he suffered last week.

Smith, who did not punt during practice Friday, was injured on his first punt in the 16-13 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 3. He then sat out the 20-17 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

The Redskins signed free agent Glenn Pakulak, who averaged 35.6 net yards on five punts. Pakulak was cut after the game and re-signed to the practice squad. If Smith cannot punt again this week, the Redskins would have to make a move to add him to the 53-man roster for the game.

Here is the preview video link for the Kansas City Chiefs at Washington Redskins.

New York Giants (5-0)

Last game: 44-7 Home Win vs. Oakland

Next up: @ New Orleans (4-0)

How do the Giants' defenders plan on handling Saints' QB Drew Brees?

"(Brees is) a great, accurate quarterback," cornerback Corey Webster said. "He knows how to get the ball to the skill players and playmakers. He allows them to make plays down the field. He does a great job of buying more time in the pocket, getting rid of the ball when he needs to, putting it in the right position where only his receiver can make a play on the ball. I think down the field we have to stay close in coverage because he can buy an extra second for his receivers to get down the field. So we have to be very disciplined on our coverage assignments."

In four games, Brees has thrown only two interceptions and been sacked just four times. Running backs Mike Bell, Pierre Thomas and Bush have rushed for a combined 589 yards and five touchdowns.

"Brees gets so much attention that people don't realize they are averaging over 160 yards rushing," Tuck said. "They are definitely a balanced football team. I think they are right up there with us as far as balance. I know a lot of people don't understand that because people look at Brees and all the numbers he puts up, but that three-headed monster running back that they have down there is doing a great job, too."

While many Giants players were quoted this week as saying that this is just the sixth game of the season, Saints' head coach, Sean Payton, sees this as an early measuring stick for his team.

"When you look at all the categories that lend themselves to winning, this is a team that has done most of those things real well," Payton said. "This is a good challenge for us and a real good football team. Not only looking at the film and looking at all the numbers in all phases, they’re very well-coached and very talented."

Payton expects the Giants to be very physical on both sides of the ball. "We’ve played some good, physical teams and we understand the type of game that it’s going to be," Payton said, "and I think we’ll be ready for the challenge."

Eli Manning (heel) and Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) were limited in practice this week, but are only listed as probable for Sunday.

However, linebacker Michael Boley (knee), defensive tackle Chris Canty (calf) and cornerback Aaron Ross (hamstring) have all been ruled out for Sunday.

Is Brandon Jacobs frustrated with his role?

When asked specifically how he was a tone-setter on the field, Jacobs had enough.

"You're just looking for some (junk), aren't you?" Jacobs said to a reporter. The reporter seemed surprised and asked Jacobs what was wrong."

"Yes! I see myself as a tone-setter," Jacobs said. "Yes, I do. I am going out and just running into people. I'm 6-4 and 265 pounds, doing what I am supposed to do, running into people to get a 2-yard loss. Happy?"

Jacobs, who has rushed for 1,000 yards each of the past two seasons, ended the interview, picked up his shoes and walked away.

The Saints may come out with a little ball-control offense of their own.

A little more of a surprise this season has been the running game of the New Orleans Saints, which ranks second in the NFL, averaging 166.3 yards. This week, the Saints will have a tandem of their own in Mike Bell and Pierre Thomas, one they haven't had together all season. Bell rushed for 229 yards in the Saints' first two games, but sprained his right knee late in New Orleans' victory at Philadelphia.

Thomas, who did not have carry the first two games while he was coming back from a preseason right knee sprain of his own, took center stage in Week 3 at Buffalo and has rushed for 212 yards and three TDs since. "It's going to be electrifying because we're going to keep pounding and pounding and pounding," Thomas said. "We've also got Reggie (Bush), who can do just about anything out there on the field, so it's going to be crazy."

Here is the pregame video link for the New York Giants at New Orleans Saints.