Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 15:
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The Cowboys' secondary will have their hands full with Robert Meachem and the rest of the Saints' receivers.The Cowboys can't allow the Saints' receivers to run wild. I watched the Saints receivers destroy an overwhelmed Giants secondary earlier this season. You cannot allow them free access to their routes. Cornerbacks Mike Jenkins, Terence Newman and Orlando Scandrick must get solid jams and make the Saints receivers compete. Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson are vertical route runners who can destroy you on any play. Marques Colston does an excellent job of working across the middle. Communication will be the key. If you mess up on one play, Meachem will be dancing in the end zone. Sean Payton has done an amazing job of convincing every receiver that he's a No. 1 guy. When Lance Moore gets back out there Saturday night, he won't be thinking of himself as a No. 4 guy. Drew Brees doesn't care who he's throwing to -- as long as the guy's open. The Cowboys' corners will have their hands full like never before.
The Eagles' defense can't be lured into another shootout. Conventional wisdom suggests Donovan McNabb and the offense will score enough points to win but we've also seen this Eagles team go belly up against teams such as the Raiders. The defense was embarrassed by all the missed tackles against the Giants last Sunday. They allowed more than 500 yards of total offense but benefited from an Eli Manning self-induced fumble. In this game, Trent Cole and the defensive ends have to get some hits on Alex Smith. The 49ers' quarterback has been playing a lot better in recent weeks and the ball's coming out quicker than in the past. It also helps that he has an explosive receiver like Michael Crabtree. The former Texas Tech star is great at catching balls in tight windows and he'll turn upfield and take it to the house if you don't watch it. Players such as Asante Samuel and Quintin Mikell have to do a much better job of wrapping up. And you better not give Frank Gore too many cutback lanes. If you're too aggressive off the snap, Gore will make you pay dearly. This is the most underrated Beast game of the weekend.
With Albert Haynesworth back, the Redskins need to have another huge game in the pass rush. If you give Eli Manning too much time in the pocket, he'll pick you apart. The Giants hung more than 500 yards of total offense on the Eagles on Sunday. The last time the Redskins and Giants played, left guard Rich Seubert and Haynesworth had quite a battle. Rookie outside linebacker Brian Orakpo is seeing more time at defensive end and that's been a great thing for the Redskins' defense. He had four sacks against the Raiders and he's a matchup nightmare for the Giants' offensive tackles. His bull rush is already one of the best in the division. But the problem for the Skins is that LaRon Landry refuses to stay back on deep balls and is susceptible to getting burned. I could see Hakeem Nicks having a big game. He's a strong receiver who can beat the jam and get vertical in a hurry. For the Redskins to get the upset, they'll need to have three or four sacks and cause a couple of turnovers. And by the way, it wouldn't be that huge of an upset.
The Cowboys better account for Reggie Bush on every play: When Sean Payton returned to Texas Stadium in '06 and hung 42 points on Bill Parcells, he used a guy named Mike Kearney to expose the Cowboys' defense. On Saturday night in the Superdome, I think he'll try to line up Reggie Bush all over the field. The Cowboys will assign a cornerback to him at times but he'll also end up against linebackers. If Keith Brooking is chasing Bush across the middle, that's a bad situation for the Cowboys. Of all the favorable matchups the Saints have in this game, this one could end up giving the Cowboys the most nightmares.
The Giants have been able to grind out wins against the Redskins with the running game in the past. For some reason, I smell a big game for Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw. Tom Coughlin has hated the fact this offense has lost its identity. He believes with all his heart you win games in December in the Beast by pounding the ball on the ground. The Giants have spent a ton of time trying to solidify their running game. And Jacobs is starting to gain some confidence. This might be his game. Please clip and save this last piece of advice. Everything coming out of the Meadowlands suggests the Giants are going to run it like crazy against the Skins. Have a wonderful football weekend.