The security has been very tight at Redskin Park this week, which usually means one of two things: a) Dan Quayle is stopping by on his way to another funeral; or b) the Redskins are preparing for a Big Game.
This week, it's a Big Game. As big as they come six weeks into an NFL season. The 3-1 Redskins against the 4-0 New York Giants, Sunday at RFK Stadium."This is our biggest test of the season, a huge test as far as confidence for us," said Redskins guard Mark Schlereth, whose club can grab a share of the NFC East lead with a win, or fall two games back with a loss.
"They're 4-0 and we've been on a roll," defensive end Fred Stokes said. "Everything the fans and the media say about this being a big game is true."
The Redskins haven't been to the playoffs since 1987, which also happens to be the last season they defeated the Giants. Last year, the Giants' Raul Allegre kicked a 52-yard field goal as time expired to beat them, 27-24, in Washington, and Phil Simms beat them in East Rutherford with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes in a 20-17 win.
"The bottom line is, the team has beaten us four straight," Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said. "The last two years we've been third in the division behind these guys and Philadelphia. If we're going to step up, there comes a time when you have to step up."
The Giants are going to be awfully tough to step up on. Their ball-control offense has been racking up 26 points a game and staying on the field for more than 36 minutes. And their defense is the best in the league, holding opponents to just 223 yards and less than 12 points per game.
"They've probably got the best front seven you can put together," Redskins quarterback Stan Humphries said. "The pressure they put on you makes their secondary even better."
Humphries was given the starting job two weeks ago when Mark Rypien got hurt. He responded by completing 20 of 25 passes for 257 yards in a 38-10 win over Phoenix. But the Giants aren't Phoenix.
"We're going to have to try to keep our defense off the field," Humphries said. "It's tough against them when you don't control the ball. They try to stop the longer throws and make you pick your way down the field. If you drive on them, you have to have 11 or 12 good plays in a row."
Prediction: Giants 27, Redskins 23.
CINCINNATI AT HOUSTON:
The Val Pinchbeck Memorial Road Rally continues for Sam Wyche's prudish Bengals. This is Week 3 of their five-week romp across America. Boomer Esiason had an aerial orgy last week in Anaheim, brutalizing the Rams' awful defense for 471 yards and three touchdowns.
Houston's defense should be able to do a slightly better job on Esiason than the Rams did. And the Bengals don't have enough depth in their secondary to withstand 60 minutes of run-and-shoot football.
Prediction: Oilers 35, Bengals 27.
MINNESOTA AT PHILADELPHIA:
Boy, you've got to love Mike Lynn's timing. He castrated the franchise with the Herschel Walker deal. Now, just when they're starting to form a lynch mob in Minneapolis, he's ducking out the back door to run the NFL's new spring minor league. Real gutsy move, Mikey.
Buddy says his boys are back in business because they went bowling together two nights in a row this week. Hey, if it's a good enough omen for him it's a good enough omen for me.
Prediction: Eagles 27, Vikings 17.
CLEVELAND AT NEW ORLEANS:
The word is that the Browns' 30-29 win over Denver on Monday night might have saved Bud Carson's job for a few more weeks. Jim Mora's position in New Orleans isn't quite that tenuous yet. But if they fall to 1-4, there are going to be a lot of unhappy Saints fans calling for his head.
Prediction: Saints 20, Browns 17.
SAN FRANCISCO AT ATLANTA:
The 49ers are playing their second straight long-distance road game. They are banged up. They are without Roger Craig. Their defense, which has just eight sacks so far, is going up against a hot quarterback (Chris Miller) who is almost impossible to stop when he has time to throw. He will have time to throw.
Prediction: Falcons 38, 49ers 34.
PITTSBURGH AT DENVER:
The Broncos haven't lost home games in two successive weeks since 1983. Even if they have to play without Bobby Humphrey (sprained ankle), I don't see it happening now.
Prediction: Broncos 17, Steelers 13.
LA RAMS AT CHICAGO:
If Anthony Toney can rush for 100 yards against the Rams' defense, I shudder to think what Neal Anderson might do.
Prediction: Bears 21, Rams 17.
DALLAS AT PHOENIX:
Last year, everybody was laughing at Jimmy Johnson. But The Man With The Iron Hair might have the last laugh. The Cowboys' future is bright and the present is getting better every day.
Prediction: Cowboys 23, Cards 16.
DETROIT AT KANSAS CITY:
The Chiefs have Christian Okoye. The Lions have a defense that's 25th in the league against the rush. Nuff said.
Prediction: Chiefs 27, Lions 17.
SEATTLE AT LA RAIDERS:
The Seahawks' two-game winning streak was nice while it lasted.
Prediction: Raiders 21, Seahawks 10.
GREEN BAY AT TAMPA BAY:
Don Majkowksi's second year as a starter hasn't been as Majikal as his first.
Prediction: Bucs 27, Packers 21.
SAN DIEGO AT NY JETS:
The Jets had six guys go bowling together this week. The Chargers only had four.
Prediction: Jets 24, Chargers 21.