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Redskins coach Mike Shanahan is in his first season in the NFC after 14 in the AFC as coach of the Broncos. But he's very familiar with today's opponent — the Chicago Bears — because he's very familiar with their quarterback, Jay Cutler.
Shanahan drafted Cutler in the first round in 2006 for the Broncos. Cutler became a Pro Bowl quarterback under Shanahan in his second season and a 4,500-yard passer in his third year in 2008.
But the Broncos fired Shanahan at the end of that season, then traded Cutler to the Bears. "We were second in (the NFL in) offense with a young football team in 2007," Shanahan said. "He did a lot of good things for Denver. I liked the way he handled himself. He's a fierce competitor, staying in the pocket, took some shots. Now he's getting used to a new system. It's going to take some time, but I like the guy and I think he's got a great future." If he survives. In his final season in Denver, Cutler threw 25 TD passes and was sacked just 11 times in 616 attempts. He's been sacked 15 times in his last two starts for the Bears and 23 times already on the season.
No one loses quite like the Detroit Lions.
Especially on the road.
The Lions lost last week to the Giants, dropping a 24th straight game on the road to match their own sorry NFL record set back in 2003.
"The reason you have long losing streaks is you're not good," said kicker Jason Hanson, who was a part of both skids because he's in his 19th season with the Lions. "End of story."
Not quite. The Lions were the first team to have an 0-16 season in 2008 and are now the first to pull off a pair of 24-game skids on the road.
They've been pretty bad everywhere since 2001 — when the Ford family handed the franchise's keys to Matt Millen — winning just 34 of 150 games. Detroit's 22.7 winning percentage is the second-worst over a 10-season span in NFL history, barely better than the Philadelphia Eagles' 21.9 winning percentage from 1933-42, according to STATS LLC.
The San Francisco 49ers visit an 0-5 Carolina Panthers team today, but don't look for the 49ers to take the Panthers lightly.
Not too long ago, the 49ers were a winless team themselves.
"We were 0-5, and we knew what kind of a team we were and where we stood," 49ers QB Alex Smith said. "You turn on the film of them, and it's very similar."
The Panthers hope to spark their offense today. Receiver Steve Smith is supposed to return, and Matt Moore is back in at quarterback.
Saints vs. AFC
New Orleans is having its problems in the NFC. The Saints are 4-2 — a far cry from that 13-0 start last season on the way to their first Super Bowl championship.
But things are looking up for the Saints; they finally play an AFC team today when the Browns visit. New Orleans has an eight-game winning streak against the AFC, including that 31-17 victory over Indianapolis in the Super Bowl.
The Saints also won their final three games against the AFC West in 2008 and all four games against the AFC East last season.