Cribbs and Washington - two of the best

Sunday's match-up at the Meadowlands will showcase two of the NFL's elite special teams players in the Cleveland's Joshua Cribbs, and the Jets' Leon Washington.

Washington is a Pro Bowl candidate. He has been electrifying all season as a kick returner. The second-year pro out of Florida State is averaging 30.6 yards per return, ranking him amongst the NFL's best. Cribbs' average is slightly better, and is a threat to take one the distance every time he touches the ball.

Although the play of these two will likely play a big role on Sunday, Washington maintains that he hasn't given it much thought.

"The only duel that we will have is for the Jets to win the game," Washington said from his locker Thursday afternoon. "That is the only thing that I'm focused on. I can't worry about any individual matchups or whatever people are trying to make it out to be. My goal is to go out and do what I need to do to help this team win."

Washington may not be concerned with the play of Cribbs, but Eric Mangini should be. At 7-5, the Browns are still very much in the hunt for a playoff berth and Cribbs has been an integral component to their success.

Cribbs' 1,560 return yards ranks him first in the league, and Mangini is well aware of what a weapon he is.

"You have to recognize when he is in the game because he is so explosive with the ball in his hands," Mangini said. "However they get it to him, whether they get it to him on some kind of quick screen and get blockers out on front; that's no different from a punt return or kickoff return. They could hand it to him on a reverse; again he's out in space with blockers. He's a dangerous, dangerous guy."

Of course, these same claims can be made for the play of Washington.

In a season where the Jets have lacked much, if any, explosiveness, Washington has emerged as a game-breaker. Last week in Miami he saw his function in the offense increase; 10 carries for 68 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Given his play of late, the Jets likely will try to get him even more involved in the offense this Sunday.

The AFC has two Pro Bowl slots for special teams players and it is very likely that both men will be voted to represent the conference in this regard. Given the key roles both men have played this season, it would be a shame if they weren't.

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