After nine games, there are minimal surprises with one’s NFL team.  What you see is what you get…barring difference-making players coming back from or going out thanks to injury.  Have trouble stopping the pass?  That might be a season-long symptom.  Red Zone Offense issues?  That might continue.  The Redskins are a weekly rollercoaster…good at times, great at others and ridiculously frustrating at other moments.  Coughing up 200 yards in one quarter before allowing just 94 net yards in the entire second half.  Thank goodness yesterday’s pendulum was on an upswing when time expired and the Skins had a 26-20 lead.  Breathe easy for a minute or two, because a desperate Green Bay team comes to Fed Ex Field Sunday.

Captain Kirk- the face of the franchise threw for 262 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.  Another solid outing in a winning effort-and this time he didn’t tally a turnover.  After nine games, #8 is averaging over 300 yards passing per game-that bears mentioning.  Star Trek Episode Equivalent:  “Court Martial”, when Kirk is accused of negligence that killed a crewman and has to prove the computer is wrong.  Not to be confused with the utterly fantastic “Menagerie: Parts 1 and 2”, but equally as thrilling.

Kelley in Command- Rob Kelley gained 97 yards on 22 carries…further cementing his status as the first-string back.  The rookie’s running style is one the coaching staff prefers…and he’s their guy for the moment.

Third and Fading- the team converted 6 of 12 third downs…while starting strong (3-3 and 4-6) before missing the mark on their final three attempts of the day.  Cousins completed 5 of 10 passes for 5 conversions while getting sacked once…and Robert Kelley converted with a 4-yard run on 3rd and 1.  Pierre Garcon was targeted a team-high 3 times…but did not register a catch.  Jermaine Crowder and  Maurice Harris each turned both of their targets into conversions.  Yardage breakdown:  2 for 3 on third and short (under 4 yards needed), 3 for 5 on third and medium (4-6 yards needed) and 1 for 4 on third and long (7+ yards needed).

Defensive ImPreston- linebacker Preston Smith tallied just 2 tackles and 2 assists, but led the team with two sacks and had a fourth quarter interception that led to the Skins’ final points of the afternoon.  Mason Foster (6 tackles and 3 assists) and Will Compton (9 total stops) also helped keep the Vikings from getting to the secondary on a regular basis.

Flying Flags- just four penalties for 35 yards.  A false start (17th of the year, second most in the NFL) and a hold (11th of the year-21st most in the league) were the offensive infractions while illegal contact and roughing the passer were the defensive crimes.  Only one flag made a major difference:  Morgan Moses’ hold in the second quarter that turned what would have been a 3rd and 6 in to a 2nd and 16…as the Skins would punt two plays later.

Dissecting the Division- Dallas remains atop the NFC East at 8-1 after their thrilling back and forth victory over Pittsburgh…and the Cowboys also currently own the #1 seed in the conference.  The New York Giants remain in second place at 6-3…and have the 1st Wildcard berth in their possession.  The 5-3-1 Redskins own the other wildcard spot…and are in third place just a half game ahead of 5-4 Philadelphia.  The Eagles are the first team out of the playoff picture…and own an 0-3 division mark so even if they do make a run have a lot of ground to make up.

Special K- Dustin Hopkins drills four field goals in the second half…including a 50-yarder in the fourth quarter that gave the team the lead for good.  He’s 22 for 26 this fall and if it weren’t for Tress Way (averaging 44.4 yards per kick) he’d easily be the special teams standout.

Beast Bests the West- The NY Giants’ Monday night win over Cincinnati gives the NFC East a 24-11-1 composite mark, slightly better than the AFC West’s 25-13.  The AFC East is the only other division with a winning record (19-18)…and the AFC North thanks to meandering Pittsburgh, misfiring Cincinnati and miserable Cleveland is a league-worst 12-24-1.

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