They don’t give out banners for finishing 8-8.  And they don’t even have last year’s “first place schedule” to hide behind…although the first ten games were a brutal gauntlet.  And the Redskins are going to finish out of contention for the fourteenth time in eighteen years this century.  But coach Jay Gruden’s team can salvage some dignity by finishing .500- it would give them a non-losing record for a third straight year (longest streak since…1999-2001).  And it would give the team a 25-22-1 mark over his last three seasons.  So even though Sunday’s 20-15 win over Arizona only affected the Cardinals’ playoff hopes, it was necessary for the Skins to end their slide and get in position to be in position to scrape their way back to .500.  With last-place Denver and last-place New York on the horizon, the avenue to 8-8 is there.

Captain Kirk- the Franchise Tagged One completed 18 of 26 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns while getting sacked just once.  A passer rating over 100 for the sixth time this year.  No fumbles were lost…but the offense only had two solid drives on the day.  Thank goodness the Cardinals were even more offensively challenged.  Episode Equivalent:  “Operation Annihilate!”- where flying amoebas attack the landing party and one attaches itself to Spock.

Running in Reverse- one of the reasons why this year pales compared to the last two for Cousins production-wise.  Thirty-one yards on 20 carries…with Samaje Perine (14 carries for 37 yards) being held to under 50 yards for the third straight week despite being the main ball-carrier.  Will this be addressed in the offseason with a band-aid or a big-time prospect?

Chilly Receptions- Jamison Crowder led the way with 5 catches for 55 yards and a touchdown, giving him 59 for 717 on the season.  Great for a #3 option.  Which sadly this year he is not.  The duo of Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson have combined for 640 yards on 49 catches–and even though Pryor has been on the shelf for a while this is still not good.

Third Downers- how about 1-for-9?  Cousins completed 3-of-6 passes for the lone conversion (to Crowder his top option with three targets and two catches), while getting sacked once and scrambling short of the marker once. Their lone run came on a 3rd & 8.  Yardage Breakdown:  1-for-5 on third and medium and 0-for-4 on third and long (7+ yards needed.  Meaning yes, they didn’t face a third and short.  One of the many reasons why this team is fighting for 8-8 and not a playoff berth.

Zach Rules- okay, so Zach Brown didn’t play.  But Zach Virgil did the Bayside faithful proud with 8 tackles which tied for the team lead.  More importantly, the defense kept the Cardinals out of the end zone and got off of the field on 15 of 19 third downs.  Preston Smith notched a fumble recovery which set up the Skins’ first TD and an interception in the red zone.  Easily the best Sunday for a Preston since I crushed 20 wings (13 drums and 7 flats) at the Rhino circa 2006.

Kicking Game and Screaming- tough to get past the missed kickoff in the second half.  Not acceptable.  Still Tress Way averaged over 53 yards per punt and Dustin Hopkins made both field goals (long of 32 yards).  So there’s that.

Flying Flags- seven penalties for 82 yards.  Three on offense (two false starts and a hold), three on defense (pair of PI’s and an unsportsmanlike conduct) and a special teams infraction (leveraging).  Holds and false starts (16) are now the most common offensive fouls, while pass interference (7) is the most common defensive whistle.  Most costly?  a while Josh Norman’s PI in the second quarter set up a Cardinals field goal, Kendall Fuller’s PI with under a minute left put the ball on the Washington 21…and gave Arizona another chance to steal a victory in Landover.

Dissecting the Division-  Philadelphia (12-2) has locked up a first round bye and needs just a Vikings loss to wrap up home field in the NFC.  Dallas (8-6) is assured of second place in the division thanks to their win over Oakland and is currently in ninth place of the conference–meaning they need to leapfrog three teams to make the playoffs.  Two wins plus 0-2 finishes from two of the three NFC South contenders (Atlanta-Carolina-New Orleans) plus Detroit and Seattle each losing once will do the trick.   The Redskins (6-8) are assured of third place, meaning that for the first time since 2001-03 they won’t finish in last for three straight seasons.  The New York Giants can still finish out of the NFC cellar by winning two straight and Chicago wrapping up their year with two more defeats.

Conference Call plus the Mouth of the South-  the NFC leads the AFC 36-22 with six games remaining–and it isn’t even that close.  The NFC South owns the best mark at 33-23 while the AFC North brings up the rear at 23-33 (Browns are responsible for 14 of those losses).  The NFC East is 28-28…tied for fifth with the NFC West.

Elimination Island- Green Bay was bounced from contention with their loss to Carolina plus Atlanta’s win on Monday night.  Other hopes terminated along with Arizona’s (thanks to their loss to the Redskins):  Green Bay and Cincinnati.  Tennessee’s loss to San Francisco keeps Miami and Oakland hanging by a thread.

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