Every so often in Redskins Nation, there are defeats that signal the perhaps not the end of an era but certainly the beginning of the end.  One thinks of the 45-10 home loss to Kansas City in 2013 that set the wheels in motion for Mike Shanahan’s departure or the infamous “swinging gate” game for Jim Zorn against the New York Giants in 2009. Or Steve Spurrier’s team getting shut out by Dallas on a day where Tim Hasselbeck went 6-26 with 4 INT’s.  One even glances at Joe Gibbs calling consecutive timeouts against Buffalo in 2007.  Sunday certainly felt like one of those games.  The 40-16 dismembering by the Giants dropped the Skins to 6-7 and turned what was their best start in ten years into another likely non-playoff campaign (that would be nine in the last eleven years if things hold).

Quarterback Carousel- Mark Sanchez did not have a good day.  His pick-six put the Skins in a hole while his second INT led to another Giants score.  Thank goodness for Josh Johnson, a journeyman who has been with 11 teams previously.  The 32-year old threw for one touchdown while running for another…and will start against Jacksonville.  This is the first time the Skins will have started four different quarterbacks in a season.  Not under Zorn or Spurrier.  Not even in the post-Sammy Baugh/pre-Sonny Jurgensen days.

Running Aground- Adrian Peterson finished with 16 yards on 10 carries, the fourth time he’s been held under two yards per carry.  Tough to find running room when your offensive line is changing by the week.  Tough to get carries when you’re trailing by 34 points at the half. He’s still within shouting distance of 1000 yards.

Catching Cold- it’s also a challenge when a team’s top target is on the shelf.  Jordan Reed’s injured toe could keep the tight end on the shelf for the rest of the season.  Josh Docston enters the concussion protocol.  Jamison Crowder has been limited to six games due to injury.  It’s amazing how this team once had a tandem of weapons in Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson stretching secondaries.

Third and Nightmarish- the Skins moved the chains just twice on 11 attempts, both with Josh Johnson at the controls after the game was no longer in doubt.  Mark Sanchez went 1-4 with two sacks and no conversions.  Jamison Crowder was his top target–but all three passes to Crowder fell incomplete.  Both of Johnson’s first downs came off of scrambles.  Yardage Breakdown:  1-3 on short-yardage, 1-1 on medium (4-6 yards needed) and 0-7 on third and long.  So…64% of the time you’re facing third and long with a third or fourth string quarterback, both of whom have been with the team less than three weeks.

D earns an F- remember when the defense was a strength?  For the fifth time in six weeks the Skins coughed up 400+ yards.  Big gains by Saquon Barkley (52 & 78 yards) turned the tide as all eyes are on 2019 and who potentially stays.

Special Situations- thank goodness for Tress Way who averaged 51 yards per punt.  Greg Stroman did not have a standout day returning kicks.

Flying Flags- are you ready?  Fifteen penalties for 135 yards.  Ten on offense, two on defense and three on special teams.  Two false starts on Morgan Moses give the tackle the team lead with 12 penalties on the year.  Most costly penalty?  A hold on tackle Austin Howard-turning a 3rd and 4 into a 2nd and 12. A Mark Sanchez interception would follow shortly.

Dissecting the Division- Dallas’ overtime win over Philadelphia gives the Cowboys a two-game lead in the NFC East and the tiebreaker over the Eagles.  Dallas owns the #4 seed in the conference while Philly is #8 and the Skins are 9th (head to head tiebreaker).  The Giants are in last (and at 5-8 they’re in 12th place of the division) but with four wins in five games are a serious threat to shove the Redskins back down the basement steps.

Playoff Picture- with three weeks to play, your wildcard matchups have Dallas hosting Seattle while Chicago entertains Minnesota.  New Orleans plays the Cowboys/Seahawks/Vikings while the Los Angeles Rams face the Bears/Dallas/Seahawks.  The AFC has a wildcard weekend of Baltimore at Houston and the Los Angeles Chargers at Pittsburgh.  Kansas City faces the Steelers/Chargers/Ravens while New England gets the Texans/Steelers/Chargers.

Comparing Quartets- the AFC West are a league-best 30-22.  The AFC East brings up the rear at 24-28.  The NFC East?  A subpar but not awful 25-27.  The Interconference contest has the AFC leading 28-24 with eight games remaining.

It’s Not Over Yet- losses by Minnesota, Philadelphia and Carolina keep the Skins on the precipice of contention.  There are scenarios for the Redskins making the playoffs if they take two of their last three–there’s even a chance if they go 1-1-1. And you thought I was foolish for picking a 6-7-3 finish.  Heading into the game with Jacksonville, the Skins need a victory plus losses by the Vikings, Eagles, Panthers and Packers to improve their limited chances.

Elimination Island- four teams join San Francisco and Oakland in looking ahead to 2019.  Jacksonville, Buffalo and Arizona are on the outside thanks to week 14 defeats while the New York Jets even with their win over the Bills are officially out of contention.  That means 26 teams have hope entering the third to last week of the season. Pete Rozelle would be smiling.

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