Archives for posts with tag: Dallas Cowboys

So…the Redskins after having a week off almost lost to an 0-5 team.  Despite taking a 17-point first half lead.  And they almost lost the lead in the end after missing an extra point as a rookie quarterback got his team to midfield before short-circuiting. But in a world where just about everybody is 3-2, 3-3 or 2.3 the Redskins are living in the upper crust of the NFL’s middle class thanks to their 26-24 win over San Francisco.  A 3-2 start can just as easily turn into an 11-5 as it can become a 5-11.  But at least they’re not 0-6.

 

Captain Kirk- the Franchise Tagged One posted another remarkable episode, throwing for 330 yards and two touchdowns while running for the team’s other score.  His interception keeps this week from being a top-tier show, but at least he didn’t lead the team in rushing again (bad things happen when Kirk ison the ground).  Episode Equivalent:  “I, Mudd”- where Kirk has to deal with familiar face (Kyle Shanahan substituting for Roger Carmel’s Harry Mudd) and chaos ensues, but the crew comes out on top again.

Thompson Twins- Hey, lets give a round of applause for the team’s leading rusher (remember they’re 0-2 when the Captain leads them in rushing)– Chris Thompson.  Let’s also give a round of applause for the team’s leading receiver– Chris Thompson.  The diminutive scatback played big, amassing 138 total yards of offense.  On a team where there is no true #1 ball-carrier and the receiving corps has yet to find itself, Thompson is just what this team needs now.  But how long can he sustain this kind of production and take the pounding?

Third and Subjective- the Skins converted 7 of 14 tries…with 11 pass plays to 3 runs.  Cousins completed 7 of 11 attempts for 6 conversions…with Ryan Grant emerging as the top target (2 catches and conversions in 3 passes).  Yardage breakdown:  3 for 5 on third and short (including 1-2 on the ground), 1 for 4 on third and manageable (0-1 on the ground) and 3 for 5 on third and long.

Zac Brown Band’s new LP “Getting off the Field”– the linebacker led the defense with 8 tackles…and the D held San Francisco short on 11 of 17 third down attempts.  The key was containing on 1st and 2nd down…as the Niners faced 11 third and longs (7+ yards needed).  The Skins did give up a pair of third and short runs…but were able to dial up a last-minute interception by Kendall Fuller.

Special Situations- Dustin Hopkins made both of his field goal attempts (including a 48-yarder) but missed an extra point.  He then went on short term Injured Reserve with what ESPN.COM is reporting as a “right hip rotator muscle strain”.  They’re signing former Texas kicker Nick Rose to fill the void.  Tress Way averaged 45 yards per punt–again.  The return game yielded just one runback for the Skins–a 6-yarder by Jamison Crowder while the punt coverage team allowed a 39-yard return that set up a missed Niners field goal.

Flying Flags- five infractions for 43 yards.  Three were on the offense (false start, unnecessary roughness and delay of game) while two were on the defense (unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct).  Bashaud Breeland’s defensive hold was declined…so although the cornerback still leads the team with 4 penalties on the season he doesn’t add to his total.  Two still sting:  the first one is a false start on Morgan Moses…that turned a 2nd & 7 into a 2nd  & 12.  Kirk Cousins’ interception came two plays later on 3rd & 12.  DJ Swearinger’s unsportsmanlike conduct turned a 4th & 2 from the 5 into a 1st & goal for the Niners…and would lead to their final TD of the day.  But guess what?  Five games into the season the Skins are the second least penalized team in the NFL.  

Dissecting the Division-  Philadelphia’s Thursday night win keeps the Eagles flying atop the NFC East and after six weeks the #1 seed in the NFC (YES, it’s early–but six weeks should be enough of a sample size to sort things out).  The Redskins are in second place and are one of four teams tied for the #6 seed;  the strength of victory tiebreaker eliminates the Burgundy & Gold.  Dallas is in third place and 12th overall in the conference (thanks to the strength of victory tiebreaker over Tampa Bay), but has to wonder if their defense will continue allow 35 points at home.  In last–for the moment–are those plucky New York Giants who are no longer winless after going into Denver and beating the Broncos.  Welcome to the NFL.

Conference Calls- the NFC owns a 13-11 lead after six weeks…with the AFC East (13-9) sporting the best combined record.  The AFC North is 9-14 thanks to the sinking stone that is the Cleveland Browns.  The NFC East?  A middling 11-11.  We’ve only just begun…

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I don’t gamble.  Yes, I circle my picks every Sunday morning (this week I went 8-8 against the spread, reason #246 why I don’t gamble) but I rarely put cash down on an NFL game (plus, it’s illegal in these parts).  Monday night was reason #247 why I don’t put dollars on a sporting event:  with under a minute to play the Redskins were down 20-17 and if you had the Burgundy & Gold +7 or the under of 48.5 you were in great shape.  Even with a Skins field goal at :47 life was okay.  Even with a Chiefs FG at :04 it wasn’t the end of the world.  The world did end when the Redskins ran an offensive play drawn up in my backyard…and instead of being able to run around an oak tree they lost the ball and the Chiefs returned it for a score that covered the spread and scored the over.  As time expired.  THAT IS WHY WE DON’T GAMBLE.  

The 29-20 loss drops the Skins to 2-2 on the season and if they had RPI in the NFL they’d be in great shape:  the combined record of their four foes is 12-4.  Plenty of good and bad to chew on during the bye week.

Captain Kirk- the Franchise Tagged One completed 14-of-24 passes for 220 yards and 2 touchdowns with no interceptions or sacks.  Many will point to his third down pass that Josh Doctson couldn’t quite hang on to…but I will focus on Kirk making things happen with his feet on multiple occasions.  Much like when Captain Kirk thought he was the chief “KIROK” on the episode “The Paradise Syndrome”, Cousins did his darnedest to save the Burgundy and Gold planet from destruction.

Running in Circles- Cousins was the team’s leading rusher for the second time in four games…and through some sort of coincidence the Skins are 0-2 in those games.  The tailback trio of Samaje Perine, Chris Thompson and Rob Kelley combined for 73 yards on 3.8 per carry.  Not awful like against the Eagles, but definitely not awesome like the last two weeks.

Receiving Review- Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson combined to catch 5 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown, but those watching will remind everyone about the passes they didn’t catch:  Doctson’s grab would’ve resulted in a go-ahead TD and Pryor has developed a rep for not making catches between the numbers.  Jordan Reed returned to the lineup and made 3 receptions for 21 yards:  while his 14 catches on the season are tied for the team lead the TE is averaging 7.5 yards per catch.  On the other end of the spectrum from the young injured player is the healthy veteran-and Vernon Davis made 2 grabs for 89 yards while helping set up the Skins’ lone second half touchdown.

Third and Lost- after converting three of their first four money downs, the Skins failed to move the chains on six of their final seven attempts.  Kirk Cousins completed 3-of-8 passes for two conversions while scrambling for another first down…and his top target was Jordan Reed (completing 1-for-3 passes with one conversion).  Rob Kelley moved the sticks on his lone third down carry of the night.  Yardage Breakdown:  1-for-6 on 3rd & short, 0-for-1 on 3rd & mid-range (4 to 6 yards needed) and 3-for-4 on 3rd & long.

Defensive Dynamics- if it seemed as though the secondary was falling apart, it kind of was.  Josh Norman was just one player to depart due to injury (ribs)…and for a while I was confusing Stefan McClure with Troy McClure (“you might remember me from such situations as “The Shattered Secondary” and “Here Comes the Kickoff Team!”).  Zach Brown led the team with nine tackles while Martell Spaight added eight stops.

Third Down Blues in the Land of Red- the Chiefs converted 8-of-13 money downs…including 4-for-4 on the ground and short-yardage.  The bright spot?  Six of the 13 attempts came from 7+ yards…so at least the D was doing its job on 1st and 2nd down.

Special Situations- Dustin Hopkins converted both field goal attempts (with a long of 40) while Tress Way averaged 42.3 yards per punt (landing two inside the 20 as opposed to one touchback).  No punt or kickoff returns made for a quiet evening.

Flying Flags- the Skins were whistled for 44 yards on seven penalties.  All on the defense.  Five resulted in first downs for the Chiefs and three came on a last-minute drive that ended in a missed KC field goal.  Most costly?  Second quarter…a Neutral Zone Infraction by Preston Smith (he had two other flags declined Monday night) turned a 3rd & 8 into a 3rd & 3 at midfield the Chiefs would convert.  They’d go on to score their first TD of the game on that drive…and crawl back into the game.

Dissecting the Division- Philadelphia’s win at San Diego keeps the Eagles in first place while Dallas takes second thanks to the NFC East tiebreaker (1-0 to 0-1) with Washington.  The Redskins are one of six 2-2 teams in the conference…and currently rank 12th.  The New York Giants continue to find ways to lose…and at 0-4 are 15th due to a better strength of schedule than 0-4 San Francisco.

Conference Call- the NFC owns a 10-7 lead in the early interconference contest.  The NFC South is the early division to beat at 10-5 while the AFC North is a depressing 6-10.  The NFC East?  A 7-9 made possible by the Giants’ rough start.

So much for the descent into disaster.  The Redskins never trailed in their 27-20 win at the Los Angeles Rams…and for a while it was cool to see the George Allen-era Skins uniforms go against the George Allen-era Rams uniforms.  Now we have to wonder if week one was the aberration or week two was the mirage.

Captain Kirk- the Franchise Tagged One completed 18 of 27 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown…the game-winner to Ryan Grant.  While less than ten yards per completion is less than ideal, Cousins was turnover free this time out and was much better on third down.  Star Trek Episode Equivalent: “The Tholian Web”, where Kirk is trapped aboard the USS Defiant as it phases into another dimension.  Perhaps the Skins’ offense is phasing into a different dimension of its own.

Running Wild- I couldn’t see too well without my glasses…was that USC’s old “Student Body Right” on display at the Coliseum?  The Skins ran for 229 yards…their highest total since last October’s win over Philadelphia (ironically also a 27-20 score).  Robert Kelley provided the thunder (until he hurt his ribs) while Chris Thompson added the lightning (106 total yards on six touches) and rookie Samaje Perine provided the rain (67 yards on a team-high 21 carries).  Nobody expects “Hogs 2.0” to sustain a ground attack that regularly surpasses 200 yards, but consistently reaching 100 would help Cousins and the air game hit their stride.

Better to Receive- at least this time Terrelle Pryor didn’t have eleven targets.  Jordan Reed led the way with six catches for 48 yards while Ryan Grant acted like it was August all over again with his 11-yard TD grab.  Jamison Crowder notched three of his four catches on third down.

Third and Something- the Skins converted 5 of 13 attempts, with Kirk Cousins completing 7 of 12 passes (5 conversions) and Perine getting stopped for no gain on their lone run.  His top target?  Chris Thompson (4 targets, 1 catch and conversion) followed by Crowder (3, 3 and 2).  Eight of the 13 passes were thrown to the short right…while three more tossed to the short middle and the touchdown came on a pass to the short left.  Distance breakdown:  2 for 2 on short-yardage, 2 for 7 on medium range (4 to 6 yards needed) and 1 for 4 in long-yardage situations.  Nine of 13 third downs are medium range or better?  I’ll take that.

Case for the Defense- I’m this close to going back to “Saved by the Bell” references as Zach Brown is producing like a powerhouse preppie.  With 10 tackles, the free agent pickup leads the team in stops for the second straight week.  Linebacker Preston Smith added a sack and two quarterback hits.  Cornerback Josh Norman forced another fumble with his well-placed punch.  Two more takeaways by the team give the Skins four on the season…tying the D for third in the NFL.

Third Down and Lockdown- even though the Rams moved the chains on 5 of 12 attempts, at least the defense didn’t get embarrassed on third and long–holding Jared Goff and LA to 0 for 7 on third and 7+ yards needed.  Bending but not breaking:  Goff completed 6 of 8 attempts but only three of those resulted in a first down (they also sacked him once).  While the Skins allowed both Todd Gurley short yardage runs to keep possessions alive, this was much better than the Philadelphia game.

Flying Flags- four penalties for 25 yards?  Who are these people!?  I’m used to Septembers where this team is committing multiple infractions on the same drive and often on the same play.   Instead– the team’s six penalties accepted over two weeks is the lowest in the league.  Two holds, a defensive hold and a neutral zone infraction were accepted Sunday (a facemask was offsetting and an ineligible downfield receiver was declined).  Jordan Reed is the early leader on the season with two flags (holding and pass interference).

Special Situations- Tress Way averaged 51 yards per punt–placing both inside the 20-yard line.  Dustin Hopkins makes two of three field goal attempts, connecting from 22 and 41 yards while missing a 51-yarder.  It would be nice to have more production from the return game, but there were no major embarrassments and the coverage crew didn’t give up the big play.

Dissecting the Division- Philadelphia leads the NFC East via tiebreaker:  the Eagles and Dallas own 1-0 division marks to the Redskins 0-1 while Philly has the better point-differential.  The Skins are in third while the 0-2 Giants are in last…but take heart as Howie from Hoboken remembers that the 2007 team started 0-2 and won a Super Bowl.

Conference Competition- the AFC holds an early 4-3 edge in the race to 33 wins and interconference supremacy.  The AFC West (6-2) is marginally better than the NFC South (5-2) while each division has at least one 0-2 team.  A different race for #1 is underway…who’s feeling the draft?

The Redskins learned their upcoming regular season schedule last Thursday night…three months after learning all of their opponents for 2017 (beware that third place schedule).  Which brings in my two best Burgundy & Gold Buddies, Positive and Pessimist.  Both have plenty of thoughts about how the upcoming slate will progress.  Their projections average out to a final record of 6-7-3.

September 10- Philadelphia, 1 pm.  The Eagles enter year two of coach Doug Pederson’s regime…with Carson Wentz that much more polished than the guy who got swept by the Skins last year.  Can’t wait to see Kirk Cousins now that he finally has great new shiny toy in Terrelle Pryor plus a healthy Josh Doctson!  Don’t the Redskins always sleepwalk in September after going easy during the preseason?  Not feeling good at all here.

September 17- at Los Angeles Rams, 4:25 pm.  First game back in the Coliseum since…when did they visit the LA Raiders?  Former Offensive Coordinator Sean McVay has a major rebuilding project on his hands.  Easy pickings- the Skins D will know McVay’s offense inside and out.  Chalk up another W!  Wouldn’t McVay know the ins and outs of the sad-sack Skins D?  But it’s impossible not to think of a successful sunny afternoon against these Rams-at least this year.

September 24- Oakland, 8:30 pm.  The first of five prime-time games for a team coming off an 8-7-1 record.  Hey, the NFL has to put somebody on.  Do we have to refer to them as “Oakland”?  I’m feeling there may be some tension between the city and team that will have them less than focused.  Whatever city they’re calling home, the Raiders boast Derek Carr at quarterback.  The first legit QB to face the Skins D will enjoy some easy pickings.

October 2- at Kansas City, Monday at 8:30 pm.  Consecutive prime-time games this early means the NFL is hedging their Burgundy & Gold bets…because a 1-2 Redskin team is so much better than a 2-7 squad.  Can you say 4-0 entering the bye?  I’m thinking Andy Reid finds a way to bungle this one.  Didn’t Reid own the Skins when he coached the Eagles?  And isn’t this game on Monday night?  Just what we need–two weeks of desperation.

October 15- San Francisco, 1 pm.  The coordinator reunion tour continues with a visit from Kyle Shanahan.  They needed two weeks to prepare for the 2-14 Forty-niners?  I’m never a fan of a west coast team playing at 1 ET…except when it helps the Skins.  W.  There’s no way they can lose this game, right????

October 22- at Philadelphia, Monday at 8:30 pm.  Another prime-time game?  Guys in the beltway area will be dragged to apple picking, brunches and antiquing early and often Sunday afternoons this fall.  Seriously, Carson Wentz got locked in a gas station bathroom last offseason!  Didn’t the Skins escape both games last year?  Philly will be better, and Wentz will be wiser (at least, he’ll take his cel in the bathroom with him).

October 29- Dallas, 4:25 pm. Six of the Skins’ first eight games will be on national TV.  They return a bottom-10 defense and are going through trust/confidence issues with a quarterback who loses both of his wideout weapons?  Hmm.  Next to fans fighting in the stands, nothing is more certain about a Redskins-Cowboys game than it will go down to the wire.  I feel good.  Dallas will be that much better with Dak Prescott…at least during the regular season.  I have a feeling we’ll see Colt McCoy that day.

November 5- at Seattle, 4:05 pm. Technically a part of FOX’s regional package…back in the day when there were blackouts this always used to be referred to as the “Curt Menefee-Brian Baldinger” slot.  Tough to keep the glass half-full out west…where this team never plays well.  Doubling down on that–it gets loud out there and it could get ugly.  The late-afternoon start means more apple-picking.  Great.

November 12- Minnesota, 1 pm.  Two teams trying to get back into the playoffs after each barely missed the postseason in 2016…and both should be in the mix again this fall.  Will Teddy Bridgewater be healthy?  If not, I’m looking forward to facing Ryan Reynolds-lookalike Sam Bradford.  A win? Definitely Maybe.  The Vikes should have won here last year…and they’ll likely have a better QB.  Deadpool rocked!

November 19- at New Orleans,  1 pm.  The pre-Thanksgiving Sunday game gets them home by 8 Sunday night…unlike last year when they were supremely hosed by the league.  The Superome features no D whatsoever by the home team…and Drew Brees is a year older.  I’ll take it.  Brees can still pick apart most defenses…and the Skins aren’t like most defenses.  They’re likely going to be worse.

November 23- NY Giants, Thursday at 8:30 pm.  Who gets this call- Al Michaels or Mike Tirico?  Either way, NBC has an NFC East showdown supreme.  How did we lose to this team in week 17 last year?  Eli’s good for at least two ill-placed interceptions.  Break out the pumpkin pie!  Thanksgiving Night?  Great–after dealing with relatives I don’t want to see I have to head over to Fed Ex Field for a late-night travesty.  Thanks for nothing…

November 30- at Dallas, Thursday at 8:30 pm.  Finally a Thursday night game where both teams aren’t working on short rest.  Why doesn’t the league have its TNF foes be the ones coming off byes?  They’d be better rested and prepared.  This should be for first place in the NFC East…I can already see Pryor turning the Cowboy secondary inside-out.  The Cowboys get consecutive Thursday night games?  Further proof the NFL is out to get this team.

December 10- at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 pm.  They’re playing this game not at the Coliseum but in a soccer stadium.  Anything to get that second team in LA.  Rested and refreshed, the perfect way to begin the stretch run.  Philip Rivers can still play, and after back to back prime time games against division foes this is prime time for a major letdown. Don’t let the palm trees hit you on the way out…

December 17- Arizona, 1 pm.  Another morning body-clock game for a team out west!  Although doesn’t Arizona become Mountain Time in the in the winter?  I forget.  Daylight Saving is such a scam.  Skins take advantage of a sleepwalking Cardinals team that’s probably out of contention.  Did you see what they did after a slow start last year?  If Carson Palmer is healthy…watch out.

December 24- Denver, 1 pm.  Odd to see an interconference game this late in the schedule.  Sucks for the Broncos to have to fly across the country on Christmas Eve.  Another early game against a team from the west?  Is this a makeup for last year’s BS?  We’ll take it on the way to the playoffs.  These are precisely the games the Skins lose late in the year against non-division foes that might be out of the hunt.

December 31- at NY Giants, 1pm/4:25pm/8:30pm.  Face it, this game will probably be flexed in some way.  Unless it’s like 2013 when probably the worst game ever played ended the Mike Shanahan era.  Ringing in the new year with another Division Title banner.  Nothing like having a New Year’s hangover on New Year’s Day.

 

 

Did you expect the Redskins season to wrap up any other way?  The Burgundy and Gold are in prime playoff position after their 41-21 win at Chicago…within striking distance of making consecutive playoff appearances for the first time since 1990-92.  As in the end of Gibbs I.  As in eight coaching regimes ago.  Special thanks to Tampa Bay and Detroit for losing two straight games as the Skins were able to capitalize this time.

Playoff Picture- Redskins are in with a win plus the Green Bay-Detroit game not ending in a tie.  If that is the case then the Packers win the NFC North and the Lions take the wildcard.  A Skins loss ends the season.  A tie (heaven forbid) means the Burgundy and Gold need a Green Bay loss plus a Tampa Bay loss or tie to play the following weekend.  Take heart…the Buccaneers and Packers if tied for a playoff berth the “strength of victory” tiebreaker would be used to parse two 9-7 teams.

Captain Kirk- the face of the franchise threw for 270 yards and a touchdown while running for two more scores (shades of RG3! not really).  There’s quite a bit of debate surrounding whether or not to pay #8 what he’ll demand…but Cousins has given the franchise stability at a position that has had eight primary QB’s this century. Star Trek Episode Equivalent- “Journey to Babel”.  Spock’s parents show up and there’s a murder mystery aboard the Enterprise…with Kirk making just the right moves while not upstaging anybody else.

Tragedy of Robert III- the former face of the franchise continues to thrive in exile, throwing for 164 yards while running for 42 more in directing Cleveland to their first win of the season.  Sadly he suffered a concussion in the Browns’ victory, and remains a question mark for the season finale against Pittsburgh.  Heavy is the head that wears the crown…or at least the helmet.

Resurrecting the Run-  from 29 yards on the ground against Carolina to 208 against the Bears!  Sadly, these aren’t the Singletary Bears of the 80’s…or even the Butkus Bears of the 60’s.  Still, Robert Kelley pounded out 76 yards on 19 carries while Mack Brown delivered a 61-yard knockout punch in the fourth quarter.

DeSean & Garcon- the duo delivered again, notching nine catches for 208 yards.  On a week where the Skins were without tight end Jordan Reed, those two secondary-smashers were even more important.  This is going to be one tough offseason…

Third and Solid- after going 2-for-12 on the money down against Carolina, the Skins moved the chains on 8 of 13 attempts against Chicago.  That’s not including two penalties against the Bears that moved the marker on third down after the Redskins were stymied.  Kirk Cousins went 6-for-9 with 4 conversions while scrambling for another first down.  They ran three times…moving the chains all three times.  DeSean Jackson was the top target, catching both passes intended for him and moving the marker once.  Cousins’ safe spot?  Short and to the right (3-4 with one conversion).  Yardage breakdown:  3-for-4 on short yardage (including 2-2 on the ground), 3-for-6 on third and medium (4 to 6 yards needed), and 2-for-3 on third and long.  Stat you don’t see:  10 of the 13 attempts needed six yards or less, meaning the gameplan got things done on 1st and 2nd down.

Defense?  I’m all for it- the Skins rank 15th in the NFC in total defense and Saturday saw a season’s worth of highs and lows.  They tallied five interceptions but still coughed up 458 total yards to a bad offense directed by a quarterback who may be taking his next snaps in Canada.  The Bears converted 7-of-10 third downs and averaged 5.4 yards per carry.  One will take the win…but now one wonders what happens when they face a real offense again.

Flying Flags- seven penalties for 73 yards this time (Skins commit the 11th most infractions in the league).  Two were on offense (illegal substitution plus a hold on Brandon Scherff), three were on defense (Bashaud Breeland’s pass interference,  Duke Ihenacho’s horse-collar tackle and Mason Foster’s illegal use of the hands) and two more were on special teams (illegal block by Terrence Garvin and Ty Nsekhe’s “leverage” penalty on an extra point).  Most costly penalty?  Foster’s illegal hands turned a 2nd & 9 at the Bears’ 28 into a 1st & 10 at the 42…jumpstarting a touchdown drive for Chicago.

Dissecting the Division- Dallas takes their 19th NFC East title at 13-2…but they had already wrapped up the division plus home field advantage when the NY Giants lost to Philadelphia.  The Giants are already assured of the #5 seed in the conference, while Philadelphia had locked up last place the previous week.  So for the first time since the 2007 season the Skins don’t finish first or last.  Ricky Bobby has to be smiling somewhere…

East is the Beast- the NFC East takes top division honors with one week remaining…posting a composite mark of 37-22-1.  The AFC West (36-24) takes second while some last-month maneuvering by the AFC North (24-35-1 but 9-6 in December) puts the NFC West (21-37-2 and 5-11 over the last month) in the lowlight spotlight of the league’s most depressing division.

 

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM in September-little did we know at the time that Dak Prescott would be awesome and the Giants would go 8-2 in one-possession games.

How did the world get flipped in such a manner over the last 12 months?  It’s amazing how one year ago the Redskins were viewed as the hot mess of the NFC East compared to the “stable situations” in Dallas, Philadelphia and the New York Giants.  Instead of being picked for another last place finish (there were eight over an eleven year stretch from 2004-14), the 2016 Redskins are a consensus selection not only to win the division but also (heaven forbid) win a playoff game.  Baltic Avenue has suddenly become Park Place.  How on earth did we get here?

For years the rest of the division laughed at the slippery sand the Skins built successive foundations on.  Norv Turner’s demise one year after a playoff berth?  The Schottenheimer experiment?  Spurrier and the signing of every available Florida Gator free agent?  Gibbs 2.0 calling 2 timeouts in a loss to Buffalo?  Zorn’s “Maroon and Black” outfit?  The hits (actually misses) kept on coming before the failed Shanahan & Son regime that featured a brittle quarterback the franchise gave away the house to acquire.  In the meantime, the Giants were winning Super Bowls, the Eagles were at least disappointing their fans on the NFC Championship/Super Bowl stage, and the Cowboys were racking up double-digit victory seasons with which to tease their faithful.  The team that called Fed Ex Field its home delivered nothing but misery for its burgundy and gold jersey wearing crew.

A franchise is nothing if it doesn’t have a strong chain of command.  Whatever you think of the owner, his hire of Bruce Allen at least rid the team of Redskin Rasputin Vinny Cerrato (seriously, I’m still wondering how he was gainfully employed by this franchise for most of the last decade).  And whatever your impression is of what exactly it is Allen does, he provides a buffer between the throne room and coaching office.  Jay Gruden may be the younger brother of a larger-than-life ESPN personality, but despite the fact that he consistently drops his “G’s” in press conferences the hire paid off with an NFC East title last fall.  Scott McCloughan came to Ashburn with a little baggage but a lot of potential as a franchise-builder…and while the roster is still in the process of being reshaped, at least he pronounces his draftees’ names correctly (I still can’t forgive Cerrato for Brian “Orapko”).  That brings us to having a solid quarterbacking situation.

Kirk Cousins enters his second season as the starter…and the Skins boast the only coach-QB combination in the division that returns from 2014.  This all of a sudden is the most stable signal-caller situation in Ashburn since…Mark Rypien in the early 90’s?  Please go ahead and tell me that Brad Johnson was on stable footing with Jeff George brought in as a free agent in 2000…

Normally one wouldn’t be so confident about a 9-7 squad that didn’t beat a playoff team en route to the postseason…but have you seen the rest of the neighborhood?  I mean have you seen it???

Dallas?  Jason Garrett has all of the legitimacy of an Iron Curtain regime…and the quarterback situation there is less than ideal.  For the third time since 2010, injuries have derailed Tony Romo’s season and now we get…rookie Dak Prescott?  Fear not, the same Mark Sanchez that couldn’t beat Trevor Sieman for the starting spot with Denver is waiting in the wings.  QB issues aside, there’s always an arrest around the corner with the Cowboys as well.  Dumpster fire…

New York Giants?  Yes, Eli Manning is back…and the 35 year old actually has played better lately (30 and 35 touchdown seasons after tossing a league-high 27 interceptions in 2013).  And he has his offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo running the whole show now.  Before you start saying Ray Handley, the issues of this team will be on the defensive side of the ball–the Giants allowed the most yards and third most points in the league last fall. Grease fire…

Philadelphia?  Somehow the team that posted back to back 10-6 seasons completely imploded last fall.  After handing all of the personnel power to Chip Kelly only to see the coach dismantle what was a playoff team, the Eagles fired the coach and brought aboard former assistant Doug Pederson to rebuild this wreck.  They’ll start their fifth primary quarterback in five years…with rookie Carson Wentz getting the nod Sunday after playing one quarter in the preseason.  Eagles fans hope the first-round pick will be “locked in”.  Figuratively of course…not like when Wentz found himself trapped in a New Jersey gas station bathroom in the offseason and they needed garden shears to rescue him. Tire fire…

It was going to happen eventually.  We heard echoes of an attempt after the win over Minnesota…and I’m sure the heirs of Frankie Ford would have had issue with Kirk Cousins’ “ooheee!” and its similarity to “Sea Cruise”.  Look it up on Youtube, kids. Instead Cousins throws for 375 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-24 win over Green bay…and goes all Toby Keith on GM Scott McCloughan.  “How do you like me now?”–I’m sure he wasn’t referring to concert the two of them attended; instead it’s an opening shot for the upcoming contract negotiations.  Regardless…we have our new catch-phrase.  Just like “AAAyy” gave way to “Sit on It”.  Hopefully there won’t be a “Wah Wah Wah” next year…

 

Captain Kirk- this is the episode many doubted could happen and others hoped would be possible.  A prime-time, national TV performance against a playoff team (despite the Packers 4-6 start, they were a postseason player last January).  Outgunning Aaron Rodgers.  A victory for the Burgundy and Gold at Fed Ex Field.  This is Exhibit A when Kirk goes into Starfleet for offseason negotiations.  Star Trek Episode Equivalent: “Amok Time”- Kirk has to divert the Enterprise to the planet Vulcan because Spock is experiencing a deadly 7-year cycle.  Once there, a native ritual turns into a fight to the death.  Great episode…watchable anytime.

Robert-not Gene-Kelley- one reason why a Spock-centric episode was picked for Kirk’s evaluation this week was the emergence of Cousins’ supporting player.  The rookie from Tulane rushed for 137 yards and three touchdowns…as his breakaway run in the fourth quarter all but sealed the victory.  Unlike his non-relative Gene, this Kelley does not dance.  He plods and fights and searches for that extra yard.  More importantly, he doesn’t fumble (fingers crossed).  The Skins have found their necessary compliment to an air attack that only appears to be scratching the surface.

Better to Receive- and what a crew of pass-catchers.  Pierre Garcon and Jamison Crowder each took turns burning the Packer secondary Sunday night…Garcon finishing with 6 catches for 116 yards and a touchdown while Crowder notched 102 yards on 3 receptions.  Meanwhile, Jordan Reed provided the matchup nightmare he always does and DeSean Jackson was the team’s top target on third down.

Third and Awesome- tough to think otherwise after the team converts 9 of 14 on the money down…8-12 through the air and 1-2 on the ground.  Cousins completed 8 of 10 passes while getting sacked twice…and all 8 of his completions moved the chains.  Jackson had two catches in his three targets, while Reed and Crowder also had two receptions/conversions.  Yardage breakdown:  3 for 4 on third and short (less than 4 yards needed), 4 for 6 on third and medium (4-6 yards needed) and 2 for 4 on third and long (7+).  And 71% of third downs needed 6 yards or fewer…that is awesome.

Case for the Defense- so they didn’t shut out the Packers.  And defensive back Donte Whitner led the team in tackles (a pet peeve of mine) with 10 stops.  But they forced three 3-and-outs to start the game and finished it with takeaways on the final two Green Bay possessions of the night. In a league where nobody stops anybody for sixty minutes, sometimes just enough is just enough.

Flying Flags- six penalties for 40 yards…a far cry from the first month of the season when it fans were seeing yellow.  Two on offense (delay of game and a false start) and four on defense (two delays of game, a roughing the passer and an illegal use of the hands).  The top culprit?  Breeland’s illegal use of the hands and delay of game give the cornerback seven on the season…still four shy of Josh Norman’s team lead (he padded his total with a delay of game).  Where would we be without another false start?  The total of 18 on the season is the fourth-most in the NFL.  After eleven weeks the Redskins do lead the league with seven illegal use of the hands.  Most costly penalty?  Breeland’s illegal use of the hands turned a Redskins ball at their own 38 into a 1st and 10 for the Packers at the Washington 33.  Green Bay would score a TD on that drive.

Dissecting the Division- Dallas continues to win-this time 27-17 over the Ravens, and at 9-1 the Cowboys continue to lead the NFC East as well as hold down the conference’s #1 seed. The New York Giants’ 22-16 win over Chicago proves that Eli Manning and company are the least-enjoyable 7-3 team in league history…still in second place of the division and the #1 Wildcard in the NFC.  The Redskins remain in third place at 6-3-1 and occupy the final playoff spot in the conference…while Philadelphia’s 26-15 loss at Seattle drops the Eagles to .500, fourth place, and ninth in the NFC.

The NFC East Beast- a 3-1 week means the division is now 27-12-1… a far cry from last year’s monstrosity.  The only other quartet that’s close is the AFC West that’s 26-14.  Worst division?  The AFC North is dragged down by Cleveland’s 0-11, but even without the Browns they’d be sub-.500 at 13-16-1.