Archives for posts with tag: Eagles

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…

Advertisements

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.

Remember previous Redskins teams that would start fast only to fade?  We can’t determine whether or not this year’s edition will dissolve in December, but Sunday night’s 27-10 win over Oakland was a game not often…hold on.  Didn’t they beat Green Bay going away last November?  The whole “how do you like me now?” game?  Didn’t Colt McCoy lead the Skins to an upset of Dallas on MNF?  Regardless, the Skins played perhaps their most dominating game on defense since 2007 (when they held Dallas to single-digit rushing yards) and let everybody know that they’re more contender than pretender–at least in September.  It’s actually the first non 1-2 start for coach Jay Gruden… so that is progress.

Captain Kirk- the Franchise Tagged One completed 25 of 30 passes for 365 yards and 3 touchdowns…while getting sacked just once.  And he didn’t bring any post-game shouts to the media or a member of the front office.  Star Trek Episode Equivalent:  “City on the Edge of Forever” involves an overdosed McCoy, time travel and Joan Collins.  Easily one of the best and most memorable episodes…with Kirk at his best.

Thompson Time- in a week where Jordan Reed and Rob Kelley were both sidelined iwth injuries, it was a good thing that Cousins had runningback Chris Thompson available.  The flash-back ran for 38 yards on eight carries while catching six passes for 150 yards…and was the top target on third down.  Can his 5-foot-8, 191 pound frame take the pounding that comes from extensive usage?

Third Down- the offense converted 7-of-15 money downs…with Kirk Cousins completing 10-of-12 passes for 7 conversions.  Cousins was sacked once and scrambled twice- he had a 12-yard run wiped out by penalty- while Mack Brown gained one yard on a 3rd & 2.  The top option?  Chris Thompson (5 targets, 4 receptions and conversions) while Vernon Davis and Jamison Crowder each had three catches on three targets.  Distance breakdown was an odd o-for-3 on short-yardage, 4-for-8 when needing 4 to 6 yards and 3-for-4 on long-yardage.  Only four 3rd & longs?  We’ll take that too.

Defensive Difference Makers- minus Mason Foster, the Zach Brown band held the Raiders to under 100 total yards for most of the evening.  Brown led the team with ten tackles while Martrell Spaight added nine stops.  Three of Ryan Kerrigan’s four stops were for a loss (and one was a sack).  It’s always refreshing to have the top three tacklers come from the linebacking corps.

Third Down D earns an A- the defense was perfect in preventing the Raiders from reaching the marker on all 11 opportunities.  That’s 0-1 on the ground and 0-10 on pass plays.  They seeds to the stops was their first and second down performance that meant the Raiders faced 7+ yards on six of the 11 third downs.

Special Situations- Dustin Hopkins connected on 2-of-3 field goals while missing a 52-yarder…while Tress Way averaged 44.2 yards per punt (leaving three inside the 20 while not having a touchback).  Jamison Crowder notched an 18-yard punt return but fumbled another kick…while the punt coverage teams held the raiders to four total yards.

Flying Flags- ten penalties for 77 yards is more than the team had over the first two weeks combined.  They say “you can call holding on every play” and seemingly they did:  five on the offense and one on the defense.  For those scoring at home, the Skins’ eight offensive holds on the season are the most in the league.  Two of the three penalties that were declined were waved off because they came on failed Redskin third downs…while the third came on the Raiders’ touchdown play.  Repeat offenders:  Bashaud Breeland (a hold and a pass interference) and Trent Williams (a hold and a false start).  Most costly penalties?  A first quarter false start on Morgan Moses turned a 3rd & 9 into a 3rd & 14…while an offensive pass interference on 3rd & 14 would have wiped out the play if they converted.

Dissecting the Division- Dallas’ win over Arizona catapults the Cowboys past the Redskins but below Philadelphia (Eagles own a 1-0 mark amongst the other two teams).  Philly’s 2-0 conference mark gives them the edge for the #2 seed over the Los Angeles Rams.  Dallas is #5 in the NFC ahead of the Skins because of conference record.  The 0-3 NY Giants are securely in the division cellar, thanking their strength of schedule for keeping them ahead of San Francisco for last place in the conference.

September Sample Sizes- the interconference contest has the NFC with an early 6-5 advantage.  Among the eight divisions the NFC South is off to a 7-4 start…while on the other end of the spectrum the AFC North is 4-8 after three weeks.  The NFC East?  A middling 6-6 that suffers thanks to the Giants’ September suffering.

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?

SURPRISE!  The Redskins follow another underwhelming August for the starters by losing their regular season opener.  For those who’ve followed this team since coach Jay Gruden took over…did anybody expect anything else?  Backfiring offense?  You got it.  Disappointing defense that made some plays but came up short at the moment you needed them to come through?  Of course.  Special teams stumbles?  Bring on the muffed punt.  The big takeaway from Sunday’s 30-17 loss to Philadelphia was that many saw the seeds of this fruit weeks away.  Now they have to travel cross-country to face a Los Angeles Rams team that is coming off of a 46-9 rout of Indianapolis…and is coached by  Skins’ former offensive coordinator Sean McVay.   Giddy up!

Captain Kirk- the Franchise Tagged One completed 23 of 40 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown…while tossing an interception and losing two fumbles.  The interception was in the red zone and took points off the board…while the second fumble was returned for the defeat-sealing touchdown.  One year after posting a passer rating of 97.3 in two games against the Eagles, Kirk clocked in Sunday at 72.9.  Episode Equivalent?  I’m feeling this is “The Way to Eden”, where space hippies take over the ship and Spock jams with them in the lounge.  The leader of said hippies has weirder ears than Spock.  It’s not Kirk’s fault 100% this episode has issues, but he doesn’t help it.

Running on Empty- one thing Kirk did do well was make plays with his feet, leading the Skins in rushing with 30 yards on four carries.  Running backs Robert Kelley and Chris Thompson combined for 34 yards on 13 tries.  Anytime the quarterback leads the team in rushing, it better be 1975 and his coach better be Darrell Royal, Barry Switzer or Frank Broyles.

Receiving Roulette– in the first game minus the DeSean & Garcon duo, Terrelle Pryor led the team with six catches for 66 yards.  But none of those grabs came on the team’s last three possessions.  Josh Doctson?  No receptions for the 2016 first-rounder.  Jordan Reed (injured toe that isn’t lingering, they promise) added five grabs for 36 yards and Ryan Grant proved he’s not merely a preseason sensation with four receptions for 61 yards.  And we wonder why Kirk Cousins didn’t sign a long-term deal in the offseason.

DeSean & Garcon- I wish I could quit those guys…but the former Skins receivers will feature prominently here this season.  Pierre caught six passes for 81 yards in the Niners loss to Carolina while Jackson’s regular season debut was pushed back as Tampa Bay’s game in Miami was postponed.

Hold the Line- the Redskins front five didn’t live up to their “Hogs 2.0” moniker, allowing four sacks while breakdowns in the running game forced the offense into more than their share of long-yardage situations.  Hopefully Trent Williams isn’t too banged up– the line needs their best player at 100%.  A legendarily bad offensive line is what helped cause the 4-12 crater of 2009…and the thought was that smart drafting and player acquisition over the last eight offseasons had made this unit a strength instead of a weakness.  Sunday seemed to be a step back after many steps forward.

Third and Less than Ideal- the Skins moved the chains on 3 of 11 opportunities, calling pass plays on each occasion.  Cousins completed 4 of 9 passes for 2 conversions, while scrambling for one first down while getting sacked once.  Three passes to the short middle (two conversions), three to the short left and three to the deep middle.  His top target?  Jermaine Crowder (three passes, three incompletions including the interception in the red zone).  Yardage breakdown:  1-1 in short yardage, 0-3 in mid-range (4 to 6 yards needed) and 2-7 in long yardage.  Needing 7+ yards on 7 of 11 third downs is no way to move the ball.

What Brown can do for you- linebacker Zach Brown led the defense with 12 tackles…with two of those stops for losses.  One is always wary of free agent pickups in the world that gave us Adam Archuleta and Albert Haynesworth, but this move appears to be the right one from the start.

Quality not Quantity- Ryan Kerrigan doesn’t intercept a ton of passes, but he makes his picks count.  Sunday #91 returned a first half INT for a score…his third pick six in three career interceptions.  He also notched half of a sack to go with three tackles.  If the veteran can stay healthy and continue to wreak havoc this fall, the defense that ranked 28th last year will be much improved.

Third Down on D earns one- the inability to get off the field was an issue last year, and Sunday was no different.  The defense allowed the Eagles to move the chains on 8 of 14 attempts, including 5 of 9 on third and 7+ yards needed.  The defense was able to hold the Eagles on both of their third down plays, but was only able to sack Wentz once.

Flying Flags- just a pair of penalties for 15 yards to start the season.  That is marked improvement for a team that in recent years has consistently been near the top of the league in most flags.  The first-on Jordan Reed for holding-turned what would have been a 2nd and 10 into a 1st and 20 at midfield-the offense wound up punting.  The other-on Ryan Anderson for offsides-wiped out a Junior Galette sack and moved the Eagles in position to make a 42-yard field goal.  What did we say about quality verus quantity?

Special Situations- Tress Way averaged 40.5 yards over four punts while Dustin Hopkins made his only field goal attempt (a 33-yarder)…and there were no situations where the Skins eschewed a long field goal for a punt.  The return game?  Jamison Crowders’ muff set up the Eagles second touchdown.

Dissecting the Division- Dallas is the week one leader, edging Philadelphia on point differential (+16 to +13).  The Skins are in third place due to the same tiebreaker over the New York Giants.  Again, it’s only week one…they’ll get things turned around, right???

 

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.

 

 

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM–

There was quite a bit of excitement when the Big Ten announced that their men’s basketball tournament would be held at Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.  But instead of a conference that had four top ten teams entering the 2013 NCAA Tournament or even the 2016 batch that yielded four schools in the top 20, there’s Wisconsin at #11 (after losing to Northwestern) while Purdue is 16th.  And before you get involved in the whole “strength of schedule” thing, look at the “projected top 16 seeds” released by the Tournament Selection Committee:  NO BIG TEN TEAMS.  While I’ve compared this made-for-TV exercise to tasting cookie batter, there is still some validity to the process.  And that process points to the Big Ten and say they’re pretenders instead of contenders in a world where the teams to beat range from bluebloods (Kentucky and Duke) to upstarts (Gonzaga and Butler).

Blame the name schools having off-seasons:  Michigan State has yet to really recover from a rough non-conference slate and Indiana’s December loss to Nebraska was more of a trend than a hiccup.  Ohio State and Michigan are bubble afterthoughts.  It’s also tough for the national media to get their heads around Northwestern and Minnesota as contenders.  Add in a Maryland team that lost four starters while playing a less than ambitious non-conference record, and you have a below-the-radar season for a school used to being above-the-fold on the front page.  Who’s ready for a first round that features 14th place Rutgers?

Bracket Racket- now that we are less than one month away from Selection Sunday, we’ll be including the ESPN and CBS NCAA Tournament projections.  Remember that the field of 68 is fluid…and has the attention-span off a hummingbird.

Alma Mater Update- two straight close losses have the Orange slipping down the bubble at 8-6 in the conference.  Remaining games on the road to the NCAA’s have Duke at home and Louisville on the road…with a home-and-away series against fellow Bubble resident Georgia Tech.  SU hasn’t had a comfortable win in exactly one month…and one hopes they respond to the latest bump in the road.

#23 Maryland (21-4, 9-3 Big Ten)- Anthony Cowan stepped up Saturday in the Terps’ 86-77 win over Ohio State with 19 points after scoring 19 in the team’s previous three games (and shooting 2-15 during the two-game losing streak).  The bench also outscored the Buckeyes’ reserves 33-0.  But up next are two tough tests on the road against conference contenders Northwestern (yes, I know…try not to chuckle) and Wisconsin.  Both models have the Terrapins a #6 seed:   CBS tickets them to the South Region and a first round game against the Georgia Tech/Wake Forest winner while ESPN has them in the East bracket against Clemson or Marquette.

Georgetown (14-12, 5-8 Big East)- Now that was the Jessie Govan we thought we might see.  The six-foot-ten sophomore tallied 23 points and 8 rebounds in the 80-62 win over Marquette.  After their team defense was described as “lazy” by the Golden Eagles JuJuan Johnson in December, the Hoyas responded by holding Marquette to under 40% shooting for most of the game and 3-for-14 from three-point range.  Now the question is:  can this team get back to .500 in conference play and merit at-large consideration in March?  They still have Creighton and Villanova on their schedule…plus road games at St. John’s and Seton Hall.  ESPN has the Hoyas as the eighth team to miss the tournament.

#14 Virginia (18-6, 8-4 ACC)- It’s cloudy in Charlottesville after an 80-78 double-overtime loss to Virginia Tech.  Cassell Coliseum is a very difficult place to get a win…no matter how good you might be.  But blow a 14-point halftime lead?  When you’re one of the best defensive teams in the nation, let alone the ACC?  Their starting forwards shot 2-for-10 from the field against the Hokies…and UVa missed 10 of 24 free throws.  London Perrantes can continue to dazzle from the perimeter, but if he doesn’t have help inside the rough and tumble world of the best conference in the game can be a little unforgiving.  The latest models both have the Cavaliers as a #4 seed playing Akron in the round of 64;  ESPN has UVa in the East while CBS places them in the Midwest.

Virginia Tech (17-7, 6-7 ACC)- now THAT was a big program win.  How do you rally from 14 down against your in-state rival?  How do you come back from 17 turnovers?  Somehow they forced the Cavaliers into a 2-for-9 shooting funk over a six-minute stretch in the second half…and got a gift when London Perrantes’ last-minute layup died on the backboard rim, resulting in a jump ball that went the home team’s way.  Seth Allen’s 20 points off the bench were punctuated by his game-winning jumper in the lane with 3.2 seconds left.  Sophomores Justin Robinson (4 rebounds, 6 assists and a blocked shot) and Chris Clarke (7 boards and 3 assists) continue to do the little things that an NCAA Tournament team needs.  Up next?  Back to back road games against the likes of Pitt and #8 Louisville.  CBS has the Hokies a #9 seed in the Midwest, facing VCU…while ESPN has them seeded 9th in the West and a first-round game with USC.

George Mason (17-8, 7-5 Atlantic 10).  Saturday’s 73-67 victory over Fordham was one of those games the Patriots would have lost earlier this winter or last year:  somehow they survived going scoreless for over seven minutes in the second half.  Sophomore guard Otis Livingston II has turned it on as of late, scoring 18 points while playing 37 minutes per game during the three-game winning streak.  The current surge has coach Dave Paulsen’s team pushing for a double-bye…but in order to be the best, you have to beat the best.  And over the next month the Patriots play conference co-leaders Dayton and VCU plus third place Richmond and fourth place Rhode Island.  Buckle up…

George Washington (13-12, 5-7 Atlantic 10).  How do you bounce back from the heartbreak of a last-second loss to VCU?  Feed Tyler Cavanaugh the ball early and often, which is what GW did in their 76-70 triumph over St. Bonaventure.  They also locked up on the perimeter, holding the Bonnies to 22% shooting from three-point range.  Remember the double-bye I mentioned earlier?  There’s also the dreaded first round of the A-10 Tournament that matches up the bottom four schools…and the Colonials are one game ahead of Fordham and Saint Louis for tenth place.  They own the tiebreaker with the Billikens and visit the Rams March 1st…ending a stretch where they play four of five games against teams that are sub-500 in league play.

American (6-19, 3-11 Patriot League).  The Eagles can also avoid playing in the first round of their conference tournament, but they’ll need to win the rest of their regular season games while getting help.  And even then they’d be in a tiebreaker at 7-11.  Let’s just give AU a chance to enjoy their 61-58 win over Army where they turned over the Black Knights 21 times.  They go for a season sweep of Lafayette Wednesday.  If you can’t avoid the dreaded first round, you may as well try to host it.

Howard (6-20, 3-8 MEAC).  The offensively challenged (338th in shooting and 331st in assists) Bison didn’t go down quietly at Hampton…but still have a way to go before righting the ship.  Of course the ship would be sailing a lot better if the injured James Daniel III had played more than two games this winter.  Instead, fellow senior James Miller and a nucleus of unseasoned young talent tries to fly on one engine.  Thank goodness they got a Monday night win at Morgan State…Miller leading the way with 24 points and a crucial block in the final minute of a 70-67 win over the Bears.  They next face winless in the league North Carolina A&T.