Archives for posts with tag: NFC East

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…

Monday Night Football is a four-letter word around the district, beltway, commonwealth and select Maryland counties.  MNF could almost be transposed to “MF!” (kids under a certain age, that stands for “Massive Failings!”).  The Redskins had a chance to hold on to the #6 playoff spot handed to them last night when Tampa Bay lost to Dallas.  Instead, they coughed up a 26-15 clunker loss to Carolina and slid back into the NFC wildcard swamp.  

Much like Ebenezer Scrooge was visited by three ghosts, the Burgundy and Gold was haunted by three visitors:  the Ghost of MNF Past (the team is now 2-16 in Landover on Monday night), the Ghost of Playoff Picture Present (Skins need to win out plus get help from multiple teams to make the postseason) and the Ghost of Kirk Cousins Contract Conversations Yet to Come (that’ll be a nice thing to focus on this offseason).  God bless us, everyone!

For Starters- the worst-kept secret around the league is how the Redskins are slow to get in gear.  Over the last four games they’ve been outscored  53-28 in the first half and 27-3 in the first quarter.  This means the team has had to abandon the run during the second half as they’re playing catch-up.  Monday three of their first six possessions failed to yield a first down…and a fourth saw an interception. If they get outscored in the first half by the Bears…watch out.

Captain Kirk- the face of the franchise threw for 315 yards…but tossed a first-quarter interception that set up a Carolina field goal and lost a third-quarter fumble that set up the Panthers lone touchdown after intermission.  Third down was a nightmare again…as the red zone was more maroon and black than burgundy and gold.  Star Trek Episode Equivalent- “That Which Survives”, an episode that gets off to a confusing start and meanders for sixty minutes while producing drama yet not delivering greatness.

Tragedy of Robert III- well, the House of Griffin continues to attempt to re-establish itself as a pretender to the thrown in the Bailiwick of Brown.  RG3 threw for 196 yards while running for 48 more and the team’s lone touchdown in a 33-13 loss to Buffalo.  Meaning he gets to start in week sixteen against San Diego.

Running in Place- 13 carries for 29 yards…and running the ball on fewer than 20% of their plays from scrimmage.  Robert Kelley had his lowest output since a 15 yard effort against Detroit.  As it gets colder, the ground game becomes more important…and since the win over Green Bay it’s become much less productive.

DeSean and Garcon- the duo combined for 14 catches and 189 yards but nary a touchdown.  Two of Jackson’s grabs were of the sweet-scraping-both-feet-in-bounds variety, while Garcon was the usual tough customer.  Makes up for Jordan Reed tallying as many punches reaching opponents helmets (he was ejected in the second half) as receptions.

Third Down and Really Down- the Skins moved the chains on 2 of 12 attempts…and were 0-for-6 after halftime.  Robert Kelley was stuffed on 3rd & 2 in a run up the middle on the Skins’ lone run.  Kirk Cousins completed 3 of 11 passes on the money down, moving the chains twice.  The top target?  A tie between…guess who?  DeSean & Garcon each were thrown to four times…each reaching the marker once.  Cousins was 2-for-6 with one conversion throwing short to his right…and 1-for-4 with one conversion throwing short to his left.  Yardage breakdown? An ugly 0-for-3 on short-yardage, 1-3 on 3rd & 4-6 yards needed, and 1-6 on 3rd and long.  That 50% of the team’s third downs needed 7+ yards was a symptom of an ineffective offense on first and second down.

Defense, for Starters- Martell Spright notched 15 tackles in his first NFL start.  Mason Foster adds 13 stops.  They also held the Panthers to 4 of 15 on third down…forcing field goals to prevent the game from getting out of hand.  The defense bent but did not break…although in a game where the 2nd ranked offense produces just 15 points, bending was bad enough.

Semi-Special Teams- Tress Way after six punts the previous three weeks had to kick six times against the Panthers, averaging 47.7 yards per attempt.  Kicker Dustin Hopkins made field goal attempts of 26, 34 and 43 yards but missed an extra point.  The return game saw Will Blackmon bring the second half kickoff out of the endzone and get stopped at the 14…preceding the possession that ended on Kirk Cousins’ fumble that set up a short field for Carolina.

Flying Flags- the Skins were penalized seven times for 70 yards.  Four on offense (two holds, illegal hands and an unnecessary roughness), one on defense (facemask on Greg Toler), and two on special teams (illegal block and illegal formation).  While Josh Norman avoided dirty laundry this week his 12 penalties remain the most on the team.  Brandon Scherff’s hold gives him four of those calls this year and seven penalties on the season, good enough for a tie for second with Vernon Davis and Bashaud Breeland.  Worst penalty?  Jordan Reed’s punch/unnecessary roughness that turned a 2nd & goal from the 12 into a 2nd and 27.  Down two scores they had to settle for a field goal.

Dissecting the Division- Dallas  (12-2) topped Tampa Bay 26-20 to move within one win or one Giants loss away from locking up the NFC East.  One victory or one New York Giants loss delivers the division.  The Giants 17-6 triumph over Detroit clinches at least second place in the division and puts Eli Manning and company on the threshold of the Wildcard.  The third place Skins’ loss means they’re 7-6-1, 9th place in the conference and needing to finish 2-0 plus get help from orators.  Philadelphia’s 27-26 loss at Baltimore means the Eagles are officially eliminated from playoff contention and assured of last place in the NFC East.

East is the Beast- even with the Monday night loss, the NFC East remains the gold standard (34-21-1) while the AFC West is one half game back at 34-22.  The AFC North remains the division of depression.

Path to the Playoffs-in order for the Redskins to make the playoffs as a wildcard, they need to finish 2-0 (I’m not going the 1-0-1 route, even though an 8-6-2 season would be divine).  They then need to have Green Bay or Tampa Bay each lose once…or one of those teams plus Detroit go 1-1.

 

Over the river and through the woods…to Jerry’s new house they went.  The Redskins came home on the short end of a 31-26 score.  Instead of scoreboard-watching regarding the Cowboys and New York Giants in a nip-and-tuck NFC East race, the Skins will spend the next month attempting to secure a wildcard berth (a Dallas win plus a Redskin loss over the last five weeks eliminates Washington from division title contention).  Lets get rid of the leftovers before they go bad….

First, the timing- yeah.  The Skins had to play Sunday night and then fly to Dallas for a Thursday afternoon game?  Beyond the acceptable mode of the NFL not really caring about its product here.  The biggest scheduling hose job I have ever seen in a sport that tries to maintain competitive balance whenever possible.  Meanwhile, the Cowboys played at 1pm ET–meaning they had roughly an 8-hour head-start on the Skins minus any flying because they didn’t have to travel.  Calling shenanigans.  The league could have just as easily slated major market Chicago and the New York Giants into the slot if they were worried about eyeballs.

Here Comes the Sun- what was with the glare at AT&T Stadium?  How did this slip past the attention of the architects and contractors and inspectors and the team and the league?  I can only imagine how Dustin Hopkins dealt with the glare trying to make a 55-yard kick.  At a stadium where no expense was spared, how did this glaring oversight take place?

Captain Kirk- the face of the franchise went warp speed, throwing for 449 yards and three touchdowns.  There were the usual misfires on third down, but that was one sweet dial up of the deep ball on 3rd and 2 that resulted in a 67-yard TD pass to DeSean Jackson.  Nine receivers caught passes and four finished with over 65 yards receiving.  The other guy just was able to produce more points.  Star Trek Episode Equivalent:  “The Menagerie”, a 2-parter where Kirk’s former Captain Christopher Pike is kidnapped by Spock so unused footage from the series pilot can see the light of day.  One of the best shows, even if Kirk got a little upstaged.

Running Aground- just a few days after erupting for 137 yards and 3 touchdowns, Robert Kelley came back to earth with a 37 yard performance on 14 carries.  While one doesn’t expect the Packers game every week, 50-60 yards from your lead back would be nice.  If you pass 53 times and run just 19 times against the Cowboys, odds are you might come up short.

Receiver Rotation- this time it was DeSean Jackson’s turn to be the deep threat, grabbing 4 catches for 118 yards.  Jordan Reed tallied 10 more grabs while Jamison Crowder, Vernon Davis and Pierre Garcon each made contributions.  As disappointing a day that it was for the ground game, the air attack was in gear bigtime.

Third and Mixed- the team moved the chains on 8 of 15 third downs…with Kirk Cousins completing 9 of 12 throws for 5 conversions.  Believe it or not, they ran the ball on 3 of 6 third and shorts…and converted on each running play!  The top target was a tie between Jordan Reed (3 with 2 catches and 2 conversions) and Jamison Crowder (3 with 2 receptions) while “short-left” was the #1 area of exploitation (6 targets, 3 catches and 1 conversion).  Yardage breakdown:  5-6 on third and short, 1-2 on third and medium, 2-7 on third and long.  That two of the non-conversions came inside the Dallas 10-yard line leaves the red zone offense once again a little red-faced.

The Defense Rests after being really accommodating-  we know the Skins D will not become the 2000 Ravens even if we click our ruby purple slippers three times.  And they held the Cowboys at bay for much of the day.  But when they needed a stop down 17-12 in the fourth quarter they allowed Dallas to drive 75 yards on 7 plays and keep the game at arm’s reach.  They allowed Dak Prescott to complete over 70% of his passes while sacking the rookie just once…and coughed up over five yards per carry.  After 11 weeks, this defense has the distinction of ranking 25th against the run, 25th against the pass and 25th overall.

Special Situations- Dustin Hopkins made 2 of 4 field goals…missing from 43 and 55 yards.  After making 15 of 16 to start the season, he’s converted 10 of 15 over the last five weeks.  And while I haven’t lost confidence in the kicker, one never knows what goes through a placekicker’s mind.

Flying Flags- what is this?  A season-low 3 penalties for 30 yards?  Both offensive infractions were against Ty Nsekhe (hold, false start) and the defensive whistle came against Donte Whitner (unnecessary roughness).  About those false starts- the Skins now have 19 on the season, or second most in the league.  The most costly flag?  In the second quarter when Nsekhe was whistled for the hold on 2nd and 13…turning a 3rd and 13 into a 2nd and 23.  Dustin Hopkins would miss a 43-yard field goal attempt a few plays later.

Dissecting the Division- Dallas (10-1) not only owns the top spot in the NFC East, but also has a two and a half game lead for the #1 seed in the conference.  The New York Giants 27-13 win over Cleveland makes them the least-inspiring 8-3 team ever, but one that holds down second place in the division but the first wildcard.  The Redskins at 6-4-1 are in third place and are clinging to the final playoff spot by half a game over Tampa Bay and Minnesota.  Philadelphia?  After losing on Monday night to Green Bay the Eagles are 5-6 and in last place of the NFC East…and 11th place in the conference.

The NFC Beast- Philly’s loss to the Packers robs the division of a 30-13-1 record through 11 weeks, which would have simply been awesome.  But 29-15-1 isn’t too bad either, just a little better than the AFC West’s 29-15.  The AFC North remains the dumpster fire of divisions with a 13-27-1 mark…as now Cincinnati (three straight losses since their bye week) is doing their best to keep Cleveland (even worse than their 0-12 mark would suggest) company.  The Browns didn’t give up their #1 for Griffin, did they?

 

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.

 

 

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.