Archives for posts with tag: NFC East

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.

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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???

 

Saturday’s 21-17 Preseason loss might not eliminate the Redskins from an NFC East Preseason banner…but a lot would need to happen for coach Jay Gruden to capture their first August trophy since 2013.  What is obviously more important is how the team is coming together.  The preseason is such an easy time to write off…or see what one wants to see as a team gets ready for the regular season.  But despite the fact that the Skins went 3-1 in each of coach Gruden’s first three preseasons, his team stumbled out of the gates at 1-2 each fall.  So maybe an 0-2 start in August is a good omen.  Just don’t look at the 2006 team the sleepwalked through the preseason before finishing 5-11 (not too good).

Captain Kirk- now that is what we wanted to see!  More than two possessions!  The franchise tagged one competed 14 of 23 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown while playing the whole first half.  It did take Cousins and the first team a while to find themselves, gaining just 8 net yards over their first 10 plays from scrimmage.  But Cousins finished with the bang of a 10-play, 78-yard march that resulted in a 4-yard TD toss to Jamison Crowder.

Back Up Bingo- the other QB’s mirrored Cousins’ performance, combining to hit 14 of 22 passes for 134 yards and a score.  Colt McCoy directed the Skins to 115 yards on 19 plays  (6.1 yards per play) over three third quarter possessions, while Nate Sudfeld led the team to 81 yards on 15 plays (5.4) over 3 drives.

Running on Empty- the ground game garnered just 64 yards on 22 carries.  Samaje Perine (45 yards on 8 carries plus a 29-yard reception) impressed again after leading the team in rushing against the Ravens (albeit with just 15 yards).  The rest of the running backs?  A less than productive 14 yards on 13 carries.  In coach Jay Gruden’s three previous seasons the team ranked 19th, 20th and then 21st on the ground.  Who’s ready for finishing #22 this fall?

Thompson Time- even though he gained just 1 yard on 2 tries, Chris Thompson made his presence known in the passing game with 5 catches for 52 yards.  In a week without Jordan Reed, the air attack saw some contributions from rookie Robert Davis (4 grabs for 36 yards) and Josh Doctson’s first-ever preseason reception (a 12 yard catch!).  One remains bummed that Ryan Grant (2 catches for 7 yards on 4 targets) has yet to reach his customary August awesomeness.

Third Down and Downer- moving the chains on 6 of 17 attempts is technically better than the 2-for-13 shown last week.  Thank goodness it’s only August.  Cousins converted on 3 of his 9 chances, while Colt McCoy moved the marker on 3 of 5 opportunities.  Nate Sudfeld?  A “he’s just a second-year player 0-for-3”.  The Skins ran 14 pass plays (4-14 conversions) and 3 running plays (2-3).  Yardage breakdown: 4 for 5 when under 4 yards were needed, 1 for 6 when 4 to 6 yards were necessary and 1 for 6 on third and 7+.

Case for the Defense- Chris Carter led the sack pack with 1.5 of the team’s 5 against the Packers…while Zach Virgil and Nico Marley each notched 4 tackles with 3 solo stops to pace the D.  No turnovers for the defense though–and they did allow Green Bay to move the chains on 7 of 15 attempts.  Will Junior Galette ever suit up for this team and will be be the silver bullet they desperately need…especially with Trent Murphy done for 2017?

Special Situations- Niles Paul recovered a fumbled punt…and that resulted in the Skins’ first points of the night.  The return game may have averaged less than 20 yards on kickoffs and less than 5 yards on punts, but the coverage team wasn’t embarrassed either.  Dustin Hopkins connected on a 43-yard attempt and Tress Way averaged over 43 yards per punt.

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…