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Bold Predictions--A Trap?

Bold Predictions--A Trap?

You can reach me by email at rtandler@comcast.net

Rich Tandler is the author of Gut Check, The Complete History of Coach Joe Gibbs’ Washington Redskins. Get details and order at http://GutCheckBook.com

Just five years ago, an 8-5 Redskins team went to San Francisco to face a 49ers team that would finish 4-12. Those 1999 Redskins needed a break or two to win that game in overtime to clinch their only playoff berth since Joe Gibbs left in 1992.

On most teams, there would be some institutional memory, some players and coaches still around from that who would be able to warn the team of a pending trap. However, Team Turmoil has just one person who played on that night still on the payroll and Jon Jansen is on injured reserve.

No. It can’t possibly be. Or could it?

Is this game in San Francisco against the one team in the NFC looking up at the Redskins in the standings a trap, possible letdown game? Could the Redskins take them too lightly? Is that possible? It’s hard to shake the feeling that it’s possible even though on the face of it it’s ridiculous to think that a 4-9 team, one that has won just one of its last five games, would take any opponent for granted.

Even though Washington is 1-3 in its last four games, the Redskins certainly have been playing their best football of the season in that stretch. Unfortunately, the team starting to gel has coincided in time with playing three games in four weeks against two teams with a combined total of two losses. Had this upturn in the level of play come during a stretch in the schedule occurred during a stretch of the schedule when the team was playing against mediocre teams, which compose at least 75% of the league, a 3-1 or perhaps even a 4-0 record in those games.

So, while the Redskins haven’t been winning much lately, they have been putting forth a winning effort for each of the last four weeks. And that is what’s creating the feeling that a letdown might be coming.

It’s extremely difficult for a team that’s in the NFL’s mass of mediocrity—the Redskins right now are firmly ensconced in the lower end of that group—to put forth a winning effort for an extended period of time. Five weeks is getting towards the definition of “an extended period of time.”

Earlier in the week, I wasn’t going to predict a score for this game. I was going to say that if you wanted to know the score of this game you would have to ask Joe Gibbs because he was going to be able to name the score. That confidence has dissipated considerably over the course of the week.

Taking all of that into consideration, however, the Redskins could play at a considerably lower level than they have recently and still pull this game out. So, there are three possibilities for this game:

  1. A loss like in the Cleveland game where the Redskins sleepwalk through it and lose through a combination of mistakes and an inability to make the key plays at the important moments.
  2. A win like in the Chicago game where the Redskins make just enough mistakes to keep the other team in it but manage to stagger to an unimpressive win.
  3. A win like in the Giants game where everything comes together and the Redskins dominate the proceedings from the get-go and roll to a comfortable win.

All three outcomes are possible, but I think that something in between the latter two is the most likely. The Redskins will start out slowly but will avoid the killer mistake and pull away and get some breathing room in the second half. Let’s say something like:

Redskins 24, 49ers 10

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Redskins bring former starting center back to active roster

Redskins bring former starting center back to active roster

The Redskins officially brought Kory Lichtensteiger back to the active roster, and while the move is now for depth, it could have other ramifications down the road. 

The move is on the NFL's transaction report for Saturday. To make room for Lichtensteiger, the team released defensive lineman A.J. Francis. 

Dealing with injuries up and down the line of scrimmage, Lichtensteiger's return could give the offensive front more flexibility. When Lichtensteiger got injured Week 3 and sent to the injured reserve, third-year pro Spencer Long stepped in and performed well at center. Last week in Arizona, Long sustained a concussion.

That injury opened the door for John Sullivan, who will start this week in Philadelphia with Long ruled out. Sullivan was brought in as a backup to Long once Lichtensteiger was put on IR. With Long now in the NFL concussion protocol, the Redskins need another center should Sullivan get hurt. Alas, Lichtensteiger's return from the IR. 

Left guard Shawn Lauvao also sustained an injured groin, and that's where things could get interesting. Long is capable of playing guard, as is Lichtensteiger in a pinch. Should Lauvao's injury persist, Lichtensteiger might be able to help there.

Against the Eagles, the plan certainly appears to be second-year man Arie Kouandjio starting in place of Lauvao. Kouandjio made one earlier start this season - Week 4 against Cleveland - and the results were mixed.

If Kouandjio stumbles and Lauvao needs more time, Lichtensteiger's return to the roster gives Jay Gruden and Bill Callahan more flexibility, especially when Long returns from injury.

In fact, once the team has Long, Lichtensteiger and Sullivan healthy, there could be a bit of a logjam roster-wise on the offensive line, but considering all the injuries, bumps and bruises that are part of O-line life by the last four games of the season, the Redskins staff likely won't mind figuring that out. 

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Redskins vs Eagles Preview: 5 things to know as Washington gets desperate

Redskins vs Eagles Preview: 5 things to know as Washington gets desperate

Losers of two straight games and for the first time in a month outside of the playoff picture, a desperate Redskins squad travels to Philadelphia for a 1 p.m. game on Sunday. All the action kicks off on CSN with Redskins Kickoff at noon, but to get ready for the action, here are five storylines to watch:

  1. Getting back to good, or at least decent - Two weeks ago the Redskins seemed like a dangerous playoff squad with a strong offense and an improving defense. After two straight losses where Joe Barry's defense has given up 62 total points, the questions are mounting for Washington. Can the defense get stops on 3rd down? Generate a turnover? The good news for the Redskins is that the Eagles are struggggggling. Their offense has not score more than 15 points in three straight weeks. 
  2. Feed the fat one - After giving Rob Kelley just 28 carries in the last two games, Washington offensive coordinator Sean McVay owned up to the Redskins lack of run game, "I definitely feel like I could’ve been more patient on some of those early down and distances where you get a little bit pass-heavy. And that’s something that as a decision-maker and as a coordinator, I have to do a better job." In a Week 6 win Kelley and Matt Jones piled up more than 200 rush yards against the Eagles. The 'Skins offense likely won't feature Jones, but expect McVay to feed Fat Rob plenty on Sunday.
  3. Playing in pain - The Redskins offense features a number of dynamic playmaking threats, but arguably the best is tight end Jordan Reed. On Thanksgiving in Dallas, Reed separated his left shoulder, and though he finished that game he was forced out of action in Arizona. Expect Reed to be back Sunday, and expect Kirk Cousins to look for him early and often. On the season, Reed has more than 600 receiving yards and five TDs.
  4. If it ain't broke - Kirk Cousins has had more success against the Eagles than any other team in the NFC East. In four career games against Philly, COusins averages 336 yards per game passing to go with a 101.3 QB rating. He's thrown 10 touchdowns against the Eagles to just two interceptions. The biggest win of his career came last year when Cousins and the 'Skins clinched the NFC East title at Lincoln Financial Field. Cousins suceeds against the Eagles, and there's no reason it should stop Sunday. 
  5. Don't fly away - Rumors are starting to circulate that the Eagles would like to bring back DeSean Jackson next season. It's well known that Jackson will probably hit free agency after this season, and if Philly did pursuit their former playmaker, it would make sense. But between now and then, Jackson has another opportunity to torch his former team and help the Skins pursue a Wild Card bid at the same time. In his past two games, Jackson and COusins have connected on deep patterns, and there's little reason to tbink the same won't happen Sunday.

Numbers & Notes

  • If tight end Vernon Davis catches three passes he will become the 12th tight end in NFL history to record 500 career receptions.
  • With two more catches, wide receiver Jamison Crowder will set a single-season career high in receptions. He caught 59 passes in 2015.
  • If the Redskins win would mark five straight victories against the Eagles for the Redskins for the first time since a six-game winning streak in the series across the 1981-84 seasons.

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!