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Bold Predictions: Talkin' Tiki

Bold Predictions: Talkin' Tiki

Speaking of an upcoming Super Bowl, iconoclastic Dallas running back Duane Thomas once said, “If it’s the biggest game of all time, why are they going to play another one next year?”

A similar question could be asked this week. If last week’s game against Dallas was the biggest ever at FedEx Field, what do you call the one against the Giants this Saturday?

It’s not the elimination game that we saw last week with the loser being virtually out of the realistic playoff picture. The Redskins could lose and still qualify for the playoffs with a win the next week in Philadelphia with some help that is not too far-fetched (basically, having Dallas, Atlanta, and Minnesota do no better than split their final two games). Even if the Giants lose, they will still be in control of their own destiny as a win the next week in Oakland would clinch the NFC East for them regardless of the outcome on Saturday.  

Despite the absence of desperation, there is a lot at stake here. The Redskins have pulled themselves up from a 5-6 mark at the beginning of December to having their playoff destiny in their own hands and they don’t want to relinquish their grip on the postseason spot and the potential for a division title. New York would like to clinch the division early and aim towards a possible first-round bye.

And then there’s that little matter of 36-0. The Redskins simply can’t afford to let a statement like that stand, especially since it’s likely that their opponents in the first round of the playoffs would be none other than the New York Giants.

One the defensive side, it’s pretty simple—don’t let Tiki Barber beat you. Eli Manning was over hyped in the beginning of the year but now that’s fading because his performance is. In three December games, Manning’s quarterback rating is a dismal 54. He is, however, managing the games well; the Giants are 3-0 in those games.

Managing the game isn’t too hard when that consists of handing the ball off to Barber. The 30-year-old back has averaged 150 yards a game in December and has gone over 100 yards rushing in each of his last five games. Everyone remembers his performance against the Redskins in October when he rushed for 206 and set the tone for the rout by tearing off a 57-yard run on New York’s first play. Don’t forget that he racked up those yards in about three quarters of work. Like Kobie Bryant the other night, he put up his number and declined to pile it on in the late going with the game well in hand, preferring to rest to fight another day.

One thing that the Redskins have in their favor is that Barber is a better running on turf than he is on grass. He averaged 5.4 yards a carry on the fake stuff and just 3.8 a pop on real grass. There is a chance that both of their starting offensive tackles will miss the game, but neither played last week and that bothered Barber so much that he only ran for 220 yards against the Chiefs. The Redskins can give Tiki his 100, but every yard over that will diminish the Redskins’ chances.

The Giants will have a similar goal; they need to stop Clinton Portis. The Redskins’ three-game winning streak has coincided with a return to an emphasis on the ground game.

As Mark Brunell’s pass attempts have gone down, his quarterback rating has gone up. Other than the ugly 34 caused by the three interceptions in Arizona, he hasn’t been below a 96.8 rating in the past four games. Jon Jansen and Chris Samuels will make it their personal challenges to keep Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora off of Brunell’s back, something they failed to do last time around.

It’s difficult to imagine the Redskins posting a second easy win in a row, just as it’s hard to believe that the Giants will dominate to anywhere near the extent they did last time. The Giants are the slightly better team. They have won two more games than Washington against a similar schedule. The Redskins have the home field. The noise helped force about a half dozen false starts by Dallas last week and the crowd could have come up with a few more had the game been competitive in the second half.

And the Giants just aren’t a good road team. Their only wins away from the Meadowlands (their game against the Saints in Giants Stadium is officially a “road” game) have been in San Francisco and Philly. They haven’t been successful in an atmosphere like they will encounter in FedEx Field all year.

Barber will get his yards and New York will put up some points, about half of what they put up in the Meadowlands. Manning will throw for a touchdown or two but he’ll also toss up a couple of interceptions. Brunell will get knocked around some but Portis will be effective enough to keep his pass attempts around 20. The Redskins will score midway through the fourth quarter to take the lead, but the Giants will battle back. A couple of false starts will push back a field goal attempt and the Redskins will survive.

Redskins 20, Giants 17


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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!