Quick Links

Breaking down the wild card picture

rg3-celeberates-eagles.png

Breaking down the wild card picture

The Redskins’ hopes for a division title took a hit (but not a fatal one) last night when the Giants smacked down the Packers 38-10. But the Redskins road to a wild card playoff spot was smoothed yesterday by the results in four games. That road is not a paved, four-lane highway, not even close to it, but it is in better shape than it was Sunday morning.

The Redskins are one of three NFC teams who are 5-6. Washington and the other two, the Saints and Cowboys, are a game behind the Bucs, Seahawks, and Vikings, who are all 6-5 and tied for the second and final wild card spot. Here is a look at those six teams:

Redskins (5-6, 5-4 in NFC)

Strengths: RG3 at quarterback, second in NFL in rushing yards
Weaknesses: 31st in passing yards allowed
Remaining games: Giants, Ravens, @ Browns, @ Eagles, Cowboys
Big question: Can they win three games in a row and four out of five for the first time since 2008?

Cowboys (5-6, 4-5 in NFC)

Strengths: Third in passing yards
Weaknesses: Minus-12 in turnover ratio (29th in NFL), 32nd in rushing yards
Remaining games: Eagles, @ Bengals, Steelers, Saints, @ Redskins
Big question: Will they continue to play at a lower level than the sum of their parts or will they put it together?

Saints (5-6, 3-4 in NFC)

Strengths: Drew Brees at quarterback, fifth in passing yards
Weaknesses: 
Last in total defense, rushing defense
Remaining games: @ Falcons, @ Giants, Bucs, @ Cowboys, Panthers
Big question: Can they outscore teams and dig out of their 0-4 start without Sean Peyton?

Vikings (6-5, 4-4 in NFC)

Strengths: Adrian Peterson and third-ranked rushing attack
Weaknesses: 30th in passing yards
Remaining games: @ Packers, Bears, @ Rams, @ Texans, Packers
Big question: Can they get Percy Harvin back from injury to provide an air threat the compliment Peterson’s ground prowess?

Bucs (6-5, 3-5 in NFC)

Strengths: First in NFL in rushing yards allowed
Weaknesses: Last in NFL in passing yards allowed
Remaining games: @ Broncos, Eagles, @ Saints, Rams, @ Falcons
Big question: Can Greg Schiano go from Rutgers to the NFL playoffs in one year?

Seahawks (6-5, 4-4 in NFC)

Strengths: Third in NFL in passing defense
Weaknesses: 31st in passing yards allowed
Remaining games: @ Bears, Cardinals, @ Bills, 49ers, Rams
Big question: Can they survive if starting cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner if they lose their drug suspension appeals?

--It looks like whoever gets to nine wins will be in good shape to at least be in the pool that would be decided by tiebreakers. The Redskins, Saints, and Cowboys would have to go 4-1 to get to nine wins and the other three just have to go 3-2.

--The Bucs, Cowboys, and Vikings are hurt by the fact that they have five NFC losses while the other three teams have four.

--The Redskins have an advantage in that they have beaten four of their five rivals for the wild card spot. They do not have the Seahawks on their schedule.

--The Packers now hold the first wild card spot with a 7-4 record (5-3 in the NFC). They bear watching but for right now it looks like they will get at least a wild card.

--There are too many games left to go through all of the possibilities. Besides the head to head games the contenders have left against each other the most important games are the conference games. The 5-6 teams probably can’t afford to lose any in-conference games, the 6-5 teams might survive losing one.

Quick Links

Redskins Playbook: After worst to first in 2016, how strong will NFC East be?

Redskins Playbook: After worst to first in 2016, how strong will NFC East be?

When the Redskins won the NFC East in 2015 with a 9-7 record, most critics dismissed the division as weak. That theory was largely proved right when the Redskins got stomped at home in the first round of the playoffs by the Wild Card Green Bay Packers.

In 2016, however, the NFC East largely looked like the best division in football, or at least among the best divisions. Dallas won 13 games and took the NFC East title, the Giants won 11 and took the NFC's top Wild Card spot. The Redskins had a chance to make the playoffs in Week 17, but unceremoniously lost and fell short.

Still, Washington won eight games and Philadelphia won seven. In fact, the NFC East was the only division in the NFL without a team that lost 10 or more games. The AFC West - a division that some would argue was tougher than the NFC East - still had the Chargers and their 5-11 record.

What does it mean for 2017? If anything the only team expected to regress would be the Cowboys, and their regression could easily still have them looking to win around 10 games. 

The Eagles have improved with young, star QB Carson Wentz. New York will be interesting, as they have some age at various spots on their roster but still feature a two-time Super Bowl winning QB in Eli Manning and one of the best defenses in the NFL.

As for Washington? The defense should be much improved. It almost has to be as the 2016 version struggled significantly. If the defense can just be average (and I'd argue it could push for Top 15) the offense should continue to move the ball well. Producing in the red zone needs to look different than last season too.

The NFC East looks like a beast yet again. It would be no surprise if both NFC Wild Cards come from the division.

Let us know what you think in the comments. 

Always something on social:

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

Quick Links

Need to Know:Redskins faced one of the toughest schedules in NFL in 2016

Need to Know:Redskins faced one of the toughest schedules in NFL in 2016

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, May 28, 16 days before the Washington Redskins start their mandatory minicamp on June 13.

Timeline

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/27) 60
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 74
—Season opener Eagles @ Redskins (9/10) 105

Note: I am on vacation this week in the Outer Banks. Need to Know will be a mix of new content and some of the most popular posts of 2017.

Redskins faced one of NFL’s toughest slates in 2016

(originally posted January 28)

As the Redskins came off their 2015 playoff season and looked towards 2016, one thing jumped out. Even before any games were played it looked like their path to a repeat playoff appearance would be difficult, more so than it was when they went 9-7 and took the NFC East title.

The 2015 schedule looked fairly easy when applying the eyeball test. They played just two games against teams that made the playoffs and those teams, the Patriots and Panthers, plus the Jets were the only teams they faced that finished the season with winning records.

The eyeball test was borne out by the numbers. According to the stat gurus at Football Outsiders the Redskins faced the 28th toughest schedule in terms of the DVOA of opposing defenses and the opposing offenses added up to the 24th most difficult.

The going was considerably tougher in 2016. The Redskins played seven games against teams that were in the playoff field. The defenses they faced stacked up as the toughest group of any NFL team. They played nine games against teams that finished in the top 11 in defensive DVOA. The offenses they faced were a little better than average, ranking 13th as a group.

While the Redskins’ season was widely regarded as a disappointment, it would be reasonable to say that given vastly improved quality of the competition that they did well in only having their record drop by half a game.

Of course, the goal is to be good enough to prosper and make the playoffs no matter what mix of teams the luck of the draw happens to put on the schedule. They will need to get there in a hurry. Awaiting the Redskins on their 2017 schedule are seven 2016 playoff teams plus one more that finished the year with a winning record.

The fortunes of NFL teams can’t always be predicted in advance, especially more than seven months before the season kicks off. But it’s safe to say that the 2017 slate will be challenging. If they are going to improve their record they are going to have to improve their level of play dramatically.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.