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Division games hold the key for the Redskins

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Division games hold the key for the Redskins

You hear it from coaches and players all the time—of the 16 games on the schedule the most important are the six games against the teams in your division.

The Redskins are about to demonstrate the truth of that adage over their last five games.

They have three division games left with tonight’s game against the Cowboys and their last two games of the regular season at Philadelphia and at Dallas. Those are three very important games.

How important? If the Redskins sweep those games they will be virtually assured of winning the division no matter what they do in their other two games at Chicago and against the Bills at home. Going 3-0 in those division games would give the Redskins the division title unless the Giants, who are 5-7 and a half game behind Washington, run the table in their remaining four games.

The reason the division games are so big for the Redskins is the tiebreaker system. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head record. So far the Redskins have split with the Giants and have beaten the Eagles, who like the Giants are 5-7, once. If the Redskins beat the Eagles in Week 16 they would hold that tiebreaker over them. That would essentially eliminate the Eagles if the Redskins can take care of business against Dallas twice.

Here are the current NFC East records:

Redskins: 2-1
Eagles: 2-2
Giants: 2-3
Cowboys 2-2

If the Redskins run the table in the division they would have only one division loss and at least eight wins overall. Should the Giants and/or Eagles get to eight wins the Redskins would hold the tiebreaker in this scenario, division record over New York and head-to-head against the Eagles.

If the Redskins finish 8-8 and the Giants run the table, New York would be 9-7 and then, of course, tiebreakers don’t matter.

Even two division wins could get the job done for the Redskins as long as one of them is against the Eagles, giving Washington the head-to-head sweep. That would mean that the Redskins would have two division losses Giants would have at least three.

Of course, the best way for the Redskins to get this done would be to win all of their remaining games and not have to get involved in tiebreakers. But it is good to have some margin for error and the Redskins likely have that if they can beat some familiar foes.

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Need to Know: Another big day on the ground on tap for the Redskins?

Need to Know: Another big day on the ground on tap for the Redskins?

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, December 11, eight days before the Washington Redskins host the Carolina Panthers.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Redskins vs. Eagles 1 p.m.

Days until: Panthers @ Redskins 8; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 13; Giants @ Redskins, New Year’s Day 21

Injuries of note:
Out:
G Long (concussion), S Blackmon (concussion), DE Lanier (leg)
Limited: TE Reed (shoulder), G Scherff (ankle), DE Jean Francois (knee/foot), DE Baker (ankle), G Shawn Lauvao (groin)
Final injury report

Final thoughts on Redskins vs Eagles

—The Redskins have not stopped a team in a goal to go situation since September. The Eagles are good in such situations, converting TDs 84 percent of the time. If the Redskins can get a stop and force a field goal try when the first time the Eagles get down there that would be a big psychological boost for the visitors. Or, better yet, maybe they can just not let the Eagles get any first and goal opportunities. That’s what happened when the teams played in Week 6.

—In that Week 6 meeting the Redskins rushed for 230 yards, their best performance on the ground this season by 79 yards. Matt Jones picked up 135 yards on 16 attempts, Rob Kelley had 5-59, and Chris Thompson kicked in with 9-37. It’s unlikely that Jones will be active so it will be up to Kelley to get things rolling on the ground.

—For all the talk about Kirk Cousins having the Eagles’ number, he had one of his worst statistical games of the year against them in Week 6. He completed just 52.9 percent of his passes, his lowest completion percentage of the season. Cousins also threw perhaps his worst interception of the year, a pick six that tied the game at 14 in the second quarter. The bottom line was that he made some plays and the Redskins won but he likely will have to play better this time for his team to prevail today.

—Carson Wentz has six interceptions in his last three games, including three last week against the Bengals. Josh Norman is due to get an interception, overdue, in fact. Don’t know what will happen but the chances seem good that a Redskin will get his hands on a Wentz pass today.

—We saw last week that the Redskins are not a lock to go on the road and win against a team that is desperately fighting for its playoff life. Fortunately for the Redskins, the Eagles do not have players who are the equals of David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, and Patrick Peterson. While plenty can go wrong I think the Redskins come away with with the win.

Redskins 28, Eagles 24

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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. 

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