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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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Some good news from Redskins Park: Josh Doctson running, catching football (VIDEO)

Some good news from Redskins Park: Josh Doctson running, catching football (VIDEO)

There hasn't been much good news out of Redskins Paek lately, as the team deals with pending free agency for QB Kirk Cousins and others combined with rumors of infighting among the front office. So video of 2016 first round pick Josh Doctson running and cutting comes at a great time for beleagured 'Skins fans. 

Doctson posted the video to his Snapchat account. When he last spoke after the Washington season ended, Doctson made clear he was feeling much better and believes he will be in good shape for the 2017 season.

His rookie year, however, was a different matter. The receiver out of TCU missed all but the first two games of the year. Even in those games, he played a very reduced role. Drafted 22nd overall, he had just two catches all year as obscure Achilles' injuries landed him on the injured reserve. His plight could not be figured out by a slew of doctors and specialists, and the team finally decided to sit down their prized rookie.

A breakout year in 2017 would serve Jay Gruden's squad well, as the team stands to lose DeSean Jackson and/or Pierre Garçon to free agency. It looks likely the 'Skins will lose at least one of their starting WRs, and losing both is a distinct possibility. That could result in more than 2,000 receiving yards leaving the Redskins offense, and the team will need Doctson to pick up a good chunk of that production.

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Uncertainty around Kirk Cousins impacts Redskins' pursuit of free agent WRs

Uncertainty around Kirk Cousins impacts Redskins' pursuit of free agent WRs

This story originally published on January 4, but has fresh relevence as the Redskins are running out of time to decide what to do with Kirk Cousins. 

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Pending contract talks with Kirk Cousins will not only impact the Redskins salary cap, they will also impact the desire of free agent wide receivers looking to join the Burgundy and Gold.

That's the word from multiple sources as Washington brass again enters negotiations with Cousins after he played the 2016 season under the franchise tag.

It's understandable why receivers want to see what unfolds at QB for the Redskins.

With Cousins, the Redskins run a dynamic, pass-first offense capable of moving the ball among the best teams in the league. Should Cousins leave via free agency, it's unknown what happens for Jay Gruden's 2017 offense.

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 3.0

While it seems likely Cousins would at least return for 2017 under another franchise tag, if that doesn't happen, would the team turn to backup Colt McCoy? Bring in a veteran starter to compete with McCoy? Has rookie Nate Sudfeld developed to a point where he could compete? Questions like these make for uneasy conversations among wideouts looking at options. 

The Redskins not only need to make decisions with their own free agent receivers in DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon, but the team also has shown interest in free agent Kenny Britt, recently of the Rams. Sources indicate Britt would be interested in Washington if Cousins is the quarterback, but the 29-year-old has at least seven other interested teams should the Redskins QB situation not get resolved before free agency opens. 

Jackson's return to Washington seems unlikely, as he will probably command more money than Garçon or Britt.

ESPN's John Keim reported that Garçon will not play for less than the $7.6 million he made this season, and sources have said Britt expects to make anywhere from $8 million to $12 million per season in a multi-year deal.

All three pass-catchers had strong seasons in 2016, all eclipsing the 1,000 yard mark. Among the trio, Britt is two years younger than Garçon and Jackson, who will both turn 31 this season, and bigger. Britt goes 6-foot-3 while Garçon is 6-foot and Jackson 5-foot-10. Neither Britt nor Garçon can touch Jackson's speed, and few players in the NFL can match Garçon's toughness.

That said, Britt raised eyebrows around the NFL getting to 1,000 yards on an awful Rams team that suffered with poor quarterback play and a prehistoric offensive system. 

Another franchise tag for Cousins would not necessarily solve the Redskins issue with free agent receivers, at least long-term. Like all players, wideouts want multi-year deals, and a 2017 tag on Cousins makes it highly possible that Washington needs a new quarterback in 2018. 

Fans need to deal with the possibility that neither Jackson nor Garçon could return to Washington. It might not happen, but it certainly could. Much of that will be determined by money, but the contract status of Cousins will be a factor.

For wideouts, Washington is an attractive destination with Cousins. He's thrown for more than 9,000 yards in the last two seasons.

Without him, the landscape looks quite different. 

RELATED: Jameis Winston wants DeSean Jackson in Tampa