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Good news for Mason-ites?

Good news for Mason-ites?

An opening for Mason?

The first round of cuts generally are insignificant. I'm not exactly sure why the NFL has teams trim about 6% of the roster on one day and then the remaining 34% necessary to get to the limit four days later. The release of Alfred Fincher, however, was a mild surprise and it lines up some tea leaves that we will proceed to attempt to read.

The release of the veteran linebacker, who was on the active roster all 16 games in 2008, leaves the Redskins with seven pure linebackers in H. B. Blades, London Fletcher, Cody Glenn, Robert Henson, Rocky McIntosh, Robert Thomas and Darrel Young. In addition, Brian Orakpo and Chris Wilson are listed as hybrid DE/LB's.

When I projected the final roster a few days ago, I had the Redskins keeping Fincher and cutting Glenn and Young, a rookie free agent out of Villanova. So, one might think that the departure of Fincher is a positive development for Glenn's or Young's chances for making the team.

And it could well be. But I think it's good news for somebody else.

In Blades, Henson, and Thomas the Redskins have good, flexible depth behind Fletcher and McIntosh. Wilson backs up Orakpo. Although they generally like to keep another linebacker for special teams they could get by with this group.

By my prediction that would mean that the defense is taking 25 roster spots. With three reserved for specialists that would leave 25 for the offense:

QB-3 WR-5 TE-3 OL-9

And five running backs. The Redskins have carried four for the past couple of seasons. That would mean that Marcus Mason could join Clinton Portis, Ladell Betts, Rock Cartwright, and Mike Sellers.

That lets the Redskins keep their special teams stud in Cartwright, something that I believe Danny Smith will insist on given the departures of James Thrash and Khary Campbell. And it gives the Mason Masses, or whatever the group of fans out there insisting that Mason make the team, their man. And it gives the Redskins a four-tool running back—Mason can run, run with power, catch, and block.

The Redskins also could be creating a spot for Dominique Dorsey, who has done well returning punts and wasn't bad running the ball against New England. But I get the feeling that since the role of Antwaan Randle El is likely to diminish with the emergence of Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly as budding starting-quality receivers, Randle El will continue carrying the punt return duties. That would leave no room for Dorsey.

Something else could be going on. Anthony Aldridge, making his first appearance of the preseason, looked like a player against New England, perhaps room is being made for him. It could happen that they'll keep Glenn or Young on the roster. Or maybe a sixth wide receiver although it's hard to figure out why you would keep a D. J. Hackett and cut Dorsey or Mason.

A lot can happen between now and when the final cuts are made on Saturday. Mason is battling some bruised ribs and if he can't play effectively on Thursday that will have to ding his chances.

But it appears that the door has been opened for Mason and it may be up to him to put on a flak jacket and run through it.

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Enemy Intel: Sunday games have playoff implications galore for Redskins

Enemy Intel: Sunday games have playoff implications galore for Redskins

As the Cowboys take their long week off after consecutive Thursday games the Redskins, Giants, Eagles, and other wild card contenders are in action. Here is Tandler’s weekly Redskins-centric spin around the NFL.

—The Giants are on a six-game winning streak and while that’s not easy to do against any level of competition it needs to be pointed out that their slate was squishy-soft with the last five wins coming against teams that currently have losing records. Now things get real with a trip to play the Steelers and a home date against the Cowboys. I’m not really sure how good the Giants are but if they split these two games I’ll be more impressed with them than I am now.

—The 5-6 Eagles travel to play the Bengals, who are just about out of contention for a sixth straight playoff appearance at 3-7-1. In fact, the Eagles might be just about out of it, too. Their big problem is 3-6 conference record, which puts them behind several other wild card contenders in this tiebreaker. It’s important because that is the second tiebreaker behind head to head. It’s better for the Redskins if the Bengals win but it probably won’t matter much. The consensus in Philadelphia seems to be that the Eagles are a rebuilding team that got off to a hot start, kindling some unrealistic hopes and expectations for the rest of 2016.

—The team is the hottest pursuit of the Redskins is the Buccaneers, who travel to San Diego to play a game that starts at the same time as Washington-Arizona. The Chargers are 5-6 but they are buried in last in the tough AFC West. This game is a coin flip. Redskins fans should root for the Chargers. If the Bucs lose, the Redskins would still hold the second wild card at the end of the day even if they should lose to the Cardinals.

—The 5-6 Saints are on the fringes of the wild card picture. They host the Lions, who are leading the NFC North by a game and a half over the Vikings and two games over the Packers. It’s probably best if the Lions win, which would just about eliminate the Saints. Still, there is a scenario where the Lions go into a minor tailspin, lose the division to either the Packers or Vikings but have a good enough record to take the second wild card. So like with most games within the NFC until the dust settles some more, there is some upside and some downside no matter which team wins.

—That scenario where the Lions fade from the division lead become a whole lot less likely if the Texans can go to Green Bay and beat the Packers. This is an interconference game so it’s an easy call to pull for Houston.

—Seattle, with a three-game lead in the NFC West, hosts the Panthers, who are on the outer fringe of the wild card race at 4-7. Another loss likely would ensure that Carolina won’t be able to defend its NFC title. This isn’t a pivotal game but probably better if the Seahawks win to end it for the wounded but potentially dangerous Panthers.

—My one loss last week was the Seahawks giving 5.5 on the road to the Bucs. I won with the Saints over the Rams and the Falcons over the Cardinals. This week I’m giving the Seahawks another go, giving 7 to the Panthers, and I’m taking the Patriots -13.5 against the Rams (the loss of Gronk doesn’t do much to equalize these teams) and the Saints giving 6 to the Lions.

MORE REDSKINS: Betting on the Redskins' playoff chances

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Need to Know: Betting on the Redskins' playoff race outcomes

Need to Know: Betting on the Redskins' playoff race outcomes

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, December 3, one day before the Washington Redskins play the Arizona Cardinals.

Timeline

Today's schedule: No availability

Days until: Redskins @ Eagles 8; Panthers @ Redskins 16; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 21

Injuries of note:
Out:
TE Jordan Reed (shoulder), DE Anthony Lanier (leg)
Questionable: G Brandon Scherff (ankle), OT Ty Nsekhe (ankle), Bashaud Breeland (ankle), LS Nick Sundberg (back)
Final injury report

Redskins vs. Cardinals
FOX, Sunday, 4:25 p.m., Dick Stockton and Chris Spielman
Line: Cardinals -2.5

Resetting the playoff odds

The Redskins start their stretch drive to the playoffs tomorrow. The will play five games in 29 days. After that, they will have either earned the right to keep playing or will they go home.

Let’s get out the imaginary $100 in casino chips and look at the various possibilities of the finish to the season and spread out the chips based on how likely each scenario is. As always, you are welcome to jump into the comments if you agree or disagree.

Win NFC East, $0—This might be worth a buck or two but this place doesn’t have any chips smaller than $5 and it’s not worth investing even that much in the chance of this happening. The scenario would have to be the Redskins winning out, the Cowboys losing out, and the Giants losing at least two more games. I’d put something on the first scenario and a few chips on the last one but no way is Dallas going 0-4. Keeping my chips in my pocket on this one.

Wild card as No. 5 seed, $40—To do this the Redskins would have to stay ahead of the wild card contenders behind them (see next scenario) and make up a game and a half on the Giants. They play New York in Week 17 so the Redskins would have to make up one game between now and then and they could then determine their status on January 1 at FedEx Field. The Giants go to Pittsburgh on Sunday and host Dallas a week after that so we will see how that looks in a couple of weeks. As of now, the No. 6 seed would go to Detroit for the first round of the playoffs while the No. 5 would play the Falcons in Atlanta. That, of course, is subject to change.

Wild card as No. 6 seed, $35—I think getting the five seed is slightly more likely than getting the six since I think the Giants are a mirage. But even if New York keeps it going, the Redskins can clinch a spot by running the table in their last five games. That would make them 11-4-1 and no other wild card contender could catch them. If they win four of five, only the Bucs can catch them and it would take a 5-0 finish for Tampa Bay. Winning three of five still gives them a good shot at getting in although at that point you are also opening the door for the Vikings, Saints, Packers, and Eagles to catch fire and jump ahead of them.

Out of playoffs, $25—I might be putting a little too much here but it’s the NFL and it’s certainly not beyond the realm of possibility that the Redskins could finish 2-3 and miss out altogether. Their margin for error is slim and an injury here and a bad break there could have them on the outside looking in.

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