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Need to Know: Can the Redskins put together a winning effort against the Giants?

Need to Know: Can the Redskins put together a winning effort against the Giants?

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, September 24, the day the Redskins travel to play the Giants.

Five final thoughts on Redskins vs. Giants

—The Redskins likely will keep Chris Culliver on Odell Beckham Jr., although they could line up DeAngelo Hall or Bashaud Breeland, too against the sensational second-year receiver as well. They will try to mix things up and get physical with him. But the best way to defend against him will be to have Eli Manning running for his life all night or flat on his back. Manning knows how to avoid pressure; he was sacked on 4.7 percent of his pass plays last year compared to the NFL average of 6.3 percent. But starting left tackle Ereck Flowers is doubtful with an ankle injury so perhaps Ryan Kerrigan can have a good night chasing after Manning.

—The Giants could have won both of their first two games, as you may have heard. Both games were good efforts by the Giants for about 58 minutes. You could even say winning efforts. The question is, are the Giants good enough to string together three winning efforts in a row. Are they due to break through and get a win? Or are they due for a flat effort? Of course you can ask the same thing about the Redskins, who played well enough to beat the Dolphins in Week 1 before winning against the Rams. The Giants did have two three-game winning streaks last year while the 2014 Redskins could muster only a single, modest two-game streak.

—I think that Jay Gruden had honestly planned to keep Alfred Morris as his primary workhorse running back. But that could change. It may turn out that Matt Jones is just too good to keep on the bench. Don’t get me wrong, Morris will get snaps and he probably has a few 100-yard games left in him. But Jones’ rare combination of speed, power, and pass-catching ability can’t spend too much time on the bench. Morris and Jones were about even in terms of rushing attempts against the Rams. I think you’ll see it take a permanent tilt in Jones’ favor starting tonight.

—The Giants are pretty banged up. Five players are listed as out, including three starters. In addition, starting left tackle Ereck Flowers is doubtful with an ankle injury. The Redskins aren’t the picture of health with DeSean Jackson still out and ILB Perry Riley questionable with a calf injury. But going into tonight it looks like the Giants have the worst of it.

—This is a short week and I’m traveling to New Jersey today so I won’t have time to do a full prediction post, so here we go. I do think that the Redskins will have every chance to win this game. The Giants aren’t very good to begin with and they have all those injuries on top of that. But even without those key players, Eli can launch one to Beckham and they can put points on the board in a hurry. The visitors will need to keep them off the field as much as possible by controlling the ball on the ground and chewing up clock. The Redskins have shown that they can go on the road and beat a division team in prime time. They did it against the Cowboys last year and they will do it again tonight.

Redskins 24, Giants 17
(predictions 1-1 on the season)

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Redskins vs. Giants 8:25 p.m., NFL Network/CBS

Days until: Eagles @ Redskins 10; Redskins @ Falcons 17; Redskins @ Jets 24

In case you missed it

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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. 

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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.