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Need to Know: First look at Redskins vs. Bears

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Need to Know: First look at Redskins vs. Bears

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, October 16, four days before the Washington Redskins play the Chicago Bears at FedEx Field.

Nickel coverage

Five things you need to know about the Chicago Bears:

1. The Bears decided not to bring back longtime star middle linebacker Brian Urlacher this spring and they made D. J. Williams the starter in his place. Now Williams is out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle he suffered in the Bears’ last game last Thursday night. Rookie Jon Bostic finished up that game and is now the starter. He’s a second-round pick out of Florida so he practiced against Redskins tight end Jordan Reed. Those two should cross paths at least a few times on Sunday.

2. Defensive end Julius Peppers carries a $14.83 million dollar salary cap hit this year, the highest on the team. The return on the Bears’ investment has been one sack and five tackles this year. To be fair, the Bears have been racked by injuries and Peppers is the only one of the four projected starters who playing in his original spot. Still, at age 33 you can’t help but think that time has caught up with the 33-year-old Peppers.

3. This week brings Round 2 of Jay Cutler against the coach who traded up in the 2006 draft in hopes of making him his team’s franchise quarterback. Of course, both Cutler and Mike Shanahan have since left the Broncos. The last meeting was in 2010 and Cutler threw four interceptions, all of them to DeAngelo Hall. The much-maligned 30-year-old signal caller is having a career year so far. He’s on pace to have his most passing yards ever, most touchdowns, and best passer rating and his interception percentage is near his career low for a season. Mark Trestman, his new head coach, appears to have done wonders for Cutler’s career, at least in the first six games.

4. Cutler has four prime pass-catching targets so the Redskins’ coverage will really have to be on point. The leading receiver is another former Shanahan draft picks, Brandon Marshall, who has 40 catches for 465 yards and five touchdowns. But the Redskins can’t focus on him and sleep on wide receiver Alshon Jeffry (29/456/2), tight end Martellus Bennett (31/349/3), or running back Matt Forte (33/244/0).

5. After giving up two long returns to Dwayne Harris last week the Redskins now have the task of trying to stop Devin Hester, one of the best kick returners ever. At age 31 he’s not having a stellar year, with no touchdowns scored. But he is averaging 30.3 years per kickoff return with a long of 80. The Redskins will have to hope that Kai Forbath is able to pound the ball high in the air and deep in the end zone on Sunday.

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Stat of the day

—The Bears are tied for second in the NFL with 17 takeaways (9 interceptions, 8 fumble recoveries). The Redskins have eight takeaways (3 INT, 5 fumbles) 23rd in the league.

Timeline

—Days until: Bears @ Redskins 4; Redskins @ Broncos 11; Chargers @ Redskins 18

—Today’s schedule: Player availability 11:15; Practice 1:00 (open to media for first 30 minutes); Mike Shanahan and Robert Griffin III news conferences after practice (approx. 3:00), available streaming on CSNwashington.com.                                           

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Goal to go situations another problem area for Redskins' defense

Goal to go situations another problem area for Redskins' defense

In the third quarter of the Redskins’ Week 3 game against the Giants, New York drove to a first and goal at the Washington 10. A Trent Murphy sack and two incompletions later, Josh Brown came in and kicked a field goal.

Since then, opponents have had goal to go situations 12 times. They have scored touchdowns on every one of them.

The stop against the Giants was one of just two all year. They had one against the Cowboys in Week 2. Their opponents’ goal to go success rate is 90.5 percent. That’s the second worst in the NFL.

The failures have been costly. On Sunday, the Cardinals recovered a Kirk Cousins fumble and returned it to the Washington 10. The Redskins led 13-10 at the time and coming out of that situation with the game tied would have been large. But on third and goal at the six Carson Palmer hit Michael Floyd with a touchdown pass and the Cardinals had both the lead and the momentum.

Opponents usually haven’t had to work that hard. Teams have run 21 plays in goal to go and they have 10 touchdowns.

On Thanksgiving Day, the Cowboys got to goal to go three times. A stop on any one of them would have been a boost to the Redskins and would have changed the dynamic of the game. But Dallas was three for three.

The goal to go problems are a subset of the Redskins’ problems with red zone defense in general. Opponents have scored touchdowns on 27 of 40 red zone trips, a 67.5 percent success rate that puts the Redskins 30th in the NFL.  

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NFC East Update - Where everybody is losing except the Cowboys

NFC East Update - Where everybody is losing except the Cowboys

The NFC East was a beast for a while, but in recent weeks, the division is fading. All the teams outside of Dallas lost this weekend, and losing streaks are popping up throughout the I-95 Corridor. Here's the NFC East update:

  1. The Minnesota Vikings gave the Dallas Cowboys all they could handle last Thursday night, and yet, the Cowboys won 17-15. Dak Prescott was not impressive in Minneapolis, but Ezekiel Elliott was and the Cowboys defense did just enough to slow the Vikings terrible offense. At 11-1, Dallas has clinched a playoff berth, and with a date in New York this Sunday night, Jerry Jones' crew has a chance to avenge their only loss of the year, which came in Week 1 to the Giants.
  2. It seemed expectations met reality for the New York Giants last Sunday in Pittsburgh. Ben McAdoo's team had won six games in a row, but largely, faced poor competition. In their first tough test since the leaves started falling, Eli Manning's offense could not get going and the Giants fell to 8-4, still in possession of the first NFC Wild Card spot. Even on their win streak, the Giants didn't pass many eye tests. Beat Dallas on Sunday night and all that changes.
  3. Two weeks ago the Washington Redskins were one of the hottest teams in the NFL. Winners of two straight and with a surging Kirk Cousins, the Redskins marched to Dallas on Thanksgiving and gave the Cowboys a real test. Despite the loss, Washington still held its spot with the second NFC Wild Card. After a deflating loss in Arizona, now the 'Skins are on the outside looking in of the playoffs. Good news for Jay Gruden and company: The team can get right back in the thick of things this week in Philly, and the remaining four-game schedule looks advantageous. 
  4. While the Redskins have lost two in a row and are in danger of falling out of the playoff race, the Philadelphia Eagles have lost three in a row and look to be falling apart. Rookie QB Carson Wentz is devoid of offensive weapons to work with and the Eagles have been outscored 85-42 in their last three games. Philly can get their first NFC East win this week with the 'Skins visiting, but it will take a different effort than they've shown in the last month.

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