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Need to Know: Five early thoughts on Redskins vs. Cowboys

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Need to Know: Five early thoughts on Redskins vs. Cowboys

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, December 2, five days before the Washington Redskins host the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night football.

Five early thoughts on Redskins vs. Cowboys

—Even though they haven’t won a game without Tony Romo, the Cowboys are still a team to be very wary of. Five of their seven losses with Romo sidelined were by one score and some of those went down to the last minute.

—Darren McFadden has managed to remain healthy and he is on pace to gain a combined 1,300 yards rushing and receiving. But he’s about their only offensive weapon. Dez Bryant is having a horrible year, missing five games with a broken foot and averaging 12.2 yards per catch with just two touchdowns. Jason Witten is losing a step or two at age 33. Of course, the production of both Bryant and Witten is hampered by the loss of Romo, who suffered a second fracture to his left clavicle on Thanksgiving and isn’t coming back.

—The Cowboys are ranked seventh in the league in defense in terms of yards allowed but they are not really that efficient. They are 18th in points allowed and Football Outsiders ranks them 22nd in defensive DVOA (18th vs. pass, 25th vs. run).

—Part of the reason they are less than the sum of their stats is their turnover ratio of minus-12, the worst in the NFL. They are the worst in the NFL in the takeaway department with just seven—six interceptions and one, yes one, fumble recovery. Their quarterbacks have thrown 14 interceptions.

—Of course, the worst thing the Redskins can do is what some of the Giants did with them and take Dallas for granted. It’s hard to see them doing that. Their propensity for following up a nice win with a bad loss has been mostly due to the quality of the opponents they have faced after winning game, not to any letdown. I think the Redskins should be confident going into this one but nobody should expect the Cowboys to lay down for them.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Player meetings, no media availability

Days until: Monday night Cowboys @ Redskins 5; Redskins @ Bears 11; Bills @ Redskins 18

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Will Long's concussion force the Redskins to make a roster move?

Will Long's concussion force the Redskins to make a roster move?

The Redskins are dealing with concussions to two starters as they start preparations for their critical game against the Eagles on Sunday.

Jay Gruden said on Monday that both center Spencer Long and safety Will Blackmon are in the NFL’s concussion protocol. Long exited the Redskins’ loss to the Cardinals on Sunday in the second quarter and Blackmon left in the fourth. The status of each of the players for Sunday in Philadelphia is up in the air.

If Blackmon can’t go against the Eagles the team would be able to get by with Donte Whitner and Duke Ihenacho at safety. That would leave them with Deshazor Everett, who hasn’t played a snap on defense this year, as the backup but they could survive.

If it looks like Long will be out the Redskins might have to make some roster changes. Veteran John Sullivan is a capable backup and they can function with him if Long is out. But there is not another center on the roster.

“I think right now if Spencer can’t go then we’d probably have to make a roster adjustment and we’ll have to see where Kory [Lichtensteiger] is,” said Gruden. “We’ll have to see. Ronald Patrick’s on our practice squad, that’s an opportunity. [Shawn] Lauvao is our backup center if he can’t go right now, so I’d like to keep him at guard. He hasn’t done a lot of center work, so we’d have to get somebody in here, somebody up.”

Lichtensteiger was the starter at center until he suffered a calf injury in Week 3. He went on injured reserve right after that. The Redskins have not used their one move to designate a player to return from IR so they could do that with Lichtensteiger if he is healthy.

The Redskins are Patrick’s seventh team since he came into the league as an undrafted free agent out of South Carolina in 2014. He is 6-1, 310 and he has yet to be on the 53-man roster for a regular season game.

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Week 14 Playoff Scenarios: Cowboys and Patriots can earn playoff byes

Week 14 Playoff Scenarios: Cowboys and Patriots can earn playoff byes

Just when you thought it was going to stay tight in various NFL divisions, 2016 Week 13 came along. We saw DALLAS gain a firm 3-game lead in the NFC East, DETROIT jump out to a 2-game lead over Minnesota and Green Bay in the NFC North, SEATTLE maintain its 3-game lead in the NFC West and NEW ENGLAND vault to a 3-game lead in the AFC East. Other division races remain either tied (NFC South, AFC North and AFC South) or within one game at the top (AFC West).

That separation in various divisions has us looking at three division title clinching scenarios this week and Dallas and New England can first-round playoff byes, with Dallas also having a shot at claiming homefield advantage throughout the playoffs as the #1 seed.

Before we get to those scenarios and one involving Oakland gaining a playoff berth, let's recap Week 13.  With DALLAS' win over Minnesota last Thursday and Washington's loss at Arizona, the COWBOYS clinched a playoff berth. Week 13 is the earliest DALLAS has clinched a playoff spot since 2007 when they clinched playoffs in Week 13, Division title in Week 14, a playoff bye in Week 15 and homefield advantage Week 16. That was also the year the 10-6 NY GIANTS beat the 13-3 COWBOYS on the road in the Divisional Round 21-17. :-)

Two teams were also eliminated from playoff contention during Week 13 as JACKSONVILLE's loss to Denver was the Jaguars final nail in the coffin and the NY JETS loss on Monday Night at home to Indy spelled their playoff doom. Jacksonville has failed to make the playoffs since 2007 and the NY Jets haven't seen Postseason since 2010. That leaves 28 teams in Super Bowl contention with four weeks to play which is 5th best in last 9 years, but 3 off last year's record number of 31 teams in contention.

QUIZ TIME: Which NFL team hasn't made the playoffs in ANY YEAR since the League realigned in 2002? Answer Below (and it might surprise you).

HERE ARE YOUR 2016 WEEK 14 OFFICIAL PLAYOFF SCENARIOS: 

DALLAS COWBOYS
   Dallas clinches division title:
    1) DAL win
   Dallas clinches a first-round bye:
    1) DAL win + DET loss or tie
    2) DAL win + SEA loss
   Dallas clinches homefield advantage throughout NFC playoffs:
    1) DAL win + DET loss or tie + SEA loss

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
   Seattle clinches division title:
    1) SEA win + ARI loss or tie
    2) SEA tie + ARI loss

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
   New England clinches division title:
    1) NE win + MIA loss or tie
    2) NE tie + MIA loss
   New England clinches a first-round bye:
    1) NE win + MIA loss or tie + PIT loss or tie

OAKLAND RAIDERS
   Oakland clinches a playoff berth:
    1) OAK win + MIA loss or tie
    2) OAK win + DEN loss
    3) OAK tie + MIA loss + BAL loss or tie
    4) OAK tie + MIA loss + PIT loss or tie  

MORE NFL: SHOULD THE REDSKINS' OL TAKE SOME OF BLAME FOR RECENT LOSS?

OAKLAND's situation is interesting as the Raiders have two-team tiebreaker advantage over both New England and Miami (whichever one doesn't win the division when looking at playoff berth clinching scenarios). You then have to look to see if either Miami or New England can use Kansas City or Denver to jump over Oakland in this exercise. Miami loses tiebreaker to Denver based on common opponents and can't use Kansas City since there is no scenario where the three-way KC-OAK-DEN tie ends with DEN finishing first, KC second and OAK third. Kansas City would win the AFC West in that tiebreaker in this scenario no matter what happens in future games after this Thursday. However, Miami CAN use Kansas City if Denver ties this week instead of loses and Denver wins division at 11-4-1 and KC and OAK tie at 11-5. New England can beat KC and jump Oakland in that same Denver division winner scenario. THUS...the need for a DENVER LOSS with an OAKLAND WIN as one clinching option this week.

TIEBREAKER NOTES AND ANECDOTES:
- If DALLAS were to clinch the #1 seed this week, not only will it be interesting to see what the COWBOYS do with playing time for Tony Romo and the rookies, but it will also mean that DALLAS won't have "must-win" motivation when they face TAMPA BAY Week 15 and DETROIT Week 16...two teams firmly in the playoff hunt.
- If NEW ENGLAND clinches the AFC East title this week, it will be the EIGHTH consecutive division title for the Patriots and 13 titles in the last 14 years. Amazing.
- If DALLAS were to clinch the #1 seed in week 14, it will be the earliest any NFL team has accomplished that since the 2009 Indianapolis Colts (who also did the same thing in 2005). No NFC team has clinched the #1 seed with three weeks to play since the 1985 Chicago Bears. Super Bowl Shuffle anyone? 

QUIZ ANSWER: THE BUFFALO BILLS have not made the playoffs since realignment in 2002 (only NFL team) and haven't made the playoffs since 1999 which be remembered as the year Buffalo lost to Tennessee in the Wild Card Playoffs 22-16 in what is known as the "MUSIC CITY MIRACLE". Can you say Frank Wycheck?

PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS FOLLOWING WEEK 12:

AFC                

  1. New England Patriots        
  2. Kansas City Chiefs        
  3. Pittsburgh Steelers        
  4. Houston Texans            
  5. Oakland Raiders            
  6. Denver Broncos            

NFC

  1. Dallas Cowboys
  2. Seattle Seahawks (jumps ATL for #2)
  3. Atlanta Falcons
  4. Detroit Lions
  5. New York Giants
  6. Washington Redskins (need to go 3-1 vs. TB 2-2)

Enjoy Week 14 and best of luck to your favorite team!