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Need to Know: Five things the Redskins need to do to beat the NFC East

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Need to Know: Five things the Redskins need to do to beat the NFC East

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, January 17, 111 days before the NFL Draft.

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The Redskins went winless against the NFC East last year and have finished last four out of the last five years. Here are five things the Redskins have to do compete in their division.

1. Stop speedy receivers—They have done pretty well against bigger, more physical receivers in the division. Players like Dez Bryant and Miles Austin have had their moments against the Redskins but players like DeSean Jackson on Philly (32 receptions, 17.9 yards/catch, 5 TD’s in 11 games) and Victor Cruz (23/15.6/1) have burned them. Their lack of speed on defense really shows here.

2. Stop tight ends—The big wide receivers have been held in check but the big tight ends haven’t. Jason Witten and Brent Celek along have gained almost 1,500 yards and have scored 10 touchdowns against the Redskins. This is a general issue for the Redskins but it gets exposed in division games because of the presence of players like Witten and Celek.

3. Make a special teams play—Yes we know this was a major problem in 2013 in general and during the loss in Dallas in particular. But prior to that six of the Redskins’ division losses were by a touchdown or less and none of those games featured a big, positive play by the Redskins special teams. A return TD, a blocked kick, just about any play from the kicking game could have turned the tide.

4. Contain scrambling QB’s—Every week before facing Romo, Vick or, last year, Foles all the talk is about keeping contain and not letting him beat you with his feet. And almost always the quarterback finds a way to beat the Redskins with his legs. It’s always easier said than done, for sure, but they need to do a better job.

5. Make clutch plays—Yes, that is straight from the keyboard of Capt. Obvious. But this has been a particularly acute problem in the division. You don’t have to look back any further than the Dallas game in December for evidence of that. It’s always the other team scoring the late touchdown (@NYG in 2012) or kicking the late field goal (Dallas 2X in 2011) to grab the win in the late going.

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Timeline

—It’s been 19 days since the Redskins played a game; it will be about 233 days until they play another one.

—Days until: NFL Combine 33; NFL free agency 53; Offseason workouts start 80

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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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