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Redskins vs. Vikings Bold Predictions

Redskins vs. Vikings Bold Predictions

This game is a classic gut check for the Washington Redskins. They have nothing tangible to gain from Sunday’s game against the Vikings. Minnesota, on the other hand, is trying to avoid a road loss that would knock the team out of the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

Teams in the Redskins’ situation react differently. In 1979 the Chicago Bears played the St. Louis Cardinals in the season finale. The Bears needed a win and a Redskin loss later in the day to get a playoff spot while the Cards were, as usual, playing out the string. The Cardinals laid down like dogs, putting up no fight in going down to a 42-6 defeat. Chicago got its playoff spot after Dallas rallied to beat the Redskins.

Last year, though, it was an identical situation with the Arizona Cardinals facing the Vikings this time. This time the Cardinals did not quit; the fought to the end and shattered the hearts of those in Viking land with a stunning 18-17 win on the last play of the game.

So which team will the Redskins more closely resemble on Sunday? Will they show up wanting to make their small but indelible mark on this NFL season by knocking the Vikes out of the postseason? Or will they be more worried about tee times for next week?

The best guess is that the former scenario should prevail. Last week’s loss to Dallas was a setback in trying to build some positive momentum going into the 2005 season and they don’t want to go into the offseason with consecutive losses. On top of that, not everyone’s job is safe and anything less than a full effort will not be looked upon well by Gibbs and company.

But even if the spirit is willing, the collective body may not be cooperative. Clinton Portis has been placed on injured reserve with a sternum injury suffered in the Dallas game. Fred Smoot is doubtful and dime corner Ade Jimoh was also placed on IR.

If Smoot can’t play, the Redskins will be extremely shorthanded in the defensive backfield against a team with one of the best receiving corps in the NFL in Randy Moss, Nate Burleson, and Marcus Robinson. Walt Harris will start in Smoot’s position opposite Shawn Springs and undrafted rookies Garnell Wilds and Rufus Brown will come in for passing situations. With Daunte Culpepper, who might be a league MVP candidate if not for a guy named Manning, throwing the ball it could get ugly.

Against such a potential onslaught, Gibbs and company could design their offensive game plan in a couple of different ways. They could play keep away and try to grind it out with Ledell Betts in Portis’ place in the backfield carrying a heavy load and Patrick Ramsey throwing short passes to Chris Cooley and Laveranues Coles. Or he could open it up, let Ramsey go deep to Rod Gardner, Coles, and Taylor Jacobs.

Playing against the 29th-ranked Minnesota defense either could be a good option. I see a lot of the first with a little of the second. Expect 25 or so carries for Betts and several attempts at long passes by Ramsey.

How many points will that add up to? Not enough. The offensive line will need to have a dominant game for this to work. We’ve been waiting for the offensive line to have such a game all year and it’s not likely to happen in the 17th week of the season.

Vikings 24, Redskins 14

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You probably don't realize how effective Kirk Cousins is as a runner

You probably don't realize how effective Kirk Cousins is as a runner

Back at the 2012 NFL Combine, Kirk Cousins ran his 40-yard dash in 4.84 seconds.

Now, as far as QB 40-yard dashes go, that's not a bad number at all, but it's definitely not blazing, either. Defensive lineman Fletcher Cox, for example, ran his in 4.77 seconds that same year (while weighing 84 pounds heavier than the Michigan State signal caller), and 13 out of the 20 passers invited to the event topped Cousins' time.

That, plus the facts that Cousins isn't physically imposing and he clearly prefers to operate within the safe confines of the pocket, would lead you to believe that he's not much of a threat as a runner. But a stat — and this stat is far from an advanced one or a hidden one — indicates otherwise.

MORE: PLAYING OVER/UNDER ON SOME KEY KIRK COUSINS STATS

Over the last two seasons, Cousins has the third-most rushing touchdowns amongst quarterbacks. Cam Newton has 15 (not surprising), Tyrod Taylor checks in with 10 (also not surprising), and then there's Cousins, who rushed for nine scores in 2015 and 2016, which is good enough for a bronze medal on this particular podium (that's quite surprising).

Washington's starter has actually found the end zone with his legs more than peers like Andy Dalton (7), Alex Smith (7) and Aaron Rodgers (5) since taking over the primary gig in D.C., and all of those guys have reputations as runners that exceed Cousins'.

In fact, no one on the Burgundy and Gold has crossed the goal line as a ball-carrier more than the 28-year-old in the past 32 contests; Rob Kelley and Matt Jones are both three short of the man who lines up in front of them on Sundays.

Of course, Cousins isn't going to flatten defenders like Newton does, and he won't run around them like Taylor does. He also won't rip off big-gainers down the sideline when opposing team turns their back on him in man coverage.

But as the following highlights show, he hasn't just cashed in on one-yard sneaks the last couple of seasons, either:

All three of those plays were designed runs, and Cousins, while not exactly resembling Madden 2004 Michael Vickexecuted them perfectly. He doesn't really rack up yards — the numbers vary depending on which site you use, but the consensus is he's picked up about 150 total since 2015 — but Jay Gruden and Co. have developed a tremendous feel of when to use Cousins' feet instead of his arm in the red zone.

Sure, he's not going to show up on your Twitter timeline juking out a corner, and he won't scamper for much more than 10 yards at a time. But in a few games in 2017, Kirk Cousins is going to finish a drive with an impressive touchdown run instead of a throw, and that might shock you — even though it really shouldn't.

RELATED: RANKING THE REDSKINS ROSTER FROM BOTTOM TO TOP

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Cousins talk, back end of D

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Cousins talk, back end of D

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, July 22, five days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.

Timeline

The Redskins last played a game 202 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 50 days.

Days until:

—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 19
—Preseason vs. Packers at FedEx Field (8/19) 28
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 42

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics from the past week on www.CSNmidatlantic.com and on www.RealRedskins.com.

What would a fair Redskins contract offer to Kirk Cousins look like?  As it turns out, the offer the Redskins made fell below “fair” territory. But perhaps they recognized that a deal never was going to get done, not this year anyway. Cousins is content to see things unfold in 2017 and decide on a longer-term destination next year. So, the team’s offer was not high enough but there really wasn’t an offer that was going to be sufficient.

Cousins explains why he's not offended by Redskins statement—Bruce Allen raised plenty of eyebrows by detailing some of the team’s contract offer in a statement. Clearly the intent of the statement, which revealed some details that weren’t very impressive under closer inspection, was designed to turn public opinion in their favor. Cousins, appearing on the radio the next day, didn’t have a problem with it and said that Allen had told him that he would do it. As expected, plenty of fans and media types decided to be outraged in his place.

Redskins have plenty of 2018 cap room for possible Kirk Cousins offer—With the focus turning to 2018, the fact that the team will have about $60 million in cap space becomes relevant. It’s enough to give him the $35 million franchise tag and perhaps enough to match a front-loaded offer sheet if the Redskins use the transition tag. But the cautionary word is that they have at least a dozen starters and key contributors who also are set to be free agents next year. They will have to find money for them or their replacements somewhere.

Redskins depth chart preview--Safety—Cousins talk dominated the week but other topics did draw plenty of interest. The back end of the defense, with Su’a Cravens converting from linebacker and free agent D. J. Swearinger moving from being mostly a strong safety to playing free, will be under the microscope this year. Whether the defense gets better may hinge on the safety position. 

11 predictions for the 2017 Redskins offense—Does Trent Williams make the All-Pro team? How many yards for Rob Kelley? One prediction for each projected offensive starter here including how many non-receiving touchdowns for Jamison Crowder.

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.

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