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Skins Can Win, But Will They?

Skins Can Win, But Will They?

Can they do it? Yes. Will they do it? Read on.

You can reach me by email at rtandler@comcast.net

There is really no point in recounting and rehashing the futility that the Redskins have experienced against the Dallas Cowboys in the course of their domination—there’s no other word for it—of the Redskins over the past 15 games. Some games have been close, some have been routs. In some, the Cowboys’ star players have come through in the clutch, in others it’s been obscure players shining in key moments. Sometimes the Redskins have had better talent and/or a better record, sometimes the other guys have. Barry Switzer, Steve Spurrier, Bill Parcells, Marty Schottenheimer, Joe Gibbs, Dave Campo, it hasn’t mattered.

The Dallas Cowboys have been the Washington Redskins’ daddy.

The Dallas Cowboys have owned the Redskins like a rented mule (or something like that).

All that, however, has nothing to do with Monday night’s matchup. It’s not 1999, it’s not 2001, it’s 2005. The game will come down to offense vs. defense, blocking and tackling, strategy, game plans and the like. The past will not matter a whit.

It doesn’t matter they will have the induction ceremony for Dallas Hall of Rings or whatever it is for Aikman, Smith, and Irvin at halftime. That’s something for the fans and the press. If the Dallas players are paying any attention to it whatsoever Parcells will rip them a new one. They’re not going to try to win one for the Triplets, they’re going to try to win one so as not to have to face the Tuna the rest of the week if they lose a division home game.

And, speaking of the Tuna, his eight-game winning streak against Joe Gibbs will buy a gallon of gas if it’s accompanied by about three bucks. It means zilch.

Both teams are adjusting to new schemes and new players. Dallas spent $50 million in bonus money to buy some upgraded defensive talent and have switched to a 3-4 scheme. It was modestly successful in San Diego last week as they allowed almost 300 yards and three touchdowns to the Chargers, who were playing without star tight end Antonio Gates.

For their part, the Redskins have made the seemingly-contradictory moves of installing a big-play passing offense while reinstalling Mark Brunell as the starting quarterback. They racked up a respectable 325 yards but no touchdowns in their season-opening 9-7 win over Chicago.

Neither is an elite team, neither is awful. Overall, these two teams are a lot like the others in the muddled middle of the NFL. They both have some strong points and some weaknesses. The two quarterbacks both are past their primes. Brunell vs. Drew Bledsoe would have been a marquee matchup in 1998; in 2005 it’s misplaced in prime time. Dallas has some older, slower but accomplished receivers, some suspect spots on the offensive line and a questionable secondary with the exception of safety Roy Williams, while their defensive front seven could be very strong. Washington counters with a very good offensive line, some small, speedy receivers whose effectiveness with Brunell throwing the ball is questionable, and a defense that is greater than the sum of its parts although the parts include a stud DT in Cornelius Griffin, a Pro Bowl linebacker in Marcus Washington, a revived Shawn Springs at cornerback and a potential superstar in safety Sean Taylor.

The game is a coin flip and it could well come down to which running back performs better. Clinton Portis is more the proven commodity, with over 4,000 rushing yards to his credit in three NFL seasons. And, after holding Chicago’s Thomas Jones to 31 yards on 15 carries last week, the Redskins will try their luck against his younger brother Julius. Last year their luck was pretty good.

Jones’ 57 yards rushing (in 22 attempts) in the teams’ second meeting last year was by far his lowest output of the nine games he participated in. In the other eight games he played in during his injury-shortened rookie campaign he never gained fewer than 80 yards. And don’t try to say that he was wearing down after a long NFL season—he hung 149 yards on the Giants in the season finale the next week.

If Jones gains 57 yards on Monday, the Cowboys will lose. Should Portis put up just 2like he did in Dallas last year before he left with an injury, Washington will have a very tough road to a win.

So who will it be? Which back will lead his team to a win and a 2-0 start to the season?

Last year the policy in this space was that there would never again be a prediction that the Redskins would beat the Cowboys until such time that the Redskins actually did beat them. But, keeping with the theme here that what’s in the past is irrelevant, the final will be:

Washington 17, Dallas 16



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Enemy Intel: Sunday games have playoff implications galore for Redskins

Enemy Intel: Sunday games have playoff implications galore for Redskins

As the Cowboys take their long week off after consecutive Thursday games the Redskins, Giants, Eagles, and other wild card contenders are in action. Here is Tandler’s weekly Redskins-centric spin around the NFL.

—The Giants are on a six-game winning streak and while that’s not easy to do against any level of competition it needs to be pointed out that their slate was squishy-soft with the last five wins coming against teams that currently have losing records. Now things get real with a trip to play the Steelers and a home date against the Cowboys. I’m not really sure how good the Giants are but if they split these two games I’ll be more impressed with them than I am now.

—The 5-6 Eagles travel to play the Bengals, who are just about out of contention for a sixth straight playoff appearance at 3-7-1. In fact, the Eagles might be just about out of it, too. Their big problem is 3-6 conference record, which puts them behind several other wild card contenders in this tiebreaker. It’s important because that is the second tiebreaker behind head to head. It’s better for the Redskins if the Bengals win but it probably won’t matter much. The consensus in Philadelphia seems to be that the Eagles are a rebuilding team that got off to a hot start, kindling some unrealistic hopes and expectations for the rest of 2016.

—The team is the hottest pursuit of the Redskins is the Buccaneers, who travel to San Diego to play a game that starts at the same time as Washington-Arizona. The Chargers are 5-6 but they are buried in last in the tough AFC West. This game is a coin flip. Redskins fans should root for the Chargers. If the Bucs lose, the Redskins would still hold the second wild card at the end of the day even if they should lose to the Cardinals.

—The 5-6 Saints are on the fringes of the wild card picture. They host the Lions, who are leading the NFC North by a game and a half over the Vikings and two games over the Packers. It’s probably best if the Lions win, which would just about eliminate the Saints. Still, there is a scenario where the Lions go into a minor tailspin, lose the division to either the Packers or Vikings but have a good enough record to take the second wild card. So like with most games within the NFC until the dust settles some more, there is some upside and some downside no matter which team wins.

—That scenario where the Lions fade from the division lead become a whole lot less likely if the Texans can go to Green Bay and beat the Packers. This is an interconference game so it’s an easy call to pull for Houston.

—Seattle, with a three-game lead in the NFC West, hosts the Panthers, who are on the outer fringe of the wild card race at 4-7. Another loss likely would ensure that Carolina won’t be able to defend its NFC title. This isn’t a pivotal game but probably better if the Seahawks win to end it for the wounded but potentially dangerous Panthers.

—My one loss last week was the Seahawks giving 5.5 on the road to the Bucs. I won with the Saints over the Rams and the Falcons over the Cardinals. This week I’m giving the Seahawks another go, giving 7 to the Panthers, and I’m taking the Patriots -13.5 against the Rams (the loss of Gronk doesn’t do much to equalize these teams) and the Saints giving 6 to the Lions.

MORE REDSKINS: Betting on the Redskins' playoff chances

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Need to Know: Betting on the Redskins' playoff race outcomes

Need to Know: Betting on the Redskins' playoff race outcomes

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, December 3, one day before the Washington Redskins play the Arizona Cardinals.

Timeline

Today's schedule: No availability

Days until: Redskins @ Eagles 8; Panthers @ Redskins 16; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 21

Injuries of note:
Out:
TE Jordan Reed (shoulder), DE Anthony Lanier (leg)
Questionable: G Brandon Scherff (ankle), OT Ty Nsekhe (ankle), Bashaud Breeland (ankle), LS Nick Sundberg (back)
Final injury report

Redskins vs. Cardinals
FOX, Sunday, 4:25 p.m., Dick Stockton and Chris Spielman
Line: Cardinals -2.5

Resetting the playoff odds

The Redskins start their stretch drive to the playoffs tomorrow. The will play five games in 29 days. After that, they will have either earned the right to keep playing or will they go home.

Let’s get out the imaginary $100 in casino chips and look at the various possibilities of the finish to the season and spread out the chips based on how likely each scenario is. As always, you are welcome to jump into the comments if you agree or disagree.

Win NFC East, $0—This might be worth a buck or two but this place doesn’t have any chips smaller than $5 and it’s not worth investing even that much in the chance of this happening. The scenario would have to be the Redskins winning out, the Cowboys losing out, and the Giants losing at least two more games. I’d put something on the first scenario and a few chips on the last one but no way is Dallas going 0-4. Keeping my chips in my pocket on this one.

Wild card as No. 5 seed, $40—To do this the Redskins would have to stay ahead of the wild card contenders behind them (see next scenario) and make up a game and a half on the Giants. They play New York in Week 17 so the Redskins would have to make up one game between now and then and they could then determine their status on January 1 at FedEx Field. The Giants go to Pittsburgh on Sunday and host Dallas a week after that so we will see how that looks in a couple of weeks. As of now, the No. 6 seed would go to Detroit for the first round of the playoffs while the No. 5 would play the Falcons in Atlanta. That, of course, is subject to change.

Wild card as No. 6 seed, $35—I think getting the five seed is slightly more likely than getting the six since I think the Giants are a mirage. But even if New York keeps it going, the Redskins can clinch a spot by running the table in their last five games. That would make them 11-4-1 and no other wild card contender could catch them. If they win four of five, only the Bucs can catch them and it would take a 5-0 finish for Tampa Bay. Winning three of five still gives them a good shot at getting in although at that point you are also opening the door for the Vikings, Saints, Packers, and Eagles to catch fire and jump ahead of them.

Out of playoffs, $25—I might be putting a little too much here but it’s the NFL and it’s certainly not beyond the realm of possibility that the Redskins could finish 2-3 and miss out altogether. Their margin for error is slim and an injury here and a bad break there could have them on the outside looking in.

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