The Redskins finished the first half of their season with a 3-5 record and in last place in the NFC East. One of the primary reasons they have a losing record is that their defense has allowed 227 points, tied for the second-worst performance in the NFL.
Naturally, the Redskins hope to improve substantially in both areas for the second half of the season. If they want to make a run at a playoff spot they will have to go 6-2 and hope that other teams falter enough so that 9-7 will get them in on tiebreakers. And if they are going to do that, it would help to cut back the points scored against them to something closer to the NFL average, which is about 185.
If they accomplish either one of those goals, however, they would be bucking some pretty strong historical trends.
Let’s look at the record first. The Redskins have finished each of the last four years with identical records of 2-6. That spans the two years of Jim Zorn and Mike Shanahan’s two seasons.
You have to go back to 2005, the second season of Joe Gibbs II, to find a Redskins team that had a winning record in the last eight games of the year. That team went 5-3 in the second half of the season, matching the record they had in the first half. That 10-6 record got them a wild card playoff berth.
The Redskins have not followed up a losing record in the first half of the season with a winning record in the second half since 2001. That year Marty Schottenheimer’s team went from 3-5 in the first half (after an 0-3 start) to 5-3 in the second.
The last time they went 6-2 in the last half of the season was in 1989.
As far as points given up, the Redskins’ opponents have scored more points against them in the second half of the season than they did in the first in each of the last five years. The last time they improved was in was in 2007 when they went from giving up 160 points in the first half to 150 in the second.
The last time the Redskins made a substantial improvement in points allowed, one on the order of what they would like to accomplish this year, was in the 2001 season. They gave up 193 points in the first half of the year and 110 in the second.
This isn’t to say that the Redskins have no hope of improving this year. It doesn’t mean that they are doomed to going 2-6 again and to giving up over 200 points. After all, only a handful of players who were part of the 2-6 collapse in 2008 are still on the roster. And with RG3 behind center, they have an asset they have not had in decades.
But losing in November and December seems to be ingrained in the team’s culture and unless can buck the trend they are headed for more disappointment.