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The Redskins playoff scenario nitty-gritty, Week 15

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The Redskins playoff scenario nitty-gritty, Week 15

The NFC East playoff picture remains a muddled mess.

There was a chance to have some degree of clarity added to it on Monday night in Miami but the Giants broke open a tie game with an 84-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Odell Beckham Jr. early in the fourth quarter. New York beat the Dolphins 31-24 to stay tied with the Redskins and Eagles atop the NFC East.

Here are the three teams, their NFC East records, and their remaining games:

Redskins (2-2)—Bills, @Eagles, @Cowboys
Eagles (2-2)—Cardinals, Redskins, @Giants
Giants (2-3)—Panthers, @Vikings, Eagles

At the moment the Redskins have the edge in the tiebreakers over the Giants with a better division record and half of the tiebreaker with the Eagles by virtue of their Week 4 win over Philly. In order to make that first win over Philadelphia matter, however, the Redskins have to beat them again on the road in Week 16. That means that if the Redskins win out, they win the division at 9-7.

But a team that has yet to win two in a row this year seems unlikely to finish the season with what would be a four-game winning streak counting their win over the Bears last Sunday. If they do drop a game they will need help in the form of a Giants loss to make it. If they lose two, they need a lot of help.

Looking at the schedules, help could be on the way. Both of the Redskins’ rivals are underdogs at home on Sunday with the Panthers favored by about four points over the Giants and the Cardinals are being called about a field goal better than the Eagles.

Washington is slightly favored over the Bills. If the lines hold, the Redskins would be in a position to clinch the NFC East with an 8-7 record in Week 16 with a win over the Eagles and a Giants loss at Minnesota.

The Redskins would not be out if it they lost that game in Philadelphia to the Eagles to fall to 7-8. If they win in Dallas in Week 17 they would look to the scoreboard to see what happens in MetLife Stadium. If the Eagles beat the Giants they would be 8-8 with a head-to head split against the Redskins but they would take the division with a 4-2 record in the NFC East compared to 3-3 in the division for Washington.

But if the Giants win (after having beaten the Vikings in Week 16) they would be 8-8 and tied with the Redskins. The will have split head to head and they both will have 3-3 division records. The next tiebreaker is record in common games. If it plays out this way, both the Giants and the Redskins would be 5-7 in their 12 common games.

That would send it to the next tiebreaker, which is conference record. Right now the Redskins are 6-4 in the NFC while the Giants are 3-6. A win over Dallas would be Washington’s seventh conference win while the Giants can get to no more than six. That would send the Redskins to the playoffs.

There are some who are saying that the Redskins’ upcoming game against the Bills is their least important remaining game. That may be true, but Buffalo is a common opponent that the Giants beat already. Losing that game could drop the Redskins a game behind in that category and that could come into play under some scenarios.

A rough estimate shows about 35 possibilities for how the three teams currently tied at the top could finish. The possible scenarios will narrow considerably after Sunday’s games. For now, just know that the Redskins control their destiny if they win out, and that if form prevails the Redskins might be able to take the division with two wins in their last three.

But, of course, if form had prevailed this year the Redskins would have been eliminated from the playoffs long ago and we’d be watching the Cowboys, who aren’t even relevant at this point, try to wrap up the division before Christmas. So anything can happen.

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Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 23, four days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 10
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 31
—Training camp starts (7/27) 95
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 140

In search of someone, anyone, to stop the run

One of the areas the Redskins needed to improve last year was their rushing defense on first down. In 2015, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down. That was the worst performance in the league. It’s pretty tough to play defense when a handoff makes it second and five. The Saints, who had a historically bad defense that year, were second, fiving up 4.8 yards a pop.

Well, it was no better for the Redskins defense in 2016. Again, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down, again the worst performance in the league.  Remember, this is on first down, when teams are most likely to run.

The Redskins’ problems on third down were well known. They were dead last in the league allowing first downs on 46.6 percent of third-down attempts. For context, an average performance on third down is allowing about 38 percent and the best teams are around 35 percent.

That doesn’t tell the whole story, however. The Redskins weren’t very good at getting teams to third down. They allowed first downs on 33.8 percent of their opponents’ second-down plays. That put them in the bottom third of the league. Again, you don’t have to look too hard to connect the dots to link that back to the five yards per rushing play on first down. Second and five is a piece of cake most of the time.

You don’t need an advanced degree in statistical analysis to figure out that the Redskins defense isn’t going to get much better if they can’t stop teams from running the ball on first down.

It’s easy to point to the defensive line, which has not been very good, and say that the problem is there. That certainly has something to do with it. But the Redskins didn’t have a very good D-line in 2014 and they allowed 4.1 yards per first-down rushing attempt, a performance that was right at the league average.

The factor that was common in 2015 and 2016 and was different in 2014 was the defensive coordinator. It’s possible that opposing teams found a flaw to exploit in Joe Barry’s scheme that wasn’t there in Jim Haslett’s (which surely had flaws in other places).

But X’s and O’s can only get you so far. The Redskins will be looking to take a defensive lineman early and perhaps use an additional pick or two at the position later in the draft. While getting one who can rush the passer would be a plus, they need a run stuffer who can take snaps on first down and bottle up the ground game.

The focus in the draft will be on the first-round pick but, as has been discussed here many times, that pick is unlikely to be a defensive lineman. There isn’t likely to be one at 17 who would represent good value. That could mean that the Redskins’ second- or third-round pick, perhaps an interior lineman like Caleb Brantley of Florida, Larry Ogunjobi of Charlotte, or Montravius Adams of Auburn, is just as important to the team’s success as the first-round pick.

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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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 22, five days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 20
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 32
—Training camp starts (7/27) 96
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 141

The Redskins week that was

Redskins full 2017 schedule released—Even with the Caps and Wizards in full playoff mode, the DMV stops to take a look and see when the Redskins will be playing. The Thanksgiving game was surprising. It’s another working day but I worked at various places since I was 14 and last year was the first time I’ve had to work on Thanksgiving so I can’t complain too much about working two in a row. It’s a small price to pay for having the best job in the world.

Don't count out any RB for Redskins at 17—Yeah, I know that NFL teams aren’t supposed to take running backs in the first round any more. But that is one of those trends that comes and goes. In 2013 and 2014 there were no RBs taken in the first. Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott in the last couple of years began to shift the thinking. If the Redskins think that Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffrey can help them win games more than any other player on the board they should pull the trigger.

Rise of Patrick Mahomes could bring big payoff for Redskins—It seems likely that quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky will be taken before the Redskins pick at No. 17 goes on the clock. That means that two players in whom the Redskins might be interested will be available, pushed back by the quarter backs. Could Mahomes, out of Texas Tech, push a third player back to Washington. The buzz is that a team might grab him in the first half of the first round.

The Redskins' five best salary cap bargains for 2017—When I started pulling the numbers for this post I thought I’d find more key players with salaries of under $1 million. I only found three and one of them is the kicker. This means that they don’t have very many late-round or undrafted players who are contributing a lot of value. They need more out of players like Anthony Lanier, Matt Ioannidis and Maurice Harris. That is how a team thrives in the salary cap era. A couple of Saturday picks could make or break this draft.

Redskins mock 2.0 goes offense early, defense often—There are a lot of ways the first 16 picks of this draft can work out. It seems almost certain that everyone’s favorite first-round pick, a stud defensive lineman, won’t be a realistic option on the board. This could send things in an odd direction for the Redskins. It’s fun to do a mock and I’ll do one or two more prior to draft day but there are too many variables to think that it has a high degree of accuracy. 

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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