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The Shape of Things to Come?

The Shape of Things to Come?


If the Redskins 16-10 win over the New Orleans Saints is a look at the shape of things to come, there is a lot to like. In no particular order:

  • Jason Campbell wasn’t perfect, but he was more than good enough. In front of a charged-up hostile crowd in a dome, he made no apparent mental mistakes. He did misfire on a few passes but none came close to winding up in the hands of a New Orleans defender. You just can’t throw a pass any better than the touchdown he threw to Santana Moss. Campbell rolled right and he launched the ball from about the 42. It traveled 50 yards right into the hands of Moss, who has split the two defenders.
  • The offensive line played extremely well, especially considering that one of its starters was missing. Todd Wade filled in for Jon Jansen and the unit didn’t miss a beat. While the Saints rushing defense is not very strong, they do have a good pass rush. The Redskins blocked well enough for Ladell Betts to go over the 100-yard mark for the fourth straight week and well enough to keep Campbell upright almost the whole day. Casey Rabach finally is living up to his contract, Randy Thomas just might be the team’s best player, Derrick Dockery seems to play smarter and more refined every week and Chris Samuels likely will be the team’s Pro Bowl representative if they have one.
  • The defense tackled. You’re not going to shut down opposing receivers all day long, especially with a quarterback like Drew Brees throwing to them. But you can make a solid tackle as soon as they catch the ball and minimize the gain. That’s what the Redskins did all day long. New Orleans’ yards after catch was negligible. The first man almost always brought Deuce McAllister down. And while the first defender there didn’t always bring Reggie Bush down, he was always knocked hard enough at first contact to allow the rest of the defense to swarm to him. The tackling ability turned around all of a sudden against the Panthers and it’s kept up.
  • Specifically on defense, Carlos Rogers is getting his game together. Many of the long plays he was giving up earlier in the year did not come as a result of him being clearly beaten by the receiver. He often was close enough but for whatever reason he wouldn’t make a play on the ball. In the past few weeks he has been making the plays instead of being a spectator. While he’s not quite playing up to the level one would like to see from the ninth overall pick in the draft, he’s heading that that direction.
  • And nobody’s calling Andre Carter a bust any more, either. Again, he isn’t quite living up to his contract but his picture no longer belongs on the side of a milk carton. On the third down play on the Saints’ final series he came from the other side of the line to make a stop on Bush for a loss. There hasn’t been any question about his motor; now, the effort is beginning to show some results.
  • Shaun Suisham has made seven straight field goals. That’s not a Moseley-like streak by any means, but it is possible that the Redskins have a young leg that can stick around for a few years. Nobody will be completely sold until he makes a game-winner in December, but the early signs are good.

It all bodes well for 2007. Of course, we all thought that the way the team finished off 2005 was a sign of things to come this year, so we will have to wait and see.

Going for it

One other piece of business from the Saints game needs to be discussed. There is a chorus of criticism out there coming from the message boards and call-in shows about Joe Gibbs’ decision to kick a field goal on fourth and three with his team holding a three-point lead. They wanted Gibbs to go for it and make it a two score game. This complaining is coming despite the fact that the strategy worked and the Redskins won the game. They agree with Fox talking head Brian Baldinger, who said that Gibbs should go for it.

That is ridiculous. It was not only the right call to make, it was the only call to make. First of all, it was fourth and three, not fourth and two. The graphic on Fox said fourth and two but the line for the first down was at exactly the one and the ball was spotted at the four. The cameras were on Gibbs during the whole time in between plays so you couldn’t get a good view of where it was, but you can clearly see that the ball is being snapped from the four when they go to the shot of them lining up for the field goal attempt.

But whether it was two or three to go, or even if it was two feet, you have to take the points in that situation. You are on the road in a noisy dome. You have already experienced some problems with crowd noise. If you don’t make it the Saints need to get only a field goal to send it into overtime. It’s always easier to play defense when you know that the other team absolutely has to cross the goal line. Your defense has been playing well all day.

Given the same situation, an NFL coach will kick the field goal 99 times out of 100. It’s a no-brainer. On top of that, it worked. I’ve said that I would like to see Gibbs be a little more aggressive and go for it on occasion, but not on this occasion.

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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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