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Tuesday Take—The Road Ahead

Tuesday Take—The Road Ahead

I still don't know what the 2008 Washington Redskins are.

Are they a playoff team? Probably. They have five wins in the bank. If they get to 10, they should make it to the postseason. They have games against Detroit, Cincinnati, Seattle, Baltimore, and San Francisco. All of those are on the road, so even if they slip up once they have nine wins.

That means that they would need just one win in home games against the Steelers, Cowboys, Giants, and Eagles to get to 10. Even given the Cowboys' state of disarray, none of those is a given but it's hard to see them going 0-4 in those games.

But let's say that they sweep the games in the "easy" group (the finger-curl quotes are there, of course, because of the Rams game) and split the four home games. That gets them to 12 wins, a total they have not achieved since 1991.

If you win 12 games, you can generally expect to have at least a home playoff game and possibly a bye. But the Redskins currently trail the New York Giants in the division and the defending champions look like the best the NFC has to offer.

However, the Giants' 5-1 record has been built largely on the backs of some pretty bad teams. Since beating the Redskins, their wins have come against the Rams and 49ers, two teams who subsequently fired their coaches, the winless Bengals, who would fire their coach if they weren't too cheap to pay the balance of his contract, and the 1-6 Seattle Seahawks. Seattle's coach already has said that he will be done at the end of the season.

As I've said before, you only can beat the team that lines up in front of you so I'm not trying to devalue the Giants' record. It is fair to say, though, that the road ahead for the G-Men is much tougher than the stretch of road that they've already navigated. They have played only the one division game against the Redskins, so they have three NFC East road games left and they host the Eagles and Cowboys. They play at 5-1 Pittsburgh this Sunday. In November they play at Arizona and in December they host Carolina. Their season finale at Minnesota could be tough if the Vikings can play up to their level of talent. Only a Week 10 meeting against the Ravens in Giants Stadium could be considered a gimmie.

Are there three losses in those 10 games, a scenario that would get them into a tiebreaker set with a 12-4 Redskins team? I think so. Are there four, which would give a 12-win Redskins team the division outright? Possibly, but I doubt it.

(Note: I'm not going to go into the schedules of the Eagles and Cowboys here in the interest of brevity, but that doesn't mean that I'm writing them off as competition for the Skins. They face schedules that look more challenging than what the Redskins have ahead but less daunting that what the Giants are facing.)

The main concern, of course, is the Redskins getting to 12 wins. Clearly, they will have to play better than they have in the last two weeks in order to get there. The Redskins put together just four scoring drives against the Browns and Rams. They fumbled six times, losing four of them.

Yes, the defense has been strong but late drives by the other team led to the team having to watch late-game field goals fly through the air with the game hanging in the balance. You can't rely on the offense to kill the last two minutes in the Victory Formation every week.

Speaking of balance, a balanced offense is great but if the Smashmouth West Coast offense leads to just the aforementioned quartet of scoring drives in eight quarters it needs some tweaking. Clinton Portis spent more time in the trainer's room last week than he did on the practice field and the same scenario seems likely this week. You have to wonder what kind of shape he'll be in come December.

Fortunately, I'm not typing anything that Jim Zorn doesn't know. This isn't Norv "What We Do Works" Turner or Gibbs II. He knows full well that he'll have to score more and that's why he is resisting the notion that the Redskins are primarily a power running team.

Regardless of Zorn's play calling, I think that the Redskins are going to have to find a secret weapon on offense, someone who becomes a threat with which the opposition must deal. Think Mike Sellers in 2005. If you go back that far, think Ricky Ervins in 1991. Think of an offensive Chris Horton.

The obvious candidates here are the three second-round draft picks. Devin Thomas could become a deep threat to make the other team pay for doubling Santana Moss. Fred Davis could sneak into the secondary and haul in a few nice gains. Malcolm Kelly, if he can ever get onto the field, could become the guy to move the chains and provide a big Red-Zone target.

My dark horse to fill the new weapon role is Shaun Alexander. I don't think of him becoming a big threat as a runner but perhaps as a receiver out of the backfield. He was pretty good at it earlier in his career with Seattle, catching 59 passes for 460 yards in 2002. If he is willing to work at it over the next few weeks that might be able to find a role for the rest of the year and maybe beyond.

If the Redskins can get their scoring totals out of the teens and into the 20's and occasionally the 30's it's all there for them.

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The Final Countdown: Eli Manning goes deep for the Redskins 7th worst play of the year

The Final Countdown: Eli Manning goes deep for the Redskins 7th worst play of the year

As should be expected when a team goes 8-7-1, there were plenty of good moments and a lot of frustrating times during the Redskins’ 2016 season. Over the next couple of weeks, Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will take detailed looks at the 10 best plays of 2016 and, to present a more complete picture of the season, the 10 worst.

No. 7 worst play of 2016

Giants at Redskins, Week 17

4:02 left in Q4, Giants ball 1st and 10 at their own 31, game tied 10-10

Eli Manning pass deep left to Tavarres King pushed ob at WAS 25 for 44 yards (Will Blackmon).

Related: The Redskins week that was

Tandler: It looked like the Redskins were on the verge of saving their season. They were down 10-0 in the third quarter but they battled back to tie it up in the late going. But after lulling the Redskins defense to sleep with running plays and short passes, Manning launched one deep down the left sideline. King, who had one reception for six yards on the season coming into the game, had a step on cornerback Greg Toler and he hauled in the pass for 44 yards. Four plays later Robbie Gould kicked a 40-yard field goal to give the Giants the lead.

More Redskins: Offensive coordinator situation set?

Finlay: In a terrible game that led to many more questions than answers for the Redskins, this play was just a huge, huge disappointment. Washington fought back to tie up a game that they had largely been outplayed in, particulrly in the first half. Remember, the Giants had nothing to play for while for the 'Skins, a win would put them in the playoffs. The New York offense was laregly nonexistent in the second half of this game, as it became obvious Eli Manning did not want to get hit. And still, the embattled Redskins defense gave up a long pass play to a dude that had contrbuted basically nothing all season. 

10 best plays countdown

10 worst plays countdown

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Report: One team Redskins need to watch out for when it comes to Kirk Cousins this offseason

Report: One team Redskins need to watch out for when it comes to Kirk Cousins this offseason

Mike Shanahan likes Kirk Cousins, both as a person and as a quarterback. The former Redskins coach has made no secret about that. Luckilly for the 'Skins, especially with Cousins staring at free agency, Mike Shanahan is no longer coaching in the NFL.

His son Kyle, however, seems highly likely to take over as San Francisco 49ers head coach. And soon.

Kyle Shanahan currently serves as the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons, and once their playoff run ends, most expect Shanahan to be named Niners head coach. 

Why should Washington fans care? Allow ESPN's Adam Schefter to explain:

Kyle Shanahan is set to become the San Francisco 49ers' head coach after Atlanta's season ends. San Francisco needs a quarterback as much as any other team in the league. If Cousins is available, the 49ers would pursue him as hard as they've pursued Shanahan.

Even if Washington tags Cousins, San Francisco could attempt to pry him loose in a trade with a package that could include this year's No. 2 overall draft pick. And if Washington doesn't want to deal now, it could have issues later.

This news should not be a shock to Skins fans, but it should be taken seriously. Remember, Kyle Shanahan was part of the Washington organization when Cousins was drafted and the duo worked together in 2012 and 2013. Most quarterbacks would love to run Shanahan's No. 1 ranked offense from Atlanta, and the guess here says Cousins would probably jump at the opportunity. 

Still, much must be worked out.

While some in the Washington front office might have questions about what the long-term value should be in a Cousins contract, the team still has some control. They can place the franchise tag on Cousins this season, like they did last season, and work until mid-summer on a multi-year deal. Or Cousins can again play on a franchise tag in 2017, like he did in 2016 and passed for nearly 5,000 yards.

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What makes Schefter's report the most interesting is the mention of the No. 2 overall pick. Observing the Redskins in 2016, it became obvious the team needs more impact players on defense, and with the second overall pick combined with their own 17th pick and eight more after that, that could deliver an immediate boost. 

Whatever boost a package of draft picks might bring in will be hard pressed to match the production of Cousins. Finding a starting quarterback in the NFL is exceptionally hard, and while Cousins has shown flashes of a special player, he has certainly confirmed he is a capable player in two seasons at the helm of Jay Gruden's offense.

Scot McCloughan and the Redskins brain trust have a few more weeks before free agency, and with it, the deadline to again place the franchise tag on Cousins. It's nearly impossible to see a scenario where Cousins hits the open market this season, but if the No. 2 overall pick comes into play, other scenarios start to seem more possible. 

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!