When you think of words to describe Redskins fans, “rational” is far from the first one that fills your head. After a 24-10 win on Sunday over the Rams, and a series of misfortunes throughout the rest of the division, Redskins fans woke up Monday morning to every talking head on local sports talk radio throwing more logs onto the fire that the fan base started the night before on Twitter. The Redskins can win the NFC East in 2015.
The Giants choked away another 4th quarter lead to fall to 0-2, the Eagles offense looked horrific as they also fell to 0-2 and the Cowboys lost Tony Romo to a broken collarbone, one week after losing Dez Bryant to a foot injury. The speculation is that both players will miss a couple months.
The week to week nature of the NFL is one of the aspects that makes it so popular. Fortunes can change quickly and then fans have a week between games to pump their chest or curse their team. It’s a league of overreaction, but in reality after this Thursday’s Redskins game at The Meadowlands against the Giants, the season will be 19% complete. The 16 game schedule makes for dire situations in September when you consider that since 1990 there have been 205 teams that started 0-2 and only 24 made the playoffs.
So can the Redskins take advantage of all the perceived good fortune they got on Sunday, combined with what looks to be a better than expected roster?
Here’s four reasons they could see the playoffs this season and four reasons to pump the brakes on this out of control bandwagon.
First, let’s pump those brakes:
They haven’t played a divisional game yet: The Skins have looked good, but they are still a 1-1 team that got too conservative in their loss to the Dolphins and then bounced back to beat a Rams team that was coming off an emotional, physical OT win against divisional foe Seattle.
The divisional slate starts this Thursday against the Giants, and these games are the truest test of how far a team has come. There’s much more familiarity within your division and those games go along to deciding who emerges as the champ.
Win this Thursday against a desperate Giants team and then you can really start to think big.
Tough spot in Jersey: Speaking of that Giants game, this is a really tough spot for the Redskins. New York is 0-2, with both losses coming in the final seconds after blown Giants leads. Big Blue will be desperate for a win and with a short week they definitely have an advantage playing at home.
Currently the Giants are favored by 4 and I’d be inclined to lay those points, given the Redskins recent history against the Giants. New York has won seven of the last ten meetings, including the last four. The Redskins haven’t won in The Meadowlands since December of 2011.
Both teams are banged up, so it could be an ugly game, low scoring affair.
— Brian McNally (@bmcnally14) September 21, 2015
Falling to 1-2 — and possibly last place in the NFC East after Sunday’s games are complete — would slow the roll of all the DC talking heads as well as the Redskins fans.
Also, Thursday Night NFL is really dumb.
How bout dem Cowboys?: Yes, Dallas has lost it’s two biggest stars on offense to injury — plus DeMarco Murray to free agency — but they are 2-0 with two divisional wins.
Unfortunately for the Redskins, they don’t play Dallas until December 7th (and again on the last weekend of the season), so both Romo and Bryant should be back. Brandon Weeden is no Tony Romo, but I like their chances this week at home against Atlanta and the following week at New Orleans, which would put them at 4-0.
In a division where nine wins could seal the deal, Dallas could set themselves up nicely before the Redskins have a chance to do anything about it.
Have we seen enough of Kirk Cousins to trust him yet?: Week 1, the Redskins went conservative and it back fired. Last Sunday the Rams had no answer for the Matt Jones and Alfred Morris all game, especially in the 2nd half. Can Cousins move this offense solely with his arm, like he’ll have to do if they are behind in the 2nd halves of games?
Cousins has shown he can operate the offense efficiently, but his big issue in his short career has been interceptions — 21 in 16 career games, including 2 in the Dolphins loss — and if that path continues when the Redskins are playing from behind then this team won’t finish above .500.
Now, the optimism:
This offense with a healthy Desean Jackson could be really dangerous: Out with a hamstring injury for what sounds like a couple more weeks, Jackson is the missing ingredient right now. If Matt Jones and Alfred Morris keep up their pace, merely having Jackson on the field would be enough to keep defenses guessing. Few players match his ability to stretch the field.
Last season, he led the league in yards per catch, a staggering 20.9 yds/catch. Cousins can throw a decent deep ball, so when Jackson returns this offense will be so much more dynamic.
The 1-2 punch in the backfield: Today’s NFL requires versatility and depth at running back. Matt Jones, a rookie from Florida, has the look of a guy who is ready to become a big time contributor for the Redskins in the running game.
Alfred Morris was already a quality back — one of the most underrated in the league — and having another dynamic weapon to spell him makes Kirk Cousins job a lot easier. The sample size is small, but you saw on Sunday what having a running game can mean for a teams chances to win. In a one possession game, the Redskins rode Jones on the drive that ended up putting the game out of reach, when he ran one in from 3 yards out.
Running backs are some of the most oft injured players in football, and having a weapon like Jones that not only produces, but gives Morris a breather, will help the Redskins salt away wins in the 4th quarter.
Strength up front: Both the offensive and defensive lines have looked great so far. Those are two units that, when you have the right guys in place, will give you steady performances week in and week out.
GM Scot McCloughan has made building the roster from the inside out a point of emphasis. The offensive line came under scrutiny after the preseason disaster against the Lions when Robert Griffin III almost had his head taken off, but since live bullets starting firing the O Line has looked dominant, including rookie 1st round pick Brandon Scherff. The Redskins faced two very good defensive fronts so far, and lead the league in rushing. Kirk Cousins was only sacked three times in those two games, a very good rate considering the pass rushers the Redskins faced.
On defense, additions as well as Jason Hatcher being healthy have greatly improved this unit. Ex 49er Ricky Jean-Francois has always been a very underrated lineman and after a short stint with the Colts has paid off for the Redskins thus far.
The biggest addition for the D Line has been Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton, who eats up double teams like, well…pot roast. Knighton won’t show up much on the stat sheet, but he’ll have a similar impact to another McCloughan signing from his days as the 49ers GM, Justin Smith.
His presence opens up opportunities for the rest of the front seven to shine, and the fact that he only signed a one year contract means he’ll be extra motivated to prove himself so that he can secure another deal at years end.
Also, bonus points to Knighton for buying the entire D Line personalized Nats jerseys.
Pot Roast pic.twitter.com/s1DrHO4QXe
— Danny (@recordsANDradio) September 20, 2015
The NFC East is wide open: With two teams at 0-2, and the 1st place team down two key players, the Redskins time is now to make a move in the East. This Thursday is a huge game for both the Redskins and Giants and the next few weeks gives Washington a tremendous opportunity to open up some ground on both New York and Philly. 8-8 or 9-7 could realistically win the division, so why not the team with the great line play and dynamic running game?
What say you Redskins fans? Think this team is built to last or will it be business as usual in Ashburn?