The Redskins Goals Have Changed

Here with a guest post for nailing his Skins-Bills prediction is Sportz Assassin, who we go back with on these streets to about 2004. It’s a thrill to publish his stuff. Merry holidays, everyone.

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In life, goals change.

When I was a little kid, I wanted to draw cartoons. That was until I wanted to be a baseball player. Then a basketball player. Then working for Nike. Then work in marketing. Finally, I ended up doing none of those things and taking a job that paid well but has zero allure. So on the side, I write about sports and the teams I love.

One of those teams I love is the Redskins. Their goals have also changed. If you told any Redskins fan that the season would end at 7-9, many would have been pleasantly surprised (including yours truly). I mean, this was a franchise in August that finally gave up on RG3, the head coach was on everyone’s chopping block, the nickname was being debated on every talk show and the owner was charging $50 envelope fees. Yes there was talent on the roster, but there was no reason to think this team would be the best in the division.

Yet here we are. The Redskins are a win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday away from winning the NFC East for the second time in four years. I mean … how? What? Really? Sure, it is more an indictment of the division than the Redskins dominance, but this wasn’t supposed to be. It still may not. A loss at Philly would be catastrophic for Washington. Philly would own the tiebreaker and the Redskins would need to win at Dallas in the season finale and hope the Giants beat the Eagles. But right now, the Redskins control their own fate.

So what will happen? The Redskins have won 3 of 4 and are the hotter team. The Eagles have lost 4 of 6 (though one of those wins came in New England) and their defense has been lit up over the last two months. Bad Kirk Cousins is a memory. Since that season-changing comeback win over the Buccaneers in Week 7, Cousins has thrown 16 touchdowns and just 3 interceptions. Cousins also has more rushing TDs (5) than the Eagles’ huge free agent pickup, DeMarco Murray (4). I mean, just give them the division crown right now!

However, your gut says that this is the NFC East and Philly will be ready to knock the Redskins down a peg. Many Redskins fans (including myself) are just enjoying the ride but are prepared for the rug to be ripped from under them any game now. I admit, I was in that camp. But, like the Redskins’ goals, I’ve changed as well. This may not be a team that will do much damage in the postseason but they are the cream of the crop in a division that went sour this season. No matter, the Redskins beat the Eagles this Saturday.

Redskins, 24-22

Redskins-Eagles Predictions

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As ever, these are our crackerjack staff’s predictions for Week 16. Make yours down in the comments. Whoever comes closest gets to make a guest post on this here weblog.

JP Finlay: Redskins, 27-24

Maybe I’m nuts but I kinda think the Skins roll. That’s the public side in Vegas though (split is currently 65/35), which makes me a bit more reluctant. Kirk is hot, Bradford is not.

Matt Terl: Eagles, 27-24

I want to believe, man. Me and Fox Mulder. But it’s a primetime game, against a division opponent — the Eagles, no less! The guys on the other side of such memorable hits as “Albert Haynesworth lays there” and “Chip Kelly’s new offense turns into a shredder”! The terrifying power of narrative overwhelms any other game analysis for me. Doom. Doom. Doom.

Todd Davis: Redskins, 28-27

Shit is real now and It. Is. Terrifying. Thanks to Festivus timing up right, I’m going to be in DC watching with our people this weekend and that only makes it scarier. But while I normally agree with Terl’s “huge primetime game = certain death” theory I’m feeling like things have turned lately and the team is believing. Maybe it’s the Caps-looking-like-Golden-State effect rubbing off, but for some reason this reminds me more of the last great Gibbs 2.0 run in ’07 when the Skins had to go win on the road vs. the Giants and a strong Vikings team post-Sean Taylor to complete the narrative.

Andy Peden: Eagles, 30-24

My head says Terl is correct, my heart is with Todd. The tie breaker is the Eagles -3. That line smells fishy.

Chris Mottram: Redskins, 34-24

Just two weeks after being completely embarrassed, 38-0, the Falcons must once again take on the Panthers? This seems cruel and unusual. Neither team technically has anything left to play for in the regular season, but Carolina still has plenty of doubters to prove wrong. Plus that whole perfect season thing. It’s gonna be a blowout, again.

Jack Kogod: Eagles, 31-27

Redskins lose.

Jamie Mottram: Redskins, 27-17

The Skins won the first matchup, at FedEx, on a last-minute TD. Since then, they’re 5-5 and the Eagles are too. The Skins have a -16 point differential on the season, and Philly is -44. The Skins are 1-5 on the road, Philly is 3-4 at home. These are two exceedingly average teams, and there’s not a whole lot of separation, is my point. If you look at the past couple of months, though, Philly has, aside from beating New England, struggled throughout. The Skins, however, have, aside from losing to Dallas, taken care of business. Saturday night, they will again.

Composite prediction: Redskins, 27-26

Redskins-Bills Winners & Losers

Handing out labels following Skins games, this time a 35-25 win over Buffalo to move to 7-7 and stay in first place.

Winners

Kirk Cousins — Another perfect game for the Sundance Kid. Was serenaded after putting five total TDs on the board, and probably $5 million-plus on his free-agent deal.

DeSean Jackson — Six catches on eight targets for 153 yards, including a 77-yard score. DeSean is now tied for second in NFL history with 20 career touchdowns of 60 yards or more (Jerry Rice holds the record with 23). Doubt there will be any “keep him or cut him?” D.C. sports talk radio segments this week, as there were just two weeks ago.

Jordan Reed — Blew a block to lose eight on a first-and-goal rush, but c’mon, seven catches on seven targets for 84 yards and two TDs. His next score will be his 10th of the season, and he missed two games.

Pierre Garcon — It was nice to see him get a score. I guess there was enough to go around.

The Hogs — Just one sack allowed and very few penalties (the entire team was only penalized for five yards today).

Preston Smith, Jason Hatcher, Ryan Kerrigan, Ricky Jean-Francois and Will Blackmon — All these dudes sacked Tyrod Taylor. Bonus: Kerrigan’s was a strip-sack on third down inside Buffalo’s 10.

Terrance Knighton — His big ass was largely to thank for that first-half goal line stand, which ended with Buffalo going for it out of the shotgun on fourth-down from the one-foot line, attempting a fade that ended up out of bounds.

Jay Gruden — Two consecutive wins! First time this season.

The Carolina Panthers — Thank you for beating the Giants. Keep pounding, at least until you meet Washington in the NFC Championship of our dreams.

Losers

Replay review — The play shown above was not overturned, giving Jack Nicklaus’ grandson Nick O’Leary a 37-yard gain on his first NFL catch.

Jamison Crowder — Muffed a PR in Buffalo territory, up 21 in the first half. This is the first bad thing I’ve ever said about him, other than that he went to Duke.

The Buffalo Bills — Haven’t made the playoffs since 1999, and they’re not making it this year either.

Medium

Bashaud Breeland — Hopefully Sammy Watkins getting behind him for a 48-yard TD is fuel for fire.

Alfred Morris — Was great seeing him break off a 48-yarder near the end of the first, but I have no idea why he stayed in bounds, hurting the Skins chances of putting more points on the board. I’m just nitpicking now.

Redskins-Bills Predictions

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As ever, these are our crackerjack staff’s predictions for Week 15. Make yours down in the comments. Whoever comes closest gets to make a guest post on this here weblog.

Andy Peden: Redskins, 27-24

Skins win only cause it will build the hype for the Saturday night national TV game against the Eagles. (Preview: We lose.)

Todd Davis: Bills, 23-21

Something is very stinky about this line (Bills -1). Scares me to death. The funny thing will be losing this one but still being in the exact same position vis-a-vis the division going into next week as the Bandwagon really thins out.

JP Finlay: Redskins, 24-20

Quick look at that line and it’s pretty interesting. Almost 75 percent of the action is on Buffalo, and instead of dropping the line to get more even distribution on Washington, Vegas is instead upping the vig to take the Bills (-105 to -115). This means a Bills bet costs more, which means Vegas makes more money if Skins win.

Matt Terl: Bills, 24-17

Maybe I should be more optimistic, but all I see is doom and gloom and fumbles and interceptions. I can’t help it.

Chris Mottram: Redskins, 31-20

I have some friends who are big Skins fans, so for their sake I really hope the Panthers can win this one against the Giants. It’ll be tough, though — Carolina is banged up, and it’s on the road. Still, New York is not a very good team and Cam & Co. have plenty left to prove to all these haters out here on the Internet. 14-0.

Jack Kogod: Bills, 23-17

This has become a chore on par with emptying the dishwasher.

Jamie Mottram: Redskins, 20-17

The Redskins can’t be trusted, but this season is taking on the feel of the 2005, ’07 and ’12 seasons, when Washington snuck into the playoffs after entering December with six losses. Since 1999, it’s our only hope.

Composite prediction: Redskins, 22something-21something

Redskins-Bears Winners & Losers

Handing out labels following Skins games, this time a 24-21 win at Chicago that I watched about half of.

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Winners

Kirk Cousins — The Skins won on the road, and Cousins posted a decent game away from home too! The 104 rating and 300 yards are nice, but he threw two of the worst passes you’re ever going to see, one of which was picked and one of which was a miracle. He still comes away smelling like a rose.

Jordan Reed — Nine catches on nine targets for 120 yards and what should’ve been two touchdowns. Didn’t commit a penalty either, which is progress. Has officially put together one of the best TE seasons in franchise history.

Matt Jones — Eighty-six total yards, and he could be excused for that weird fumble.

Ryan Kerrigan — Picked up another sack, his fourth in four games.

Terrance Knighton — Got his first sack of the season. Just seemed to be tearing shit up.

Trent Murphy — Second straight week with a sack. Forced a fumble this time, too.

Jay Gruden — Six wins. They could lose out, which would suck, and this season would still qualify as a success. Win two of the last three, though, and we’re talking about a smash hit.

Losers

Alfred Morris — Twenty-four yards on 11 carries. Is now averaging a pitiful 3.4 yards/carry this season. Did score his first TD, though.

The offense after turnovers — HOLY SHIT IT’S FREE MONEY JUST PICK IT UP

The Redskins social media dept.Oops.

Medium

Pierre Thomas — Nice to see a midweek pickup contribute right away, even if it was just one catch. My favorite part about the acquisition? He had 4.9 yards/carry and an 82% catch rate with New Orleans last year. My second favorite part? The Redskins offense now has two guys named Pierre.

Redskins-Bears Predictions

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As ever, these are our crackerjack staff’s predictions for Week 14. Make yours down in the comments. Whoever comes closest gets to make a guest post on this here weblog.

Todd Davis: Redskins, 22-21

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I honestly think this team has gotten to the point where it’s underrated and definitely better than its record. They give us one more week at least.

Matt Terl: Bears, 28-16

They lose a close one this week and then pack it in to coast to the end of another miserable season.

JP Finlay: Redskins, 24-22

After last week it’s hard to imagine they win again this season. But this team rarely does what’s expected (like last week), and might actually respond. I think the offense looks different this week, and the Bears D wont know the Skins scheme as well as Dallas did. Alshon Jeffery will probably have a monster game, though. They haven’t won on the road, but they also haven’t lost two in a row since Week 6.

Andy Peden: Bears, 23-19

Season ends in failure. Finish up at 6-10 while the Eagles win the division at 8-8.

Chris Mottram: Bears, 24-16

This is it. This is the one. The Falcons are in a free fall, but are still in the Wild Card hunt with a ton to play for. It’s a rivalry game, the Panthers have already locked up the division, and Atlanta is capable of being a great team, as we saw earlier in the season. Carolina loses, but who cares, keep pounding.

Jack Kogod: Bears, 27-20

Daaaaa Bears! You know, like the old skit? Yeah, love me some Bears football.

Jamie Mottram: Bears, 24-16

Whatever. Let’s go back to a happier time in Skins-Bears lore.

Composite prediction: Bears, 24-19

Redskins-Cowboys Predictions

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As ever, these are our crackerjack staff’s predictions for Week 13. Make yours down in the comments. Whoever comes closest gets to make a guest post on this here weblog.

Todd Davis: Cowboys, 17-16

This is the inevitable soul-crusher. Only thing I’d take the over on here is DJax post-game comments re: play calling.

Matt Terl: Cowboys, 22-21

My head says maybe Washington should win this one, but my gut agrees with Todd: this has “crushing loss to underwhleming Dallas backup QB” written all over it. I’m setting the over/under on Clint Longley references from Friday through Tuesday at 76.

JP Finlay: Redskins, 30-21

Don’t think the bad loss comes this week. Skins win and cover. But watch out in Chicago …

Andy Peden: Redskins, 27-10

It’s going to be one extreme or the other. Either we crush Dallas something like 27-10 or we give away this game because of turnovers to lose 21-20. My gut says the Skins are not the Skins of old and we are actually headed in the right direction, which means everyone should take the other option.

Chris Mottram: Redskins, 31-17

It’s a rivalry game, so you never know what to expect, but I just don’t see this one being close. I mean, the Saints are awful this year. No way they hand the Panthers their first loss. It won’t even be close. The worst 11-0 team in the history of the universe will be 12-0, but still not very good and led by a fraudbaby overrated quarterback, according to the Internet.

Jack Kogod: Redskins, 20-13

I think I’m going to make chili this weekend with RedZone on in the background.

(Ed. note: The Redskins-Cowboys game is on Monday Night Football.)

Jamie Mottram: Redskins, 24-13

If the Skins win this one, as they should, pack it up — this season will have already been a smash hit. Not sure I could jinx it any harder than that.

Composite prediction: Redskins, 24-16

Redskins-Giants Winners & Losers

Handing out labels following Skins games, this time a 20-14 win over NY.

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Winners

Kirk Cousins — On the first drive, Cousins floated an out to the left sideline. Watching live, it appeared the Giants CB cut on the ball and caught it going the other way for a pick-six. In that moment, things had gone to pot real quick, just like the last Giants game. Fortunately, he dropped the ball. Cousins went on to complete 69% of his passes for 302 yards and a 114 QB rating. Wish he’d play like this on the road. (His rating at home is a Brady-esque 111; on the road it’s a Foles-esque 71.)

Quinton DunbarThe undrafted WR-turned-CB made a big INT in the end zone, then shrugged off a finger injury in which the bone was sticking out. NO BIG DEAL.

Alfred Morris — Nothing spectacular, but he was well-fed (23 carries). It’s good when he’s well-fed.

Matt Jones — No fumbles! Also took a screen pass 45 yards.

The O-line — Did you see the blocking on that 45-yard screen? Also gave up no sacks and got the run game going a little bit.

Bashaud Breeland — Odell Beckham Jr. got his, but Breeland went toe-to-toe with the NFL’s best.

The whole dang secondary — Not sure how this patchwork bunch did it, but they picked Eli Manning three times, holding him scoreless through three.

Ryan Kerrigan — Looked great and picked up two sacks. Now on pace for 9.5, exactly in line with his 2011-14 average.

DeSean JacksonScored a 63-yard TD, after backpedaling across the goal line, as one does.

ODBSuch a bad man.

Jay Gruden — It’s December, and the Redskins are in first place. Holy shit.

Losers

Medium

Jordan Reed — Three penalties in the first quarter. Also eight catches on nine targets for 98 yards. Now has a career high in yards (541) and is catching 73% of balls thrown his way.

Special teams — Allowed a blocked FG. It’s been awhile since they gave us much to complain about.

Redskins-Panthers Predictions

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As ever, these are our crackerjack staff’s predictions for Week 11. Make yours down in the comments. Whoever comes closest gets to make a guest post on this here weblog.

Note: Predictions have been edited for brevity. Otherwise there would’ve been way too much shit about Star Trek and craft beer in here.

JP Finlay: Panthers, 24-20

I’m having a tough time with a read on this game. Part of me thinks the Skins will compete, but I fear that’s a residual effect of seeing the blowout win over the Saints. The Saints defense would be the worst in the ACC. And while Carolina is good, like somebody else said, they’re not gonna run the table, a loss is inevitable. Plus, the Skins almost made things interesting in New England. (If Gruden had kicked the FG instead of going for it on 4th & 11 they would’ve covered. But I’m not still mad. Promise.) I’m not sure this game will ever be as competitive as the final score will indicate, but I like Skins to cover.

Chris Mottram: Skins, 24-17

This one always tears families in our hometown of Charlotte apart — Grandpa remains loyal to the Redskins, the only team the area had pre-Panthers, but us younger fans who have been with the Panthers since birth bleed Black and Blue. I have a bad feeling about this one. The Redskins will hand Carolina its first loss. But it’s OK; at least Grandpa will be happy. He deserves to be happy. .

Matt Terl: Panthers, 27-15

I can’t shake the feeling that we’re due for the return of Bad Kirk.

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Todd Davis: Panthers, 23-17

This is actually not a terrible matchup for the Skins. Washington can’t cover anyone, but even though Cam’s playing great, the Panthers have literally no receivers outside of Olsen (who will surely have a billion catches). Of course, Cousins getting baited into an INT by Davis/Kuechly when the game’s on the line is the most obvious thing of the season. Love Wicked Weed, but if you want to watch a game at a brewery in Asheville, Asheville Brewing is the better choice — that’s where I’ll be for this one.

Jack Kogod: Panthers, 27-17

Panthers > Redskins, BUT 3 Stars > Wicked Weed. WHO WANTS TO FIGHT?

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Andy Peden: Panthers, 23-17

If the Skins win, then it’s a week of playoff talk which is unusual for late November. Obviously, Carolina isn’t running the table, but I don’t think the Skins are the team to beat them. BTW, who drinks beer anymore?

Jamie Mottram: Panthers, 20-17

It’s been a hell of a week.

Composite prediction: Panthers, 23-18

The Redskins Don’t Seem Like Playoff Longshots

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According to the fanciest of fancy stats web sites, FiveThirtyEight, here’s how the NFC East playoff chances look entering Week 11:

*Giants 46%
*Eagles 44%
*Redskins 17%
*Dallas 3%

How are the 4-5 Redskins closer to the 2-7 Cowboys than the 4-5 Eagles or 5-5 Giants? The Giants and Eagles do have more net points (20 and 28, respectively) than the Redskins (-4), but that’s hardly enough to make such a big difference. Plus, the Skins have a pretty favorable schedule.

I think what’s happening here is that the Elo model, which FiveThirtyEight’s projections are based on, takes last season into account. As we know, the Skins were not very good! They won four games. New York won six, Philly 10 and Dallas 12.

Other playoff predictors don’t seem to take that into account. For example, PlayoffStatus.com:

*Redskins 39%
*Giants 38%
*Eagles 30%
*Dallas 1%

Now that’s what I’m talking about. That said, I’ve never heard of PlayoffStatus.com, so let’s turn to an old reliable, Football Outsiders, and their playoff odds, which are based on their well-regarded DVOA metrics:

*Giants 42%
*Eagles 40%
*Redskins 24%
*Dallas 2%

Not great, but certainly better than FiveThirtyEight, and you can bet your ass I would’ve taken a 24% chance back when the season started. Hell, I would’ve taken it a week ago. And I’ll take it now, even if I still don’t understand how Philly is so damn high.