FTW OG Ted Berg is ripping through the Grapefruit League, airing “Facebook Live” videos at each stop. So far he’s done the Tigers, Astros and Orioles, and every time he’s worn the same burgundy sweatshirt. It’s very strange.
It’s also a very cool look at baseball in February and, as Ted would say, “baseball guys doing baseball stuff.” He just kind of watches the players go through the motions, providing color commentary from behind his iPhone.
It’s mesmerizing, in a way, and it’s a good wintertime companion, as you sit at your desk tapping the keyboard, or what have you.
The Caps have 88 points already. That’s seven more than any other team in the league and 15 more than any other team in their conference. They’re basically the Warriors of hockey, running away with the regular season.
Of course, this year’s Warriors already have a championship under their belt, so the Caps are more like last year’s Warriors, is what I’m saying. Or at least I hope they are.
Ovechkin is Curry and Backstrom is Klay. Kutzy is Draymond. Justin Williams is Iguadola? That’s about as far as I can go with this, except Trotz is Kerr and Holtby is Bogut, the protector.
Washington looks like a lock for the 1 seed in the East and will probably be the No. 1 team in all of hockey heading into the playoffs. Problem is the Ovi-era Caps have been the 1 seed a couple of times before, and it didn’t go very well. They were the top team in the East in 2009-10 and 2010-11, losing in the first and second rounds, respectively. (Sorry to bring up old shit.)
Is that unusual, though? For 1 seeds to bow out early? No. Over the last 10 years, here’s how the NHL’s 1 seeds have fared …
2015: Rangers and Ducks both lost in the conference finals
2014: Bruins lost in second round, Ducks lost in second round
2013: Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, Penguins lost in conference finals
2012: Canucks lost in first round, Rangers lost in conference finals
2011: Canucks lost in Stanley Cup finals, Caps lost in second round
2010: Caps lost in first round, Sharks lost in conference finals
2009: Sharks lost in first round, Bruins lost in second round
2008: Red Wings won the Stanley Cup, Canadiens lost in second round
2007: Sabres and Red Wings both lost in the conference finals
2006: Red Wings lost in first round, Senators lost in second round
As the emphasis shows, only twice in the past 10 years has a 1 seed hoisted the Cup. Twice in 10 years or twice out of 20 teams that have earned 1 seeds — either way, not great!
Over that decade-long period, the typical 1 seed won 1.5 series — advancing to somewhere between second round and conference finals. So only slightly better than the average playoff team in general? (Though significantly better than the average Caps playoff team.)
We all know the hockey postseason is a bit of a crapshoot — who’s got the hot goalie, who’s got grit, who gets lucky. But this is ridiculous.
The 1 seed is meaningless, and these Caps almost certainly won’t enjoy the happy ending Golden State did in 2015. Make it fun while it lasts.
Update:Boswell wrote about the Caps and found some similar-but-sunnier stats, as Boswell does. The key points I’ll share here are a) the team with the best regular season record has won the Cup in eight of the past 28 seasons, which is better than two of the past 10, and b) four of the previous five teams with a goal-differential about as good as the Caps (factoring in strength of schedule) have won the Cup, which is very Warriors.
This seems ridiculous to write, but I think the Skins roll. Rodgers has been sacked 14 times his last two games. Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan have five sacks just between the two of them in the last two. It’s bad math for Green Bay between their slumping O-line and the Skins surging D-line.
Oh yeah, the Redskins offense is cooking. They will score. Wild Card round is usually about the hot hand; few are hotter than Kirk Cousins.
Are there reasons to worry? Of course. Aaron Freaking Rodgers ranks No. 1. And certainly some part of Gruden/McVay/Cousins could get tight. I just don’t see it happening though.
When you’re at a hot blackjack table, don’t get up.
I can’t believe, after everything, that this team has a home playoff game in which they were somehow (however briefly) favored. Like Kevin Stroop noted here earlier this week, that’s a hell of an accomplishment all by itself. I still feel like Rodgers and the Packers will wind up winning the game, but good on Gruden and Cousins and the Skins for even making this a conversation at all.
I’m completely with Finlay on this game. While it would be the most Washington thing to buck the very strong “hot teams win WC games” trend, Green Bay just can’t score consistently right now and the Skins shaky secondary really isn’t something the current group of Packers receivers looks capable of exploiting. Biggest concern is Turnover Cousins returning as playoff sphincters clinch, but he’s playing with house money and it would take an awful lot of disaster to knock this group’s confidence right now.
Andy Peden: Packers, 28-27
I said before the season I was no longer emotionally invested in the Skins. That probably wasn’t the right description. I think it was more like I’m not going to let the losses ruin my day, but I still care. So now that the unbelievable has happened (division champs) and I actually believe this team can win a playoff game, I will have my soul crushed Sunday.
BANDWAGON is out in full force. I’m still not on it though. My brother asked when I’d quit with the “don’t care about the Redskins” act, and I honestly don’t have an answer. I’m not sure what it would take to get me invested in this franchise again. The new GM is definitely a good start, but I still feel like it’s a long way off. That said, I would love for this team to make my friends and family happy again, even if it means Dan Snyder being happy.
The Panthers get the bye week they deserve (although you could argue Week 17 against the Bucs was one too lol) after proving to be the best team in football this season. I’m hoping they get to the play the Redskins in the Divisional Round cause that team SUCKS, but Carolina shouldn’t be afraid of whoever comes to town.
Given how little was expected, I’m happy with this season no matter what. Just like 2005 and 2007. And 2012, too, if not for the franchise-crippling injury at the end there.
The Redskins hired a real GM, found their quarterback (we think) and won the NFC East. All good things. All great things. But that doesn’t mean I’m just fine with a loss on Sunday.
You don’t root for nine wins, or the division, or to be hanging from the bottom rung of the NFL’s upper class.
They have about a 50-percent chance of winning Sunday. Then maybe a 40-percent chance on the road against Carolina or Arizona next week. And then maybe another 40-percent chance should they make it to the conference title. After that, let’s take it back up to 50, because who knows. There’s about a four-percent chance Washington goes all the way, is what I’m saying. That’s four points better than Dallas, Philly and New York.
Beat Green Bay, make it to the elite eight. Then go win the whole fuckin’ thing.
Guest writer and longtime Skins fanKevin Stroop stops by to give thanks before Sunday’s Redskins-Packers playoff game at FedEx Field.
This has to be one of the most unexpected division titles in Redskins history. As a fan, I am still in shock.
So how does this year feel different than the 2012 division title? Well, simply put, there were no expectations on this team this year. In 2012 there was a hint of optimism coming into the season. There was none of that this year.
We all remember the 2012 season and what that felt like. That second-half run to the playoffs and division title gave us a hint of what we thought was to come. The stadium in that week 17 game vs. Dallas was unlike anything I have ever felt. Euphoria doesn’t even begin to describe it.
We had invested so much in that team and expected so much that it felt like the payoff we deserved. We finally had a Super Bowl-winning coach and a game-changing franchise QB. Good times were ahead of us. Reality proved to be a lot different.
In 2015, we were still recovering from the aftermath of the 2012 season. The fans were apathetic. The team’s goals were simple: find out if they had a quarterback and show some improvement over last year’s four-win campaign.
Winning the division wasn’t even a consideration. For good reason, every single NFL prediction had the Redskins finishing in last place in the division. Vegas had them at 125-1 to win the Super Bowl and 15-1 to win the NFC East. Any sampling of NFL previews looked similar to this, from Bleacher Report:
This era of Washington football is dark and grim … General Manager Scot McCloughan has a long way ahead of him to rebuild this franchise, and [Jay] Gruden, while seemingly inept, appears to have job security heading into his sophomore season as the top dog. No one in Washington is thinking about laying it on the line for 2015. You shouldn’t be, either.
Earning the 2015 division title was a complete surprise. Clinching a division title in the NFL with eight wins is like finding $100 on the ground; you grab it and thank your lucky stars. Yes, the Redskins were fortunate to play in a bad division and they were fortunate to play only three teams with a winning record. But let’s not discount the team as pushovers.
They are 6-2 in their last eight games and also 6-2 at home. Kirk Cousins has put together an impressive string of games. The defense has come together and the Redskins have their key players on both sides of the ball playing well and staying healthy.
It’s not uncommon for a home team to defeat a team with a better record in the playoffs. And for all the talk about how bad the NFC East is, the Redskins were a respectable 5-5 out of the division.
Looking ahead, we do not know what 2016 will bring to this team. I think it is reasonable to assume the core will be back in Burgundy & Gold and we will eagerly anticipate the start of the season. There is no guarantee of a carryover to next season, though.
Occasionally, teams have this kind of year only to fade the next season. Look no further than the NFC East, where each team has won exactly two division titles in the last eight years, and no team has repeated as division champ since Philly in 2004.
In 2016, we may find out that Cousins is not a franchise QB. The team’s running woes may prove fatal. The defense may stink. The first-place schedule may bury them.
However, the NFC East should be there for the taking. Dallas should be better, but the Giants are doing Giants things, and the Eagles are recovering from the dumpster fire that is (was) Chip Kelly, so there is hope.
As for me, I am going to enjoy the ride this time, unburdened by expectations. I will be at the game on Sunday hoping for a win, but more than satisfied with the team if they lose. The enjoyment I’ve gotten from watching them this year has been found money, and I’m spending it without any regrets.
Kirk Cousins’ amazing 2015 regular season, capped off by a fantastic Week 17 performance, brought something obvious into focus: Washington hasn’t enjoyed excellent quarterbacking during the modern, pass-heavy era.
Cousins broke a franchise record with 4,166 passing yards, you see. That’s only good for 10th in the NFL this season, but it’s more than any Washington passer ever, breaking Jay Schroeder’s 29-year-old mark of 4,109 in 1986.
I hadn’t thought about Schroeder in some time, but when I did think of him a few things came to mind:
*He had really blond hair and a very strong arm.
*He spent a good long time in the Blue Jays farm system.
*He bridged the gap between Theismann and Williams-Rypien.
*He was a decent quarterback, but not quite good enough.
*He was traded to Oakland for Jim Lachey, who was awesome.
While that’s all true and interesting enough, I didn’t realize just how fascinating Schroeder’s career was. Behold its curious magnificence, via his Pro Football Reference page:
1. Washington went 24-7 in games started by Schroeder, and 2-1 in playoff games. QB wins are bullshit, but that’s incredible, and it’s a credit to those Joe Gibbs-led Skins teams (and certainly to Gibbs himself).
2. Schroeder threw 22 picks the year he set the record. That sounds like a ton, and it is, but it was also in line with his body of work and very much a sign of the time. Those 22 INTs tied Hall of Famers Phil Simms and Dan Fouts that year for fourth, and HOFers Warren Moon and Dan Marino threw 26 and 23, respectively.
3. His completion percentage that season was only 51.0%. And that’s actually slightly above his career average of 50.8%.
4. Schroeder was No. 1 in ’86 in yards per completion with 14.9. He actual led the NFL in this stat three times, and his career high was 17.0 with Oakland in ’89. (As a point of comparison, Cousins only averaged 11.0 this year, though he did complete 69.8% of his passes, so their yards per attempt were similar.)
5. His QB rating across three seasons with the Skins was only 73.0. That’s not great, even then. He did post a 90.8 with the Raiders in ’90, though.
6. He posted winning records with the Raiders and Cardinals, too. Schroeder went 32-25 across five seasons with Los Angeles and 5-3 in his one season with Arizona. He even led the Raiders to an AFC Championship game, meaning he was one win away from the Super Bowl with two different teams, going 12-4 both seasons. Not bad for a pretty mediocre, somewhat forgettable QB. (Or was he?)
Handing out labels following Skins games, this time a 34-23 win at Dallas.
Kirk Cousins — Threw three TDs in the first quarter to cap off a dream season, breaking Jay Schroeder’s 29-year-old single-season passing record in the process.
Colt McCoy — Relieved Cousins for his first action in 2015, showed that he’s still a quality backup.
Alfred Morris — First 100-yard game since Week 1.
Jamison Crowder — Five catches for 107 yards and a TD. Finishes with 59 catches in his rookie season, breaking Art Monk’s 35-year-old mark. Not bad for a fourth-rounder.
Will Blackmon — Created two turnovers on the goal line today, one of which was a brilliant strip.
Chris Baker — Picked up a sack and flopped on a loose ball to cap off a bit of a breakout season.
Rashad Ross — Was wide open for a 71-yard TD from McCoy, the first receiving TD of his NFL career.
Pierre Garcon — Tied a career high with his sixth TD catch of the year. Also made an unbelievable one-handed catch, but was out of bounds.
Jordan Reed — Four catches on four targets, making that 31 catches on 33 targets over the past four games, I believe.
Will Compton — First career INT. Fast becoming a fan fave.
Preston Smith — Finishes with five sacks in the final three games. Leads all rookies with eight on the season.
Ryan Kerrigan — After starting the season with 3.5 sacks in the first nine games, he finished with six in the final seven.
Ryan Grant — Nice to see him produce (three catches, one TD) in DeSean Jackson’s absence.
Tress Way — Four punts, 50 yards per, three inside the 20.
Jay Gruden — It was a good problem to have but a tough spot to be in. Rest the starters? Play them for a bit and then pull them out? Go for regular-season records? Go for the win? Whatever. The starters looked great, thus maintaining momentum (for what it’s worth), and the backups got in a good run too, plus they buried Dallas in Dallas. Delicate, and delicious.
Wishful thinking or insider information? Either way, I wasn't expecting to see Dallas RGIII jerseys today. pic.twitter.com/mvCwNzyxPS
I mean, I dunno. It’s a meaningless game for GOOD reasons for once. I’m sure something awful will happen (RIP, someone’s knee, probably), but they’ll still be in the playoffs afterwards! That’s cool! (I’m trying Kirk Cousins-style earnestness on for size.)
Even the backups have to be more motivated than the Cowboys playing out the string with Moore or Cassel. Also bet we see some inspired RB play given Pierre’s sudden emergence and the almost certain possibility that one of the Alf/Thompson/Jones/Thomas quartet won’t make the playoff roster. And I really hope we see as many backups as possible.
Andy Peden: Redskins, 27-16
Colt McCoy lights up the Cowboys again. Dallas gets the third pick in the draft.
After losing in Atlanta and proving that they are total frauds who can only win 14 games, the Panthers now are playing a meaningful game in Week 17 — if they lose and the Cardinals win, Carolina is the 2-seed. But that ain’t happening at home against the Bucs. The road to the Super Bowl goes through the Queen City.
Handing out labels following Skins games, this time a 38-24 division-clinching win at Philly.
Kirk Cousins — Second straight 300-yard game with four TDs and zero INTs. And it was all on him, too. He threw it 46 times, and they only had 57 yards rushing. The only time his rating has dipped below 100 in the past nine games was vs. New England and Carolina. That’s no empty stat, either; the Skins were 6-3 during that stretch.
Jordan Reed — Not sure I’ve seen another Redskins receiver, let alone a tight end, in the zone that Reed is now. His last three games: 26 catches on 28 targets for 333 yards and five TDs. FEED REED.
Preston Smith — Three-sack game for the rook, who lost his cousin to cancer earlier in the day. Now has seven sacks on the year and looks like a solid second-round pick for our one true GM.
Scot McCloughan — Give this man the Executive of the Year Award right now, if that is in fact an actual award.
Jay Gruden — Coach of the Year? Probably not, but to turn this team around from 7-25 in 2013-14 to 8-7 and an NFC East championship this year is a near-miracle.
Dashon Goldson — Made 10 tackles on a cracked rib. Was in for all 81 defensive plays too.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.