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Week 13 Redskins at Cowboys: Before a stretch run, Washington must get even

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Week 13 Redskins at Cowboys: Before a stretch run, Washington must get even

The Redskins travel to Dallas for a Thursday night with two big opportunities: Draw even on the season, and get revenge for a home loss a few weeks back. This game amounts to a prequel to the playoffs for both teams, as each squad sits at 5-6 and with slim hopes of pushing for a Wild Card spot. 

A win for either team means continued life in the chase for a playoff spot. A loss, and a record of 5-7, likely spells the end of postseason aspirations. 

BE SURE TO TUNE IN TO NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON+ THURSDAY AT 7 P.M. FOR A SPECIAL 30 MINUTE TRIBUTE TO THE LATE SEAN TAYLOR. 

Plenty is on the line, not to mention one of the oldest and most bitter rivalries in the NFL. There is plenty to watch and take notice, but here are the three biggest to monitor:

  1. Running in different directions - The biggest headline in Dallas these days is the continued absence of star running back Ezekiel Elliott, who's out serving a six-game suspension. The contest against the Redskins will mark the fourth straight contest Zeke will miss, and without him, the Cowboys offense has collapsed. Dallas hasn't scored double digits in their last three contests, and has been blown out in consecutive national television contests. The Redskins, meanwhile, suddenly appear to have found their ground game. In consecutive games, rookie running back Samaje Perine has gone over the 100-yard mark, the first time that's happened in the Jay Gruden era. Washington will again look to feature Perine on the ground, and Dallas will hope that former Redskins star RB Alfred Morris can get their offense moving again. 
  2. Better, and worse - Injuries have been a major subplot, maybe even the main plot, to the Redskins 2017 season. Stars like Chris Thompson and Jonathan Allen hit the injured reserve, and a slew of other important players have missed games. Near the top of that list would be Pro Bowlers Trent Williams and Jordan Reed. Williams, the star left tackle, looks like he will play in Dallas, good news after he missed the Thanksgiving win over the Giants. Reed, however, will miss the Cowboys game, and the whispers about his eventual return don't seem good. The star tight end hasn't played since before Halloween, and speaking to reporters, Gruden couldn't say if Reed's return would come in "one week or four weeks." 
  3. Too good to ignore anymore - Kirk Cousins and the Redskins have weaved a curious quilt, one without any long-term commitment but plenty of guaranteed cash. Usually the conversation around Cousins talks about a QB that is good, but not great. Cousins stats in 2017 disprove that theory. Washington's sixth-year quarterback has numbers that are better than any passer in the league not named Tom Brady, Carson Wentz or Drew Brees. Don't believe it? Check the stats. The QB has an opportunity to cement his name among the top tier of the NFL if the Redskins can win out and force their way into the playoffs, especially as Cousins runs the point of an offense without deep receiving threats, an oft-injured offensive line and missing their Pro Bowl tight end. Cousins knows what is in front of him, but won't lose sight of the immediate task at hand either, "We have got to go 1-0 each week. If we do that, we do have a chance at the end of this season, but we can’t put ourselves in that position at the end of December unless we win this week. So there is really no point in looking beyond this week and that’s where I am going to focus."

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Jay Gruden talking about Kirk Cousins' 2017 performance.

I think his progress, I mean, you would be a blind man if you don’t see him making huge strides throughout his career. So I have been impressed with Kirk [Cousins] and his progress. I just think there is so much more for him to grab as far as getting better and better. The sky is the limit for him.

News & Notes

  • Vernon Davis needs 49 yards to become the ninth tight end in NFL history with 7,000 career receiving yards. 
  • The Redskins rank third in the NFL with less than six penalties per game.
  • Zach Brown is first in the NFL and the NFC with 110 tackles.
  • Kirk Cousins is first in the NFL in passing plays of 25 yards or more with 32. He ranks second in the NFL in passing yards, behind only Tom Brady
  • At 22 years old, Kendall Fuller is the youngest member of the Redskins to record at least four interceptions in a season since Sean Taylor’s four-interception season at 21 years of age in 2004.

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Where does Stefon Diggs' remarkable catch rank among some of the best NFL playoff walk-offs?

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Where does Stefon Diggs' remarkable catch rank among some of the best NFL playoff walk-offs?

There is nothing quite like January playoff football and Sunday night's Vikings vs. Saints game further proved this point.

In case you have been off the grid the past 12 hours, the Minnesota Vikings literally got a last second win against the New Orleans Saints.

With 10 seconds left in the fourth and facing a 3rd and 10, quarterback Case Keenum heaved the football near the sideline to wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who dodged two defenders while managing to stay inbounds for a 61-yard touchdown as the clock expired. 

It was one of the most remarkable playoff walk-off wins, if not the most remarkable one, in football.

So, where does it stand among the others?

RELATED: FORMER TERP PLAYS HERO IN VIKINGS' MIRACLE PLAYOFF WIN

Broncos vs. Steelers 2011 AFC Wild Card game: Remember Tim Tebow's 80-yard overtime touchdown to Demaryius Thomas during the 2011 Broncos vs. Steelers AFC Wild Card game? It was the first and last snap of overtime and it was wild.

Mile High Miracle: On third and three with 43 seconds left in the game, Ravens' Joe Flacco launched one towards wide receiver Jacoby Jones, who got in front of the Broncos receiver and ran the ball in for a 70-yard game-tying touchdown. The Ravens would eventually go on to win the game in double overtime. Some could argue it was the defining moment in the Ravens' Super Bowl run. 

Cardinals vs. Steelers Super Bowl XLIII: Under the brightest lights of all, Ben Roethlisberger found Santonio Holmes with 43 seconds in the fourth in the back of the end zone for a toe-dragging, Super Bowl-winning catch. 

RELATED: WHAT REDSKINS CAN LEARN FROM THIS WEEKEND'S PLAYOFF GAMES

Saints vs. 49ers 2012 NFC Divisional game: Sunday's loss wasn't the first time the Saints have experienced a fourth quarter letdown. Back in 2012, Alex Smith threw one to the endzone on 3rd-and-three with 14 seconds left that sealed a win.

While these are only a few, we can't wait to add more to the list in years to come.

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Redskins can't base Kirk Cousins decision on the makeup of the final four

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Redskins can't base Kirk Cousins decision on the makeup of the final four

For many fans who would like to see the Redskins move on from Kirk Cousins, the case was closed by the results of the divisional playoff round.

When the dust settled from the weekend, three of the four winning quarterbacks were Nick Foles, Blake Bortles, and Case Keenum. In Foles and Keenum, two journeymen who were free agents last March, available to any team that had a million bucks or so of salary cap space. Bortles was the third overall pick of the 2014 draft but he was widely viewed as a big-time bust.

MORE REDSKINS: WHAT CAN THE REDSKINS LEARN FROM THE PLAYOFFS?

So, to some the lesson was that you can roll any random quarterback out there and if you have some other pieces in place you can get to the final four.

Not so fast, my friend. Such thinking is based on a small sample size. This year is very much an outlier in terms of the quarterbacks who make the conference championship games. Let’s expand the sample size and look at the final four QBs standing in the previous six seasons.

2016: Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger

2015: Cam Newton, Carson Palmer, Peyton Manning, Brady

2014: Russell Wilson, Rodgers, Brady, Andrew Luck

2013: Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, P. Manning, Brady

2012: Kaepernick, Ryan, Joe Flacco, Brady

2011: Brady, Flacco, Eli Manning, Alex Smith

There are 13 different quarterbacks here. Ten of those, Ryan, Rodgers, Brady, Roethlisberger, Newton, Palmer, Wilson, the two Mannings, and Luck, are true franchise type quarterbacks. Of those, five were first overall picks in the draft, Ryan was the third pick, and Roethlisberger was the 11th, and Rodgers went later in the first round. Only Wilson and Brady were late-round finds.

Of the three others, Smith (1st overall) and Flacco (18th) were first-round picks. Kaepernick was a high second-rounder.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

At the time of their playoff games, all of the 13 quarterbacks were on the teams that drafted them. None of them were looking for work the previous March, or at any time, for that matter.

As the Redskins decide if they should make a desperation attempt to retain Cousins or let him walk and start over at the most important position on the field, which data point should they consider? The most recent season in front of them, or the six prior years (and many more before that)?

Let’s say you’re looking to sell your house and you want to figure out a fair price. One comparable house down the street recently had sold for $200,000. But the previous six houses that sold in the last couple of months all went for around $300,000, Are you going to price your house based on the most recent sale? Or are you going to factor that in but pay much more attention to the six previous sales?

You have to step back and look at the larger sample size before using a particular set of facts as even a partial basis for a major decision with far-reaching ramifications.

With all that said, there are other factors at play besides what other teams have been able to accomplish. There are plenty of valid reasons for moving on from Cousins and those may outweigh the case for keeping him. But pointing to three quarterbacks on four teams and saying, “case closed” is way too simplistic an approach.

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