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Bold Predictions: Take the Home Dog?

Bold Predictions: Take the Home Dog?

These aren’t the ’85 Bears, people.

They’re not even the ’05 Colts.

No doubt the Redskins face a very tough task on Sunday in facing the 6-4 San Diego Chargers at FedEx Field. But from listening to people talk and reading the message boards, you’d get the feeling that the typical Redskin fan thinks that he has a better chance of catching Jennifer Aniston on the rebound from Brad Pitt than the Redskins do of winning this game.

Such thinking goes to show you just how pervasive and overpowering the “what have you done lately” mentality is when people look at the NFL. Two and a half weeks ago the Chargers had just won to pull themselves up to .500 at 4-4. Washington had just beaten Philly to move to 5-3 and the playoff talk flowed freely in the Redskins locker room. Since then, the Chargers have gone to the Meadowlands, where the Jets had the ball inside the San Diego 10 with a chance to pull out a win in the waning moments before falling, and they have pummeled the Buffalo Bills, a team without a quarterback. For their part, the Redskins lost (according to the zebras anyway) a tough game on the road to a 7-3 Tampa Bay team and then led for most of the game against Oakland before losing.

These events have led to a view of the Chargers that is somewhat inflated and a view of the Redskins that is much more bleak than their body of work this season would suggest. Washington has won five games, San Diego has won six. The Redskins’ five victims have a combined record of 28-23 while the six teams the Chargers have beaten are 29-31. On the other side of the ledger, all of San Diego’s losses have come at the hands of teams with winning records while Washington’s loss to Oakland was the only one that wasn’t a “quality” loss.

The other factor in play that has made the Chargers not just the smart money pick but the choice of cash of all IQ’s is the Marty factor. This line of thinking says that Marty Schottenheimer will have his team primed to play so that he can stick it to his old employer just like Norv did last week. I’ve underestimated the psychological edge on occasion so far this year (see my prediction on the Giants game in the wake of owner Wellington Mara’s death as Exhibit A), but I don’t see this being a big edge for two reasons. First, Schottenheimer has remained on friendly terms with Dan Snyder and the rest of the organization. Second, Joe Gibbs is likely to have his troops quite well prepared, their motivation being survival in the competition for playoff spots.

The fallout of the past two weeks and, presumably, the Marty factor, has led to the Chargers being a three-point road favorite. I don’t follow such things very closely, but I would guess that, over the course of an NFL season you will find very few instances of a team being a home dog to a team that has won just one more game.

And, like most home dogs under most circumstances, I expect the Redskins to cover but not win. LaDanian Tomlinson won’t pile up a lot of yards on the ground but will be effective catching Drew Brees’ passes out of the backfield. Santana Moss should get untracked but Clinton Portis won’t. San Diego will get an early lead and hold off Washington at the end.

Chargers 23, Redskins 21

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No tension between Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, but the coach wants improvement 

No tension between Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, but the coach wants improvement 

MOBILE -- Jay Gruden is making jokes about Kirk Cousins again, and that's good news for Redskins fans that worried about a fracture between coach and quarterback. 

It all started in the weeks following the Redskins dreadful Week 17 loss to the Giants as Gruden and Cousins seemed to be throwing slight jabs at one another.

Gruden, in his end of year press conference, explained that while Cousins "showed flashes" in 2017, when the team goes 7-9, the coach can't say any player was outstanding: 

You know when you’re 7-9, you know it’s hard to say, ‘Wow, this guy really was outstanding.’ You know there’s a few guys obviously that jump out, Pro Bowlers like Ryan Kerrigan had a solid year. Obviously Trent when he played was Pro Bowl type, Brandon when he was healthy was Pro Bowl type guy. Kirk had his flashes where he was really good. From a consistent standpoint, over the course of 16 games, you know we’re 7-9. He did some great things, threw for over 4,000 yards and 29 touchdowns I believe. So, I think he’s a very, very good quarterback without a doubt, but as far as getting us over the hump from 7-9 to winning a division with all the injuries that we had, I think he competed and did some good things.

Cousins, in his year-end radio appearance with 106.7 the Fan, explained that he wants the team to do better but doesn't think the 7-9 record should fall on his shoulders alone. (Quote via Washington Post)

What I gathered from the comment was 7-9 and the quarterback play are causally related and that quarterback play is 7-9, 7-9 is the quarterback play. I saw that and I thought, ‘I think it’s slightly more complicated than that.’ I think there’s a few more dynamics in play as to what your final record is. … At the same time, his job is to evaluate. That’s a big part of his role and his position. In that comment, he’s just doing his job, he’s evaluating the position and he has the right to say what he wants to say.

Both comments were fairly innocuous, but also clearly at odds. Combine that dialogue with the undercurrent of another offseason contract negotiation, and it seemed things between coach and quarterback weren't quite right. 

On Tuesday, speaking at the Senior Bowl, Gruden cleared the air. Asked directly about tension between he and Cousins, the coach was blunt. 


Gruden went on to explain his answer about Cousins 2017 play, the now infamous 7-9 line.

"When I say 7-9, if I say one player played great that means I'm saying everybody else was not very good," the coach explained (full video above). "I think we all have to stick together, we all have to improve from a 7-9 season, coaches, players, everybody."

Cousins was good in 2017, throwing for more than 4,000 passing yards for the third straight season. He also showed that he can produce offensively without a great supporting cast, as injuries robbed the Redskins of many of their best passing game threats and seriously damaged the offensive line. 

The quarterback did play two terrible games in the last month of the season, however, including a three interception stinker in the Week 17 finale.

It's possible that Gruden had that fresh in his mind when he spoke in early January, and with the benefit of a little time, his assessment mellowed by late January. 

Either way, Gruden joked about Cousins deserving a vacation, and even said the QB needs a tan. Gruden often uses humor to defuse touchy situations with Redskins players, and maybe he just did it again. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Redskins have begun contract talks with Zach Brown, but free agency looms

Redskins have begun contract talks with Zach Brown, but free agency looms

Redskins fans want Zach Brown back. Bad. And for weeks there had been no news about contract talks between Washington and Brown. 

Now that's changed.

"We've been talking to his agent," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said on Tuesday. 

Gruden, speaking from the Senior Bowl, explained that the team would like Brown back in 2018 but Washington also understands that the linebacker might want to explore the free agent market. 

"It’s a process," Gruden said (full video above). "These guys have a chance to be a free agent, they had a good year and they want to check what the market is sometimes. If we can get them before they get to free agency, great, but if not, the bidding wars will begin."

For Brown, free agency will look different in 2018 than it did last season when he signed a one-year. bargain deal with the Redskins. 

Prior to injuries forcing him to miss the final three games of the season, Brown led the NFL in tackles. For two straight years, 2016 in Buffalo and 2017 in Washington, Brown has proved to be a tackling machine and arguably the fastest linebacker in the NFL. Brown also signed new representation last offseason, Jason and Michael Katz of CSE Football, and should Brown hit the free agent market the Katz brothers will aggresively market their client. 

Washington Senior Vice President of Football Operations Eric Schaeffer will handle the contract discussions for Washington, and is known as a shrewd negotiator. 

Like many business deals, this will come down to money. Brown established himself as a fit in Washington, both on the field and in the locker room. Interior linebackers do not command top dollar like pass rushers do, but Brown will still expect to be compensated appropriately. 

Further complicating matters for Washington, the Redskins only have Josh Harvery-Clemmons, Zach Vigil and Martrell Speight under contract for 2018. 

It's too early to predict what "it's a process" means from Jay Gruden, but Redskins fans should draw some encouragement that talks have begun with Brown. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!