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Bold Predictions: Talkin' Tiki

Bold Predictions: Talkin' Tiki

Speaking of an upcoming Super Bowl, iconoclastic Dallas running back Duane Thomas once said, “If it’s the biggest game of all time, why are they going to play another one next year?”

A similar question could be asked this week. If last week’s game against Dallas was the biggest ever at FedEx Field, what do you call the one against the Giants this Saturday?

It’s not the elimination game that we saw last week with the loser being virtually out of the realistic playoff picture. The Redskins could lose and still qualify for the playoffs with a win the next week in Philadelphia with some help that is not too far-fetched (basically, having Dallas, Atlanta, and Minnesota do no better than split their final two games). Even if the Giants lose, they will still be in control of their own destiny as a win the next week in Oakland would clinch the NFC East for them regardless of the outcome on Saturday.  

Despite the absence of desperation, there is a lot at stake here. The Redskins have pulled themselves up from a 5-6 mark at the beginning of December to having their playoff destiny in their own hands and they don’t want to relinquish their grip on the postseason spot and the potential for a division title. New York would like to clinch the division early and aim towards a possible first-round bye.

And then there’s that little matter of 36-0. The Redskins simply can’t afford to let a statement like that stand, especially since it’s likely that their opponents in the first round of the playoffs would be none other than the New York Giants.

One the defensive side, it’s pretty simple—don’t let Tiki Barber beat you. Eli Manning was over hyped in the beginning of the year but now that’s fading because his performance is. In three December games, Manning’s quarterback rating is a dismal 54. He is, however, managing the games well; the Giants are 3-0 in those games.

Managing the game isn’t too hard when that consists of handing the ball off to Barber. The 30-year-old back has averaged 150 yards a game in December and has gone over 100 yards rushing in each of his last five games. Everyone remembers his performance against the Redskins in October when he rushed for 206 and set the tone for the rout by tearing off a 57-yard run on New York’s first play. Don’t forget that he racked up those yards in about three quarters of work. Like Kobie Bryant the other night, he put up his number and declined to pile it on in the late going with the game well in hand, preferring to rest to fight another day.

One thing that the Redskins have in their favor is that Barber is a better running on turf than he is on grass. He averaged 5.4 yards a carry on the fake stuff and just 3.8 a pop on real grass. There is a chance that both of their starting offensive tackles will miss the game, but neither played last week and that bothered Barber so much that he only ran for 220 yards against the Chiefs. The Redskins can give Tiki his 100, but every yard over that will diminish the Redskins’ chances.

The Giants will have a similar goal; they need to stop Clinton Portis. The Redskins’ three-game winning streak has coincided with a return to an emphasis on the ground game.

As Mark Brunell’s pass attempts have gone down, his quarterback rating has gone up. Other than the ugly 34 caused by the three interceptions in Arizona, he hasn’t been below a 96.8 rating in the past four games. Jon Jansen and Chris Samuels will make it their personal challenges to keep Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora off of Brunell’s back, something they failed to do last time around.

It’s difficult to imagine the Redskins posting a second easy win in a row, just as it’s hard to believe that the Giants will dominate to anywhere near the extent they did last time. The Giants are the slightly better team. They have won two more games than Washington against a similar schedule. The Redskins have the home field. The noise helped force about a half dozen false starts by Dallas last week and the crowd could have come up with a few more had the game been competitive in the second half.

And the Giants just aren’t a good road team. Their only wins away from the Meadowlands (their game against the Saints in Giants Stadium is officially a “road” game) have been in San Francisco and Philly. They haven’t been successful in an atmosphere like they will encounter in FedEx Field all year.

Barber will get his yards and New York will put up some points, about half of what they put up in the Meadowlands. Manning will throw for a touchdown or two but he’ll also toss up a couple of interceptions. Brunell will get knocked around some but Portis will be effective enough to keep his pass attempts around 20. The Redskins will score midway through the fourth quarter to take the lead, but the Giants will battle back. A couple of false starts will push back a field goal attempt and the Redskins will survive.

Redskins 20, Giants 17


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Scot McCloughan simply said what plenty of others think about Kirk Cousins

Scot McCloughan simply said what plenty of others think about Kirk Cousins

Redskins fans were frenzied when Scot McCloughan said that Kirk Cousins is a good quarterback, but not a special one. The #KirkHive shuddered and the Kirk Haters celebrated.

McCloughan, the former Redskins GM who's wildly popular with fans, explained what few people will say publicly: Cousins is a skilled player but probably not deserving of the money he might make in free agency. 

Let's start with the obvious: Cousins is good.

He's a durable passer in a league that doesn't have enough of them. He's started the last 49 games for the Redskins and thrown for more than 4,000 yards each of the past three seasons. 

Now more obvious: He isn't great.

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Bleacher Report's Chris Simms, speaking on the #RedskinsTalk podcast, said Cousins ranks about 12th among NFL passers. It's top half of the league, but it's not Top 5 or even Top 10. 

Cousins has had tremendous games with the Redskins, like a near perfect performance against Oakland in 2017 or a dominant performance against Green Bay in 2016. 

Cousins has also been awful, as recently as Week 17 in New York a few weeks ago, or an equally stinky Week 17 game against the Giants two seasons ago. 

While some might view McCloughan's statement as controversial — "He’s a good player. Is he special? I don’t see special," he told Denver radio station 104.3 the Fan — it's not. 

Plenty of people agree with McCloughan, including some in Redskins Park. Last year, a source told NBC Sports Washington that the team believed they could get nearly as much production from Colt McCoy as Cousins provided. 

Even this year, Washington head coach Jay Gruden offered lukewarm praise of his quarterback.

When the season ended, asked to evaluate Cousins' play, the coach said, "When you’re 7-9, it’s hard to say, ‘Wow, this guy really was outstanding.’ There’s a few guys obviously that jump out, Pro Bowlers like Ryan Kerrigan had a solid year. Obviously Trent [Williams] when he played was a Pro Bowl-type and Brandon [Scherff] when he was healthy was a 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."

That quote made headlines when Gruden said it, much like McCloughan's comments now are circulating faster than Beltway traffic. 

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Truth is, it's not new. And it's not news.

There are coaches that think Cousins is only scratching the surface of his capabilities. Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay come to mind, but both of those coaches have other QBs likely for the long-term future. 

Cousins might end up being paid like a Top 3 quarterback in the NFL, and that might be the right move given the demand at the position. Will that make him a special passer?

Not if special is defined as Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees. Even Cousins wouldn't argue with that.

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Redskins Fan of the Year bracket: Which Washington supporter deserves the title?

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Redskins Fan of the Year bracket: Which Washington supporter deserves the title?

Every week during the 2017 Redskins season, NBC Sports Washington found two Redskins fans in the crowd and paired them in a head-to-head matchup on Twitter to determine the fan of the game.

And now that the season is over, it's time to take each of those winners, throw them into a NCAA Tournament-style bracket and let Twitter pick the Redskins Fan of the Year.

Starting on January 8 over on the @NBCSRedskins Twitter account, one matchup a day will be posted at 11 a.m., and fans will have 24 hours to vote for their favorite supporter by retweeting or liking depending on their preference. Week 1's winner will face off with Week 17's, Week 2's will play Week 16's, etc.

The winners will advance, and eventually, one member of the Burgundy and Gold faithful will stand above all the rest, earning the coveted title of Redskins Fan of the Year. 

Check out the results below, which'll be updated every day. To see the tweet that corresponded with each matchup, click the link after the date, but remember, retweets and likes submitted after the 24-hour period won't be counted.

ELITE 8 RESULTS

January 18: Round two, matchup one

The first Elite 8 matchup was... not close:

January 19: Round two, matchup two

The Elite 8's second tilt is underway. Vote now:


FIRST ROUND RESULTS

January 8: Round one, matchup one

This was a close one that came down to the last-minute, but at the 24-hour mark, Week 17's winner garnered justtttttttt enough retweets to move on.

January 9: Round one, matchup two

In this tournament, a giant Redskins chain is apparently worth more than a giant football hat.

January 10: Round one, matchup three

In the tournament's third showdown, we have our first winner from the Likes side:

January 11: Round one, matchup four

Was there anyway she wasn't gonna win, especially with the little Hogettes nose?

January 12: Round one, matchup five

Our fifth matchup's winner earned the most retweets of anyone up to this point:

January 15: Round one, matchup six

These three 'Skins fans had to witness Washington's Thursday night flop in Dallas, so it's only fair that they get to advance to the second round:

January 16: Round one, matchup seven

You'd think a turkey hat would be enough to capture a W, but not in this one:

January 17: Round one, matchup eight

The Elite 8 is now set with this showdown going to the retweets side: