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Cousins appreciates his next, and possibly last, big chance

Cousins appreciates his next, and possibly last, big chance

This Sunday, for the first time since 2011, Kirk Cousins will take the first snap of his team’s season. The game four years ago was in East Lansing, Michigan and Michigan State’s opponent was Youngstown State. This Sunday has the bigger spotlight of the NFL as the Miami Dolphins come to FedEx Field.

Many players in Cousins’ situation would tell you that this Sunday is just another game, another opportunity. But Cousins isn’t afraid to admit how important starting the season opener again is to him.

“That’s certainly a focus for me is being able to understand yes, it’s a big game, yes, it’s important, but I’m the kind of guy who is going to acknowledge that,” said Cousins. “It’s my job to almost stay relaxed and enjoy the process and enjoy the moment, have fun and put a smile on my face. I think that’s certainly a point of emphasis for me this week. Like you said, haven’t been in this position in a few years so it’s a cool opportunity though. Last time I did it, in 2011, the season went alright. It was a good year. Hopefully, we can have the same thing this year.”

The 2011 Spartans went 11-3, losing the Big Ten championship game to Wisconsin. If the Redskins post double digit wins and lose a playoff game the season would certainly be considered “a good year”.

Perhaps more relevant to Cousins immediate situation is that this is his first start since October 19 of last year. In the first half against Tennessee that day he lost a fumble and threw an interception, helping the Titans go into the locker room with a 10-6 lead. Colt McCoy took over in the third quarter, led the team to a comeback win, and Cousins didn’t take a snap again the rest of the year. It gave him time for some thought and for some regret.

“I think, like I said, anytime you have a job to do and you feel like you didn’t get the job done, it’s going to eat at you if you care about it,” he said. For me I deeply care about it and so it was eating at me. It was important then to say, ‘Alright, what do I do now? What do I do about it now?’ Obviously I couldn’t go right back on the field and try to fix it. But that may have been a good thing to just be able to go back and learn from it and slowly try to grow and build off of it.”

He was the inactive third quarterback for much of the rest of the season so he did not need to spend time going into the coming week’s opponent in great detail. Cousins spent time looking at film of successful quarterbacks and of himself.

“I felt like, I’ll go back and just study my own game and try to improve my own perspective,” he said. “You’re always looking at how can I get better, with the circumstances around me and the situation I am in. What can I do to get better and deliberately practice, whatever that is.”

Quarterbacks don’t often get another chance if they are buried on the bench like Cousins was last year.

We will see how much Cousins’ self-study pays off starting with his next, and perhaps last, big opportunity on Sunday.

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2018 NFL Draft order has Redskins pick nearing top ten as losses stockpile

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USA Today Sports Images

2018 NFL Draft order has Redskins pick nearing top ten as losses stockpile

LOS ANGELES — Some years, the December talk is of playoff tiebreakers.

Other years, it’s about draft position.

This is one of those “other” years.

The Redskins’ current skid of four losses in their last five games has knocked them out of playoff contention but into more favorable position in the 2018 NFL Draft, which is scheduled to take place in late April.

The Redskins' record is 5-8 through Week 14,  and if the season ended today, Washington would be picking either 11th or 12th in the first round.

Here’s the big picture: As of today, there are eight teams that have fewer wins than Washington. All of them would be picking ahead of the Redskins. 

The Bengals and Jets also have eight losses so the one and only draft order tiebreaker would be applied.

RELATED: NEW 2018 NFL MOCK DRAFT 3.0

This does not work out well for the Redskins.

The NFL Draft tiebreaker is strength of schedule with the teams with the weaker schedules getting the better picks. I am sure you have heard about how tough a schedule the Redskins have all year long. It was a point of pride for many fans. But now it comes back to bite them.

The Jets (opponents winning percentage .488) and the Bengals (.444) have faced weaker schedules than the Redskins (.574). That pushes Washington back to 11th.

RELATED: FEW UPS, MANY DOWNS VS. CHARGERS

But there is a Week 14 game pending. The Dolphins, who have seven losses, play the Patriots on Monday Night Football. If they lose and join the eight-loss group, they would jump ahead of the Redskins based on the SOS tiebreaker, pushing Washington back to 12th.

Of course, the season doesn’t end today and a lot can happen.

But if the bottom doesn’t completely fall out it seems likely that they will end up somewhere between 10th and 12th in the first round.

We will be looking at what that might mean for the Redskins in the coming days and weeks as the offseason comes early for the Redskins one more time.

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NFL Playoff Picture: NFC bracket projection starting to come into focus

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USA Today Sports

NFL Playoff Picture: NFC bracket projection starting to come into focus

The NFC Playoff picture is no clearer in Week 14 than it was in Week 8.

Throughout the 2017-18 NFL season, the NFC in particular has been a gauntlet. So much of a gauntlet that one of the league’s best in the past five years, the Seattle Seahawks, sit outside of the postseason with an 8-5 record.

As of the conclusion of Week 14’s action, only the Philadelphia Eagles (11-2) have locked up a postseason spot.

The Eagles claimed the NFC East for the first time since 2013 with a win over the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. The will clinch a first round bye with a win and losses by the Saints and the Panthers this weekend.

The Minnesota Vikings (10-3) with their loss remains second in the conference, still within striking range over the overall No. 1 seed.

With losses to the two teams ahead of them, the Rams (9-4) have a tough hill to climb to claim a first-round bye, but first they need to get back in the win column.

For the WildCard berths there was a wrench thrown into many teams plans with the Atlanta Falcons (8-5) defeating the New Orleans Saints (9-4) on Thursday night. Atlanta owns a tiebreaker over pretty much every team chasing them for the final playoff spot.

For the five remaining unclaimed spots in the postseason, 10 teams are still alive.

After Week 15 though, that number could dwindle down significantly.

RELATED: NEW 2018 NFL MOCK DRAFT 3.0

NFC Playoff Picture Week 15

NFC PLAYOFF BRACKET PROJECTION:
— #1 Philadelphia Eagles* (11-2) vs. BYE
— #2 Minnesota Vikings (10-3) vs. BYE
— #3 Los Angeles Rams (9-4) vs. #6 Atlanta Falcons (8-5)
— #4 New Orleans Saints (9-4) vs. #5 Carolina Panthers (9-4)

NFC TEAMS IN THE PLAYOFF HUNT:
— Seattle Seahawks (8-5)
— Detroit Lions (7-6)
— Green Bay Packers (7-6)
— Dallas Cowboys (7-6)
— Arizona Cardinals (6-7)

NFC TEAMS ELIMINATED PLAYOFF PICTURE:
— Washington Redskins (5-8)
— Tampa Bay Buccaneerrs (4-9)
— Chicago Bears (4-9)
— San Francisco 49ers (3-10)
— New York Giants (2-11)

SEEDING NOTES:
— Eagles own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Rams, Panthers.
— Vikings own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Rams, Saints, and Falcons.
— Saints own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Panthers.
— Rams own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Saints.
— Panthers own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Vikings.

WILD CARD NOTES:
— Panthers own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Lions.
— Falcons own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Lions, Packers, Cowboys, and Seahawks.
— Lions own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Cardinals.
— Packers own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Seahawks, Cowboys.
— Cowboys own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Cardinals.

Week 15 NFC Games With Playoff Implications:

Sat., Dec 16: Bears at Lions (4:30 p.m.)
Sun., Dec 17: Bengals at Vikings (1:00 p.m.)
Sun., Dec 17: Jets at Saints (1:00 p.m.)
Sun., Dec 17: Eagles at Giants (1:00 p.m.)
Sun., Dec 17: Cardinals at Redskins (1:00 p.m.)
Sun., Dec 17: Panthers at Packers (1:00 p.m.)
Sun., Dec 17: Rams at Seahawks (4:05 p.m.)
Sun., Dec 17: Cowboys at Raiders (8:30 p.m.)
Mon., Dec 18: Falcons at Buccaneers (8:30 p.m.)