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Is a blowout in the air?

Is a blowout in the air?

When the Washington Redskins embarked on this stretch of three "easy" games, the one that was supposed to carry them to 7-1 at midseason, I wasn't buying it. My thinking was that in the three games there would be a loss, a close win, and a blowout win.

We got the loss against the Rams and the close win against the Browns. Is there a Motown blowout in the offing as the Redskins visit the Lions?

A simple look at the statistics would lead one to believe that a blowout win for the Skins is a distinct possibility. The Redskins are a top-ten defense and the Lions are bottom feeders on offense. Washington is third in the league in rushing offense, averaging 158 yards a game while Detroit is 31st in rush defense, allowing over 167 yards per game. And teams aren't running against the Lions because they can't throw—they are 31st in pass defense and dead last in total defense.

There is one number comparison to look at, however, that may well determine whether or not the Redskins can put this one away early. The Lions have been awful starters. In six games, they have been outscored 54-0 in the first quarter. Most of that came from their first game, when they trailed Atlanta 21-0 at the end of one and their last game, when the Texans went up 14-0. Still, every team they have played has scored in the first quarter and the Lions have yet to dent the scoreboard in the opening stanza.

The Redskins, however, aren't exactly blazing out of the gates either. They have been doubled up in the first quarter, scoring 17 points and giving up 34. Other than the one-play drive after Steven Jackson of the Rams fumbled at the three, the Redskins haven't posted a first-quarter point since the opening drive of the Arizona game on September 22.

Against the Rams and the Browns, the Redskins played right into the hands of the underdogs. They let the other, inferior team hang around and eventually each game came down to a long field goal attempt. One was true, one was wide right and the Redskins split the two games.

To their credit, the Lions have not quit after falling behind early. They answered the Falcons' 21-point blitz with 14 unanswered in the second period. After falling behind Green Bay 21-0 they rallied to take a one-point lead in the fourth quarter before collapsing in a barrage of Packer pick-sixes.

So the trap is set. If the Redskins can't get an early cushion the Lions have the ability to get their act together and put on a serious scoring run. The Redskins could find themselves looking up at the wrong end of a six-point game with the Ford Field crowd screaming for the home team's first win.

Jim Zorn will need to go out aggressively and try to put up a quick score or two in order to take the momentum. Maybe this is the game for Devin Thomas, returning to his home state, to score his first NFL touchdown. Maybe this is the game for Jason Campbell let loose against the defense that he torched for 248 yards and two touchdowns at FedEx Field last year. Maybe Clinton Portis will pick up a buck-ten on about 18 carries thanks to the effectiveness of Campbell and watch Shaun Alexander finish out the game.

Maybe all those things will happen and it still will be a close game, anyway. The Redskins own the fourth quarter and they'll have to again to hold off a game Lions team.

Redskins 27, Lions 21

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Need to Know: Quarterbacks win championships and other lessons for the Redskins

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Need to Know: Quarterbacks win championships and other lessons for the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, January 22, 51 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL franchise tag deadline (3/6) 43
—NFL Draft (4/26) 94
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 230

Quarterbacks win championships and other lessons the Redskins can learn

Quarterback matters: We had the setup of the three castaway and ridiculed quarterbacks leading their teams into the NFL’s final four. But the two who survived were one of the greatest of all time and one who found his groove and had 10.7 yards per attempt and a 141.4 passer rating. Yes, Tom Brady and Nick Foles had a lot of help and we’ll get into that in a minute. But without excellent play from their quarterbacks, it may have been a different story for the Eagles and Patriots. This doesn’t mean that the Redskins need to spend send truckloads of money to Kirk Cousins’ house, but if they don’t, they do need a quality alternative. You won’t win with Bortles-level play.

Defense matters: The Vikings rolled right down the field on their first possession and it looked like the Eagles defense was going to have a long night. But then Chris Long got pressure on Case Keenum leading a pick six that apparently energized the Philly defense. Rookie Derek Barnett knocked the ball out of Keenum’s hand when the Vikings were threatening to make a game of it. Minnesota came up empty in its last eight possessions. As the Eagles offense started to build a lead, their defense played faster and more aggressively. At this point, the Redskins don’t have the personnel or the mindset to play that way on defense.

Does running really matter? It’s a small sample size here but in the two games yesterday it did not. The Patriots ran for all of 46 yards. The Eagles got 110 but at the point in the third quarter where they took a 31-7 lead, they had 202 yards passing and 40 yards rushing. Running the ball was not decisive in either game. Offensively, the games were won in the air. Jay Gruden’s “pass happy” approach can be a winning approach.

Stay aggressive: At times during the year, Cousins expressed some frustration in the Redskins’ inability or perhaps unwillingness to keep the pedal mashed to the floor when they had a lead. I hit on the Eagles’ aggressiveness on defense, but their offense didn’t slow down either. They were up 21-7 when they got the ball on their own 20 with 29 seconds left in the first half. In that situations, the Redskins—and, in fact, most other teams—would run a draw, throw a short pass, and let the clock run out. But Doug Pederson was having none of that. Passes for 11, 36, and 13 yards got them down to the Vikings 20 and they kicked a field goal to close out the half. If the game wasn’t over then it was early in the third quarter when Pederson called a flea flicker and Foles hit Torrey Smith for 42 yards and a touchdown.

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.

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What can the Redskins learn from the Eagles run to the Super Bowl?

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What can the Redskins learn from the Eagles run to the Super Bowl?

For Redskins fans, it's probably a tough pill to swallow that the Eagles are in the Super Bowl. Making matters worse, Philadelphia got to the championship game without their star quarterback Carson Wentz.

Beyond the feelings that fandom incites, which are real and severe, what does the Eagles' breakthrough season mean for Washington? Let's take a look. 

Perhaps the most incredible part of the Eagles' success is that wunderkind QB Wentz is not at the helm. The second-year player was an MVP candidate all season but got injured late in the year. Nick Foles, the Philly backup, took over and played well in both Eagles' playoff wins. 

Does that mean much, if anything, for the Redskins? 

Some will argue it means Washington should not look to invest top dollar in QB Kirk Cousins. Foles is not considered a top-flight quarterback and still was able to maneuver his squad to the Super Bowl.

Whether or not that argument makes sense, Redskins fans should prepare to hear a lot of it over the next two weeks. 

There is also a theory that the Redskins should eschew spending at QB in favor of spending on defense. 

That may very well be the right move, but don't look to the Eagles to support the theory. 

Philadelphia spent $47 million on the defensive side of the ball in 2017. On offense, they spent $56 million.

What is definitely true?

The Eagles played terrific football in the postseason, and catapulted through the NFC by playing the underdog role.

Redskins fans might hate it, but the Eagles absolutely earned their Super Bowl appearance. 

That doesn't mean Redskins fans have to like it. 

Philadelphia has never won a Super Bowl. 

Now, standing in the way of their first Lombardi Trophy: Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. 

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!