That sound you hear could be a door opening for the 2017 Redskins.
Aaron Rodgers is injured. The Cowboys were struggling with Zeke Elliott in the lineup and he may not play until after Thanksgiving. Seattle’s defense has been strong but their success could be limited by a weak offensive line. The Falcons are still haunted by blowing a huge lead in the Super Bowl.
The Eagles, who are the only one-loss team in the NFL, currently have the best record in the NFC and they are playing well. The Redskins get a shot at them Monday night. A win would put them in excellent shape.
The Redskins are one of eight NFC teams that have two losses. Of the others, the Packers could well be heading south without Rodgers behind center. The Redskins have beaten the Rams and they will get their shot at the Seahawks, Vikings, and Saints in the coming weeks. The other teams with two losses are the Falcons and Panthers. And the Redskins will get a chance to make the Eagles a two-loss team on Monday.
It is early in the season but not too early for the Redskins to take a look around and think about not only getting into the playoffs but doing some damage when they get there.
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They are a well-balanced and effective team on offense. This stat will shock many—The Redskins have just about as many rushing attempts as pass attempts. The play selection is 158 passes and 149 runs, a pass-run ratio of 51 percent to 49. Washington is sixth in the NFL in total offense and 11th in offensive DVOA.
Their defense is not dominant but it has improved. They have been fighting injuries; just when it looks like they may get Josh Norman back from a broken rib, Jonathan Allen goes out with a Lisfranc injury. They are 12th in total defense in terms of yards but they are fourth in defensive DVOA.
That doesn’t look like it adds up to a Super Bowl team but, as noted, it’s still early. The Redskins still have time to improve. Here is some low-hanging fruit they could grab over the next month.
Get another receiver or two involved in the offense—It’s kind of cool that running back Chris Thompson is leading the team in receiving yards with 340 and that 33-year-old tight end Vernon Davis is second with 225. But the Redskins’ offense could be much more productive if another pass-catcher can string together some big games. Between Terrelle Pryor, Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, and Jordan Reed, one or two could be on the verge of breaking out.
Get Rob Kelley healthy and rolling—The Redskins are continuing to run the ball despite the production not being where it needs to be. Kelley is averaging 4.5 yards per carry while replacement Samaje Perine is averaging just 3.0. If they can get the extra yard and a half per carry they get from Kelley for the rest of the season their offense will be very tough to stop.
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Make some plays on special teams—Jamison Crowder is 24th among the 26 qualifying punt returners with an average of 5.0 yards. His longest return was 12 yards, the shortest longest return among qualifiers (if you can follow along with that). Tress Way is 25th in net punting average. He had a chance to make life very difficult on a rookie QB on Sunday but his punt with a minute left landed five yards deep in the end zone. Dustin Hopkins, who will be out Sunday, has missed both of his field goals from beyond 50 yards and he missed a PAT against the 49ers. Add it all up and their special teams DVOA is 24th in the league. They need to make something happen.
Shut down something—The Redskins are in the middle of the pack in both opponent net yards passing attempt with 5.9 and in opponent yards per rushing attempt at 4.0. Most good defenses take away one aspect of the offense and make the other team beat them with a predictable attack. I think that the Redskins can improve their passing defense when they get Josh Norman back.
Certainly, there are some other “ifs” involved for the Redskins to become legitimate NFC title game contenders. They start on Monday in Philadelphia. If they can go in and get a win, they would be no worse than tied in the loss column for the best record in the NFC. If they lose, they fall 2.5 games behind the Eagles with Philly holding the head-to-head sweep.
It's too early to start sorting out tiebreakins scenarios but it's clear that the opportunity is there for the Redskins’ taking, we’ll see if they can step up and grab it.
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.