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Need to Know: Can the Redskins take advantage of their 2015 schedule?

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Need to Know: Can the Redskins take advantage of their 2015 schedule?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, February 16, two days before the Washington Redskins and the rest of the NFL assemble in Indianapolis for the NFL Combine.

Question of the day

We’re changing up the format of Need to Know for the offseason. Every day I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

Today's question is from the Real Redskins Facebook page:

I can’t find the Redskins’ 2015 strength of schedule ranking right now, (update: It's the 20th toughest/12th easiest, h/t Hogs Haven) but looking at it now they do have what appears to be a relatively easy go of it.

In addition to playing home and home against the NFC East teams, they are at home against the Bills, Dolphins, Saints, Bucs and Rams. They are on the road against the Patriots, Jets, Falcons, Panthers, and Bears.

Only three of those teams, the Patriots, Cowboys, and Panthers, made the playoffs in 2014. That makes four games against playoff teams since they play Dallas twice. Of the non-playoff teams on the schedule only the Bills (9-7) and Eagles (10-6) had winning records.

On the other end of the scale, the Redskins have seven games against teams that had double digit losses--the Giants (twice), Bucs, Rams, Jets, Falcons, and Bears.

But will such a schedule let them sneak into the (activate best Jim Mora imitation) playoffs? Playoffs? Are you kidding me? Playoffs?

Seriously, that’s highly unlikely. For one thing, the other three teams in the division have similarly easy schedules. They play the same AFC East and NFC South teams. The do have games against the NFC West and North that are tougher, but they also have the 4-12 Redskins twice. So Washington doesn't gain much of an advantage there.

And change is the one constant in the NFL. Some of the games that may look easy now will turn out to be tough contests. Although these usually even out with some successful teams from the year before falling back to the pack.

At this point, fans of every team the Redskins are playing have that game marked down as a win. Until the Redskins get out of the state where they are considered to be a soft touch on the schedule of every team they play they won’t be able to take advantage of any advantages the potential strength of their opponents may get them.

Timeline

—It’s been 50 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 209 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL free agency starts 22; Redskins offseason workouts start 63; 2015 NFL Draft 73

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Fantasy Football -- Thanksgiving Day plan

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Fantasy Football -- Thanksgiving Day plan

The Week 12 fantasy football rankings are out -- but when it comes to Thanksgiving Day, everyone wants some player regardless of where they slot overall. Don't overthink it and take a lesser player, but for those on the fence or simply looking for Thursday action, here are some recommendations for all three games.

Vikings @ Lions

Obvious: Vikings -- Wide receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs... running backs Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon are in the RB2/Flex discussion for most, but good luck picking between them; Lions -- Wide receiver Golden Tate and ... wide receiver Marvin Jones works in three-WR formats while quarterback Matthew Stafford is No. 14 among passers this week.

Start: Case Keenum averaged 19.3 points over the last four games while the Lions have allowed ample points to fantasy quarterbacks in that stretch, though only three touchdown passes. Having Thielen and Diggs up the potential for Keenum, who is QB17 in the Week 12 rankings. That's comparable with Matthew Stafford (QB14), Andy Dalton, Jacoby Brissett and ahead of Derek Carr.

Add: Not sure there's any fringe skill player worth taking a flyer on so take a look at Vikings kicker Kai Forbath. He's attempted at least three field goals in four of his last five games and he kicked five extra points in the lone exception. ... Some will start Ameer Abdullah based on their options, but just know the Vikings allow the second fewest points to fantasy tight ends this season.

Chargers @ Cowboys

Obvious: Chargers -- running back Melvin Gordon and wide receiver Keenan Allen; Cowboys -- Wide receiver Dez Bryant, running back Alfred Morris and... quarterback Dak Prescott, though his production is down without running back Ezekiel Elliott and left tackle Tyron Smith.

Start: This hasn't been a vintage Philip Rivers season, but he's coming off his best performance (251 yards, two touchdown passes) since Week 5. The Cowboys aren't that special in the secondary and have surrendered two touchdown passes in three consecutive games. At QB13, he's on the cusp of QB1 status in 12-team leagues. 

Add: Kickers Nick Novak (Chargers) and Mike Nugent (Cowboys) are 15th and 16th respectively. So, there's that. 

Giants @ Redskins

The obvious: Giants -- tight end Evan Engram and... running back Orleans Darkwa is a viable RB2 option against a Redskins defense giving up gobs of yards on the ground; Redskins -- quarterback Kirk Cousins, tight Vernon Davis and...running back Samaje Perine is RB12 this week, though listed as questionable on the injury report with a finger issue.

Start: Jordan Reed is out for a fourth consecutive game, meaning Vernon Davis once again is Washington's main tight end. While he hasn't provided wow performances like Reed at his Pro Bowl best, Davis has been good for a solid 8-11 since taking on a larger role starting in Week 3. This could be his best statistical week of the season. The Giants allow the most points to fantasy tight ends on the season. Opposing tight ends scored a touchdown in each of the first 10 games before the streak snapped Sunday.

RELATED: NEW AND IMPROVED WEEK 12 FANTASY RANKINGS

Add: Josh Doctson is only owned in 55 percent of leagues on CBS even though he's moved into the role of Washington's top outside receiver. The second-year player had four receptions for 81 yards in Sunday's overtime loss, though all the production came in the first half. Consistency is the next step, but Kirk Cousins is showing more and more confidence in the 6'3" target especially on 50-50 balls. Doctson is WR36 in my Week 12 rankings, meaning he's worth starting consideration in three-WR formats regardless.

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In addition to the Redskins, here is who you should be rooting for in Week 12

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USA Today Sports

In addition to the Redskins, here is who you should be rooting for in Week 12

It's crunchtime in the NFL, in particular for the Redskins. 

Standing at 4-6 on the season, the Redskins cannot afford to have another loss on their schedule. In the loaded NFC, though, they're probably going to need some extra help if they want to have any hope at making the playoffs.

MORE REDSKINS: 'DEMARCUS' COUSINS MISTAKEN AS 'KIRK' COUSINS IN NEWSPAPER

With an easier schedule now on Washington’s horizon, they'll start to chip away at the two-game deficit they face for the final playoff spot in the NFC. The issue is that they are competing against three 6-4 teams, two 5-5 teams, and two other 4-6 teams. That is eight teams in the race for only one spot in the postseason. 

Let's assume that the Redskins go undefeated the rest of the way, because first and foremost they have to take care of business to have a shot. That will take the Chicago Bears, New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers completely out of the Redskins’ race.

If your hope is that the Redskins will make the playoffs in the 2017-18 season, here are the other things to root for in Week 12, besides for the Redskins knocking off the Giants on Thanksgiving night:

Minnesota (8-2) over Detroit (6-4)
NOTES: The Vikings own the head-to-head over the Redskins so they are essentially 4.5 games up over Washington. Besides, someone has to win the NFC North and Minnesota should be the team you want.

LA Chargers (4-6) over Dallas (5-5)
NOTES: No explanation needed

Tampa Bay (4-6) over Atlanta (6-4)
NOTES: This is the only semi-tough one, but with the Falcons currently holding the final playoff spot the Redskins need them to lose. It will not be that hard for the Buccaneers to drop one more before the season is over.

NY Jets (4-6) over Carolina (7-3)
NOTES: Carolina is the No. 1 Wild Card team right now and the Redskins do not want them to get close to passing the Saints for the NFC South division title.

Chicago (3-7) over Philadelphia (9-1)
NOTES: One more win by the Eagles will eliminate Washington from the NFC East division title. While it is pretty much a foregone conclusion, there is still a chance...

San Francisco (1-9) over Seattle (6-4)

New Orleans (8-2) over LA Rams (7-3)
NOTES: Washington does not have the head-to-head over New Orleans but they do against the Rams. Los Angeles also has a worse record and will be easier to catch.

Jacksonville (7-3) over Arizona (4-6)

Pittsburgh (8-2) over Green Bay (5-5)

RELATED: WEEK 11 NFL POWER RANKINGS