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Need to Know: Redskins' season reaches a tipping point

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Need to Know: Redskins' season reaches a tipping point

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, October 20, five days before the Washington Redskins host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Tandler's Tuesday Take Two: The Redskins’ season is reaching a tipping point

For the first four weeks of the season, all seemed to be going pretty well for the Redskins. They were 2-2 and accomplishing their preseason goals of being able to run the ball and stop the run. Quarterback Kirk Cousins was not lighting the league on fire but he looked like at least a competent game manager with whom the Redskins could have at least some limited success. So little was expected of the Redskins that they were being called a pleasant, if modest, surprise team.

But then the last two games happened. The Redskins didn’t look bad overall in Atlanta but their ability to run ball well came to a grinding halt (51 yards rushing) and they couldn’t stop the run (Devonta Freeman, 153 yards rushing). And Cousins was wobbly with his accuracy most of the day and threw two interceptions, the second of which was returned for the game-winning touchdown in overtime.

That was bad, the Jets game was worse. The Redskins gained only 34 yards on the ground while New York’s Chris Ivory rolled for 146. Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick almost outgained the Redskins as a team, scrambling for 31 yards. Cousins again threw two picks, including one that set up a momentum-changing touchdown in the third quarter.

Now the Redskins are 2-4. Next up they host the Tampa Bay Bucs, a team that beat them 27-7 at FedEx last year in a game that was not even as close as the 20-point margin would indicate. The Redskins take their bye week after that. In November they have two road trips to play the unbeaten Patriots and Panthers. In between those games they play at home against the Saints, who are also scuffling at 2-4 but they have a major advantage at quarterback with Drew Brees. After the road trip they face the Giants, who are shaping up to be the class of the division.

I wrote last week that the Redskins are more a middle of the pack team than one of the bottom feeders and one injury-hampered loss to the Jets doesn’t necessarily change that. But they are coming to a stretch of the schedule where they are facing teams who are clearly better. That is why Jay Gruden declared that this game against the Bucs is a “code red”, as in one they must win.

If they don’t win this Sunday and you figure that the game in New England is a sure loss, that would put the Redskins at 2-6 at midseason and working on a four-game losing streak. A year ago they were 3-5 after eight games and on a two-game winning streak. While Scot McCloughan didn’t necessarily thing that the Redskins would contend for the playoffs this year, he, Bruce Allen, and Dan Snyder were certainly looking for some degree of improvement. Being in what looks like a sinking ship certainly wouldn’t look like improvement.

One game won or lost won’t necessarily change the ultimate fates of Gruden, Cousins, and other players and coaches. But there will be a big difference in the feel around Redskins Park between going into the bye with a win and going in with three straight losses and a near-certain fourth looming their first week back.

A convincing win would be better but perhaps we shouldn’t look for more than baby steps from this team, especially given that they are still likely to have some injured front-line players out against the Bucs.

In any case, Gruden certainly seems to be rallying the troops harder in this one than he has in any of his previous 22 games as a head coach. “Code red” is not a card you want to play often because eventually you lose credibility. But it’s out there this week and we will see how the Redskins respond.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Player meetings, no media availability

Days until: Bucs @ Redskins 5; Redskins @ Patriots 19; Saints @ Redskins 25

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

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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.)