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Need to Know: This time, it's really a must-win for the Redskins

Need to Know: This time, it's really a must-win for the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, November 7, the day the Washington Redskins visit the Minnesota Vikings.

This time, it's really a must win

After the Redskins lost their opener to the Eagles, some members of the media asked the players if their next game against the Packers was a “must-win”. No, the players said. It was too early.

The same line of questions came up after they lost in Green Bay and prepared to play the Lions. No, they said. Even though 0-3 was not a place where the defending division champs wanted to be, their season wasn’t over if they lost to Detroit.

And so on. Before virtually every game this season someone asked the “must-win” question. And the answer was usually no.

This week, the question wasn’t asked much if at all because the answer is obvious.

Tonight’s game against the Vikings is a must-win game.

For one thing, the Redskins are running out of games. Yes, they were 3-6 last year before embarking on their season-ending run to the division title and they would again be 3-6 if they lose this game. But they can’t keep digging a hole every year and then rely on being able to climb out of it. There is a reason that just four of the 110 teams that started 3-6 since 1990 have made the playoffs—it’s hard to do. The odds of pulling it off for the second year in a row are extremely daunting.

But the main reason they have to win tonight is because if they can’t beat the Vikings you have wonder who they can beat. Their season is in a free fall at 1-7. They have had a revolving door at quarterback; they have tried two different players to replace Christian Ponder but neither Matt Cassel nor Josh Freeman could play well enough to keep Ponder on the bench. They have running back Adrian Peterson and not much else on offense.

On the other side of ball then do have Jared Allen who once was a feared pass rusher. But this year he has given his team 4.5 sacks in exchange for a cap figure in excess of $17 million. Their defense is ranked 29th.

Their talent level is further depleted by injuries. Five Vikings have been ruled out of tonight’s game including a starting cornerback and safety on defense and their starting tight end and right tackle on offense. Meanwhile, the Redskins could dress and play all 53 players if the rules permitted.

In short, even though the Redskins are not exactly world beaters at 3-5, this game is a mismatch. Given the Vikings’ injuries the only position on the field where they have an advantage over the Redskins is at running back. And even there isn’t not a huge advantage; Peterson has just 25 more yards rushing this season than does Alfred Morris (711-686) and Morris has a considerably better average yards per carry (Morris 5.2, Peterson 4.6).

All that said, it’s an NFL game and anything can happen. If things don’t happen the right way for the Redskins tonight they will be 3-6 and a week of talking about another lost season will ensue. If they win they will move to 4-5 and will be able to sit back and see if they can get some help from the Saints (hosting the Cowboys) and the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers (hosting the Eagles). If those games turn out well for the Redskins they will be in second place just a half game out of the division lead.

But it all starts with tonight’s must-win game.

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Stat of the day

—The Redskins’ opponents in the games they have played so far have a cumulative record of 38-28. The teams they have beaten are 12-12 and the teams they lost to are 26-16.

Timeline

—Days until: Redskins @ Eagles 10; Monday night 49ers @ Redskins 18; Giants @ Redskins 24

—Today’s schedule: Redskins at Vikings 8:25.

In case you missed it

Tandler in Redskins Nation

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Redskins Fan of the Year bracket: Which Washington supporter deserves the title?

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Redskins Fan of the Year bracket: Which Washington supporter deserves the title?

Every week during the 2017 Redskins season, NBC Sports Washington found two Redskins fans in the crowd and paired them in a head-to-head matchup on Twitter to determine the fan of the game.

And now that the season is over, it's time to take each of those winners, throw them into a NCAA Tournament-style bracket and let Twitter pick the Redskins Fan of the Year.

Starting on January 8 over on the @NBCSRedskins Twitter account, one matchup a day will be posted at 11 a.m., and fans will have 24 hours to vote for their favorite supporter by retweeting or liking depending on their preference. Week 1's winner will face off with Week 17's, Week 2's will play Week 16's, etc.

The winners will advance, and eventually, one member of the Burgundy and Gold faithful will stand above all the rest, earning the coveted title of Redskins Fan of the Year. 

Check out the results below, which'll be updated every day. To see the tweet that corresponded with each matchup, click the link after the date, but remember, retweets and likes submitted after the 24-hour period won't be counted.

January 8: Round one, matchup one

This was a close one that came down to the last-minute, but at the 24-hour mark, Week 17's winner garnered justtttttttt enough retweets to move on.

January 9: Round one, matchup two

In this tournament, a giant Redskins chain is apparently worth more than a giant football hat.

January 10: Round one, matchup three

In the tournament's third showdown, we have our first winner from the Likes side:

January 11: Round one, matchup four

Was there anyway she wasn't gonna win, especially with the little Hogettes nose?

January 12: Round one, matchup five

Our fifth matchup's winner earned the most retweets of anyone up to this point:

January 15: Round one, matchup six

These three 'Skins fans had to witness Washington's Thursday night flop in Dallas, so it's only fair that they get to advance to the second round:

January 16: Round one, matchup seven

There's still time to vote on this one:

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Who will be the Redskins' core offensive players three years from now?

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Who will be the Redskins' core offensive players three years from now?

Just before training camp, I took a stab at figuring out who on the Redskins roster would still be with the team and contributing in the year 2020. Now that the season is over, let’s revisit that look, move it up to 2021, and see how much the picture has changed. The offense is up today, the defense later this week.

The terms used here are mostly self-explanatory. If you want details you can look at this post from a couple of years ago.   

Offense (age as of Week 1 2021)

Potential blue-chip players: Brandon Scherff (29), Morgan Moses (30)
Changes from last prediction: Moses added, removed Trent Williams (33), Jordan Reed (31)

Scherff and Moses both are two young players who should get better with more experience. The right side of the line will be in good hands assuming the Redskins will be able to re-sign Scherff, who will be a free agent following the 2019 season.

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Williams will be 33 in 2021. He can play at a very high level at that age but I think he will be just below the perennial Pro Bowl status he enjoys now. Although I think that the Redskins can still get some good play out of Reed in the next couple of years, it’s hard to imagine him staying productive into his 30’s. He is under contract through 2021 but it’s hard to see him playing in Washington past 2020.

Solid starters: Jamison Crowder (28), Josh Doctson (27), Chris Thompson (30), Williams
Changes: Doctson, Thompson, Williams added, Kirk Cousins (33), Terrelle Pryor (32), Moses removed.

I’m probably higher on Doctson than most. I don’t see him attaining All-Pro status or catching 100 passes in a season but his physical talent is so good that he will be a solid, productive receiver for the next several years. The Redskins will need to find a third receiver but they will have two good ones in Crowder and Doctson.

Third-down back isn’t technically a starting position but Thompson should still be contributing as much to the offense as many starters.

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I think that Cousins will be a solid starter somewhere in 2021 but it is not looking like it will be in Washington. Pryor obviously did not work out and he is very likely to be playing elsewhere next year.

Potential starters: Spencer Long (30), Rob Kelley (28), Samaje Perine (25), Chase Roullier (28)
Changes: Added Roullier, moved Doctson up

Long could be a fixture on the O-line in 2021 or he could be signed by a different team in March. I don’t think that Kelley or Perine will be workhorse backs but either or both could be a part of a tandem. Roullier could move up to the “solid starters” category if he can repeat what he did in a small sample size (7 starts) in 2017.

There are other players who could end up on these lists a year from now. But we haven’t seen enough of 2017 draft picks TE Jeremy Sprinkle or WR Robert Davis to offer an intelligent assessment of where their careers are headed. It’s the same with undrafted linemen Tyler Catalina and Kyle Kalis. They might not make the team in 2018 or they could be competing for starting jobs in 2019.

There also are reserves like Ryan Grant (30) and Ty Nsekhe (35) who still could be on the roster but who would only be spot starters.

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.