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Pros, cons, and X factors: Redskins vs. 49ers prediction

Pros, cons, and X factors: Redskins vs. 49ers prediction

Redskins at 49ers
Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
CBS

Let’s take a look at the pros, cons, and X factors for the Washington Redskins as they take on the San Francisco 29ers on Sunday and then I’ll give my prediction.

Here are two factors that work against a Redskins win:

—If a heavy road underdog wants to pull off the upset it almost has to win the turnover battle. There is little indication that the Redskins will be able to do that. Washington has a net turnover rate of minus-11 (21 giveaways, eight takeaways). The 49ers are at plus-10 (11 giveaways, 21 takeaways). There is an element of luck in turnovers so it could always turn around in a given game. But the chances are strong that the Redskins will wind up giving it away more than they take it away and that will make a steep hill to climb even tougher to navigate.

—Despite losing some key players, the 49ers defense has remained strong. They are in the top 10 statistically in almost every major defensive category including points per game (10th), yards per play (4th), rushing yards per game (6th), and passing yards per game (4th). It’s not an ideal week for an offense that mustered just seven points at home against a terrible Tampa Bay defense to be facing this unit.

Here are two factors in favor of a Redskins win:

—Despite the fact that they have a tough defense, one thing they have not done well is sack the quarterback. They have just 17 sacks, 25th in the NFL. Certainly the return of Aldon Smith to the lineup will help them; he had one QB hit and six hurries last week in his season debut after returning from a nine-game suspension. But if they can handle him, Robert Griffin III could have some time to throw.

—And if Griffin has time to throw he should have time to find DeSean Jackson deep. The Redskins could struggle offensively for long stretches but they have the ability to go the length of the field in one play and get back into the game.

And two X factors:

—I don’t think that the media storm this week will have much of an effect on Griffin’s play but I think Jay Gruden’s pointed public criticism will. It could either inspire him and push him to a solid performance or have him pressing so hard that he can’t do anything right. Or there could be some elements of both.

—The 49ers have been anything but a consistent team. They lost to the Bears and Rams at home. Last week at New York they had to scrape out a 16-10 win over the Giants despite picking off Eli Manning five times. They appear to be one of those teams that plays down to the competition. And after the Redskins game they play the Seahawks four days later, on Thanksgiving. Perhaps Washington will catch the Niners looking ahead.

So what will happen?

If we get a reasonably good version of Griffin, like the one we saw in Minnesota, this one could be competitive. The 49ers have won only one game by more than five points since the season opener so they are not a team that blows others out.

It’s still very difficult to see the Redskins winning. But it also was hard to see them winning in Dallas. That doesn’t mean I’m picking the upset. I think it will be an ugly game that the Redskins are in until the fairly late going.

49ers 16, Redskins 13

(record this year 5-5)

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Costly cornerbacks, offseason blueprint

breeland_vs_az_usat.png
USA Today Sports Images

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Costly cornerbacks, offseason blueprint

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, February 17, 25 days before NFL free agency starts.

The Redskin week that was

My weekly look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics on RealRedskins.com and NBCSportsWashington.com.

An offseason blueprint for the Redskins—Should the Redskins focus their free agency money on keeping their own? In addition to unrestricted free agents Zach Brown and Trent Murphy, they need to consider extensions for Brandon Scherff, Preston Smith, and Jamison Crowder. That could chew up a bunch of the approximately $31 million of cap space that they have. They may get some help on the market but most of their improvement should come from the draft and from within.

Redskins offseason will hit warp speed soon—With the exception of the Alex Smith trade, which actually hasn’t happened yet, there hasn’t been much going on with the Redskins. That is going to change soon, check out the post for the calendar and how the events matter for the Redskins.

No mixed messages from Alex Smith—In a radio interview, Alex Smith said that he was “jacked” to be a part of the Redskins. Now, the phrase often repeated here is that you shouldn’t listen to what they say, you should watch what they do. And the moment that he signs the reported four-year extension that he has negotiated with the team, a deal that likely would put him in Washington for the rest of his career, we will see his actions backing up his words. Then we will know.

What we know, and what we think, of the Su'a Cravens situation—This will be a true test of the acumen of the front office. It’s a very tricky situation. The Redskins have to decide if they want to keep Cravens. Should they decide to keep him, there will be a lot of smoothing over of ruffled feelings that would need to be done over and trust in Cravens would have to be restored. If they don’t want him around, they have to make it look like they are willing to go into the season with him in order to be able to trade him. Otherwise, teams may just wait for them to cut him and sign him as a free agent. Again, don’t listen to what they say, watch what they do.

Tweet of the week

Quarterback is not the only NFL position with rising salaries. The players teams hire to try to stop opposing QBs, cornerbacks, are getting expensive, too. Bashaud Breeland is a good cornerback, not a great one. His coverage skills are solid, he’s a good team player (if a bit of a hothead at times) and his work ethic is not questioned. For a fourth-round pick who everybody thought left Clemson a year too early, he has done well for himself But he hasn’t made a Pro Bowl and he hasn’t even come close enough to be considered a snub. Breeland has eight interceptions in four years in the league with a high of three in 2016.

The price tag for good at cornerback is likely to be in the vicinity of $10 million per season. And good for him if he gets it. But with the Redskins employing Josh Norman, who has cap hits in the range of $14.5 million-$16.9 million over the next three years, it would be difficult to fit him in. Truth be told, Breeland has probably been destined to leave as a free agent ever since Norman signed his contract in April of 2016.

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.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 12
—NFL Draft (4/26) 68
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 204

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Cousins would reportedly look to file grievance if Redskins use franchise tag on him

Cousins would reportedly look to file grievance if Redskins use franchise tag on him

The Redskins might try to franchise tag quarterback Kirk Cousins to try to get some compensation for him as he leaves. But Cousins’ camp might not let that happen without a fight.

According to Albert Breer of the MMQB, Cousins might file a grievance if he is tagged, saying that the Redskins would be violating the spirit of the rules regarding the use of the franchise tag. He would be seeking to have the tag voided because the team clearly isn ’t interested in reaching a long-term deal with him given the acquisition of Alex Smith. The tag is supposed to be used to buy time to get an agreement done, not to squat on a player’s rights in order to trade him.

There is precedent for the tag being used in order to facilitate a trade. In 2009, the Patriots tagged quarterback Matt Cassel. They clearly had no intention of keeping him as they had Tom Brady on the roster. But New England pulled it off, shipping Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel to the Chiefs for a second-round pick.

But it is up to the player to object to being tagged and for whatever reason Cassel and his agent went along with the tag and trade rather than fighting for free agency.

It looks like Cousins ’camp won’t go as quietly.

It’s up to the Redskins to make the first move. The window to be able to tag a player opens on Tuesday with the deadline coming on March 6. We will see how things play out after that.

MORE REDSKINS: THE EXPECTATIONS GAME

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