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Need to Know: The Redskins are falling behind the rest of the NFC East

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Need to Know: The Redskins are falling behind the rest of the NFC East

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, February 5, 37 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 24
—NFL Draft (4/26) 80
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 216

What the Redskins can learn from the Super Bowl

The Redskins are lagging behind in the NFC East—The NFC East is now the first of the NFL’s eight divisions to have all four teams with at least one Lombardi Trophy. But the Redskins’ last Lombardi was the least recent. Since they won it in 1991, the other three NFC East teams have been to eight Super Bowls or an average of about one every three years. They have won six with the Cowboys going 3-0, the Giants 2-1, and the Eagles now 1-1. Meanwhile, the Redskins have won just two playoff games and have failed to make the NFC title game. The Redskins are in a nice neighborhood, but their house need repairs while the neighbors are making improvements. The way they are doing things clearly is not working.

The whole Eagles with an empty trophy case thing was fun while it lasted—It had a good run from 1966 until now but the Eagles are deserving Super Bowl champs. So the Lombardi trophy case with the cobwebs needs to be retired. So do memes like this one:

Start aggressive, stay aggressive—Doug Pederson was aggressive about going for it on fourth down all year and he didn’t tighten up on the big stage. The call to go for it on fourth and goal near halftime was brave as it was, but the Wildcat-reverse-pass to the quarterback showed world-class onions for Pederson. And they went for it late, picking up a fourth and one with 5:39 left while on their way to what proved to be the winning touchdown. The two times a year that the Redskins play Philly they have to be ready for anything, and Jay Gruden has to be ready to match Pederson’s style.

Depth overcomes injuries for Eagles—It would not be accurate to say that the Eagles were hit as hard by injuries as the Redskins were. But they were hit in some key areas, including middle linebacker and signal caller Jordan Hicks, left tackle Jason Peters, and MVP candidate quarterback Carson Wentz all suffering season-ending injuries. But the next men up came in and got the job done. Of particular note was Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who started the last 10 games at left tackle after Peters went out. Redskins fans recall his debut as a rookie in Week 6 of the 2016 season when Ryan Kerrigan treated him like a turnstile, getting 2.5 sacks and many more pressures on Wentz. Eagles fans were terrified when he was put in after Peters went out. But, hey, guess what, they stuck with him, developed him, and he was ready when his second chance came around.

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.

Tandler on Twitter

This was in response to the Adam Schefter report that the Redskins are discussing trying to do a tag and trade deal with Kirk Cousins.

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Week 11 Redskins vs Texans: An opportunity for a statement game at FedEx Field

Week 11 Redskins vs Texans: An opportunity for a statement game at FedEx Field

If the Redskins want to make a statement, Sunday marks a real opportunity. 

Washington, sitting at 6-3 and in first place of the NFC East, hosts Houston, a team that sits at 6-3 and in first place of the AFC South. Despite their records, neither team gets much consideration among the real Super Bowl contenders in the NFL. 

Like any NFL team, both the 'Skins and Texans have weaknesses. And unlike the top NFL teams, both the Texans and the 'Skins have a few warts, too. 

The team that best plays to their strengths will leave FedEx Field on Sunday at 7-3, almost assured of a playoff spot and no longer looking for a signature win. 

Going streaking

The Texans started the season bad, losing their first three games. Since then, Houston hasn't lost. Bill O'Brien's team didn't play last week, enjoying their bye in the actual middle of the season unlike the Redskins, but it's possible the layoff slowed the momentum.

When Houston last played, the Texans escaped Denver with a narrow, last-second victory. A six-game win streak is incredibly hard to come by in the NFL, and a seven-game heater is even harder to put together.

So. Much. Talent.

Not many teams can boast the type of elite talent like the Texans. The team has two possible future Hall-of-Famers in J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins both playing in their prime. Watt has nine sacks in nine games, and the Houston defense aggressively moves him around on the defensive line.

That means Watt will face up against Redskins right tackle Morgan Moses, but also probably inside against right guard Tony Bergstrom. Charley Casserly described Watt against Bergstrom as a significant mismatch, and Washington will need to be creative to slow down the three-time Defensive Player of the Year.

As for Hopkins, expect Redskins cornerback Josh Norman to travel with the athletic Texans wideout for much of the game. Hopkins is averaging nearly 100 yards receiving per game, and has seven touchdowns in nine games. He will be a major part of the Houston attack. Oh yeah, we didn't even mention Deshaun Watson or Jadeveon Clowney.

Ground game

The Redskins and the Texans run the ball well. Washington ranks 10th in the NFL on the ground, averaging 121.2 yards-per-game. Houston ranks 11th, averaging 120.2 yards-per-game.

For the Redskins, however, the run game is their only means of offense. Their pass game ranks in the bottom third of the NFL, and in four of his last five games, Alex Smith has thrown for fewer than 180 yards. Weirdly, all four of those sub-200 passing yard games from Smith have resulted in wins for Washington.

The Texans throw the ball better, ranked 18th in the NFL, but aren't the type of dominant offense that the Redskins have struggled against (cough Atlanta, cough New Orleans).

Turn around bright eyes

Few things change NFL games like turnovers, and the Redskins' win last week in Tampa might be the best example. Washington got dominated in just about every offensive category, but the Bucs turned the ball over four times, and the 'Skins skated with a 16-3 victory.

At +4 in turnover margin, the Texans take care of the ball, but not like the +11 Redskins. Watson has thrown seven INTs this season. Not a lot, but four more than Smith. A huge part of the Redskins winning formula is protecting the ball and generating turnovers, and certainly Jay Gruden wants to replicate that on Sunday. 

They said it

  • Jay Gruden on the Redskins mindset in first place: "We're obviously not satisfied or sitting in the lounge chair with our feet up right now relaxing. We've got to get back to work and continue to work. We know there is a lot of football ahead of us, a lot of great teams come in here to play and we have to go there to play and we have to do better. We have to do better on offense and there's a lot more for us to get offensively and defensively for that matter. I'm glad that we're winning without a doubt."
  • Alex Smith on facing J.J. Watt and the Texans defensive line: "They are one of the most disruptive fronts in football. I think when you just talk about just creating problems, penetration. They're all over the place. They obviously are really, really talented. They get up the field."
  • Texans coach Bill O'Brien on Redskins RB Adrian Peterson: "He is obviously one of the best to ever play the game. I mean, he's big, strong, fast, has got good vision, great cutting ability, very, very difficult to stop."

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REALLY WANT MORE? WATCH THIS:

The 1991 matchup between the Redskins and Oilers is the only game D.C. fans should think of when they hear Washington vs. Houston. 

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Josh Norman wants to play 'early Santa,' will give away Redskins tickets

Josh Norman wants to play 'early Santa,' will give away Redskins tickets

Josh Norman caused quite a stir with his comments Sunday about the atmosphere at FedEx Field, and the Redskins cornerback made it clear he plans to do his part in making sure the stadium is packed for Sunday's game against the Texans. 

Norman told reporters Thursday he's going to be giving away "40 or 50" free tickets for the Houston game, online and perhaps even in person.

"Yes, I will be giving out free tickets," he said. "I'll be doing it on my socials as well, I think I'll probably post tonight or something about it."

"Who knows, you may see me coming out and being an early Santa somewhere in the mall or something, just handing out tickets."

And if you are one of the lucky fans who gets a ticket from "Santa Norman," he has specific instructions on how you should behave at Sunday's game:

"Whoever get(s) them, we want them loud and just obnoxious. Just really obnoxious."

Norman joins several Redskins players who have promised to give away tickets to the Texans game.

It may be November, but the Christmas spirit is alive and well at Redskins Park. 

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