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Around the NFL: Yes, Redskins fans, you should root for them again

Around the NFL: Yes, Redskins fans, you should root for them again

Yeah, it’s getting late. The Redskins need some help to get to the playoffs and here is my weekly Redskins-centric look around the NFL to tell you where they might get it from.  

Before we get started, here is where the teams with legitimate wild card hopes stand and their remaining schedules:

Giants (9-4): Lions, @Eagles, @Redskins
Bucs (8-5): @Cowboys, @Saints, Panthers
Redskins (7-5-1): Panthers, @Bears, Giants
Vikings (7-6): Colts, @Packers, Bears
Packers (7-6): @Bears, Vikings, @Lions

—Let’s start with the end of the day, the Sunday night game with the Buccaneers at Dallas. The debate has ranged all week over who really is a Redskins fan and who is not depending on whether a person is going to root for the Cowboys to win or refuses to do so. I’m not a judge of who is a fan and who isn’t. But whether you choose to pump your fist when Dallas scores a touchdown or not, the Redskins are much better off if the Bucs lose. That would give the Redskins an opportunity to regain control in their push for the playoffs by putting them a half-game ahead of Tampa Bay with two games left to play.

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—The Packers head to frigid Chicago. The Redskins don’t have to worry about the Packers if they win out but a Green Bay loss could give them some breathing room. Aaron Rodgers is pretty used to the cold so the projected temperature of four degrees shouldn’t bother him. The Redskins head to Chicago next Saturday but according to the long-term forecast the weather conditions will be better.

—The Vikings, who also are a half game behind the Redskins at 7-6, host the Colts in Adrian Peterson’s return to the field. It remains to be seen how much Peterson will play but the Vikings’ rushing game sure could use a boost. They are averaging 2.95 yards per rushing attempt. If that holds for the season it would be the fourth-lowest team rushing average since the merger.

—Those who just can’t even bear to root for the Cowboys’ opponent to lose, hope for the 49ers to pull off the upset at Atlanta. The Falcons have the same 8-5 record as the Bucs but they are ahead on the better record in common games tiebreaker. If the Falcons falter the Redskins could pull back into playoff position with a win on Monday night. An Atlanta loss seems unlikely given the Niners’ 1-12 record but it seems like a big spoiler upset like this would be happens every year. 

—A loss by the Giants to the Lions also would give the Redskins control over whether or not they make the playoffs. Washington would still be a half game behind New York but they could catch up in the season finale on New Year’s Day. There could be some advantages to a Lions loss if it is the start of them losing out the rest of the way (after tomorrow @Cowboys, Packers) but that’s a little complex. The more straightforward route is to have the Giants lose.

—So your Sunday rooting guide is: Cowboys (if you choose, I’m not judging), Bears, Colts, 49ers, and Lions.

—Some think that the Redskins will benefit if the Panthers are eliminated from the playoffs on Sunday. The Panthers could come out deflated if their defense of their NFC championship is officially over 24 hours before kickoff. The Panters will be out of the playoffs if either the Packers or the Vikings win. So even though Redskins fans should be rooting for the opposite outcome in those games, there may be some small consolation there if it doesn't happen. 

—I split last week, winning with the Falcons giving six to the Rams and the Redskins giving one to the Eagles and losing outright with favorites Cowboys and Seahawks. I have five games this week with the Patriots -3 at Denver, the Ravens -6 at home against the Eagles, the Packers giving 5.5 at Chicago, the Texans -6 at home over the Jaguars, and the Raiders -3 at San Diego.

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How Redskins quarterback Josh Johnson is cramming for his first start in seven years


How Redskins quarterback Josh Johnson is cramming for his first start in seven years

REDSKINS PARK —The surprise has worn off now and the work has begun in earnest for Josh Johnson, who will start his first NFL game in seven years when the Redskins play the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.

That is not something he or the Redskins would have thought possible during the summer. Alex Smith was going to be the new starting quarterback and Colt McCoy was set to be his backup. Then Smith and McCoy sustained broken legs in a nine-day span last month and the unthinkable happened. 

Behind an offensive line decimated by injuries once again, Johnson at least moved the ball when called upon down 40-0 against the New York Giants on Sunday at FedEx Field. Redskins coach Jay Gruden immediately made the decision to give Johnson the start against Jacksonville. A career backup now on his 12th NFL organization will start for a team whose season has cratered during a four-game losing streak. 

Johnson says he’s ready and that his journey around the NFL is part of the reason why. The Redskins had an extended practice on Wednesday with scripted sessions and walk throughs at the beginning and end to get him comfortable with the offense. He’s familiar with Gruden thanks to their time together in Tampa Bay and Cincinnati, when Gruden was the offensive coordinator. But it’s a lot to cram into one week and the playbook will naturally be limited.      

"It has helped because I’ve been around a lot of different quarterbacks, a couple Super Bowl quarterbacks, a Hall of Fame quarterback, first-round picks, fifth-round picks,” Johnson said. “I’ve experienced coaching from numerous coaches and you pick up on some common traits. You pick up on different things where you can apply it when necessary whether it is preparation, performance, mental stability. Everything becomes a full circle, so it’s getting me ready for Sunday."

But prior to Sunday’s loss to the Giants, Johnson last threw a pass in a game on Dec. 11, 2011. Ironically, that came for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the Jaguars in a 41-14 loss. Johnson’s last start was the week before that in a 38-19 loss to the Carolina Panthers. 

Cam Newton was a rookie. So was Redskins linebacker Mason Foster, who was Johnson’s teammate that day, too, as a starting rookie linebacker for the Buccaneers. Johnson appeared in two more games with Tampa Bay and then began his journey around the NFL. 

His stops included Cleveland, Cincinnati and San Francisco twice each, Indianapolis, Buffalo, Baltimore, New York with both the Jets and the Giants, Houston, his hometown Oakland Raiders this past offseason and now the Redskins.

“The one thing that I really respect about Josh Johnson is he is a very confident guy,” Gruden said. “He believes in his ability to be a quarterback in the National Football League despite being on [12] teams. He has a skill set that’s pretty good but hasn’t been able to stick anywhere, but still, the game's not too big for him.” 

Indeed, Johnson came on with 5:31 left in the third quarter and his team down 40-0 against New York and completed 11 of 16 passes and had seven carries for 45 yards with a passing touchdown and a rushing touchdown plus two two-point conversions. He didn’t look nervous. 

With Washington’s situation at both left and right guard so disastrous because of injury, there isn’t much Gruden can do to change the playbook. Johnson’s mobility allows the Redskins to use him a little differently than Mark Sanchez, who originally took over for McCoy but struggled against New York and was benched.

Johnson is still grasping the new terminology, though. He was with Gruden in Cincinnati in 2013, a backup on a team that made the playoffs, but much of that wording was changed when Gruden arrived in Washington in 2014. But Jon Gruden – Jay’s brother and the Raiders’ head coach – once told Johnson to keep a manual on what coaches across the NFL are doing when he was between jobs so he’d be prepared if a call came. It did, but this time from a familiar face. They all hope it helps. 

“To come back and kind of experience a similar culture and being in something that I've been comfortable with before, it's kind of a blessing for me,” Johnson said. “Because I don’t really have to go through the rigors of a coach trying to figure me out. It's more of just figuring me in.”


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Maryland Gov. Hogan wants new Redskins stadium, but won't use public money

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Maryland Gov. Hogan wants new Redskins stadium, but won't use public money

As attendance slumps at FedEx Field this season it's become quite clear the Redskins need a new stadium. By all accounts the team is working hard towards that end. 

News emerged last week that the Redskins are working with the Trump administration and D.C. government officials to get back to the RFK Stadium site. It's far from a done deal, but there is some progress. 

Fans remember RFK fondly, as it was the site of the team's greatest seasons. Every Super Bowl team the Redskins ever fielded called the East Capitol Street stadium home. 

Since 1997, however, the Redskins have played at FedEx Field in Maryland, and it appears Governor Larry Hogan doesn't want to lose the team either. Speaking with reporters, Hogan revealed his plans to get a new stadium adjacent to the MGM National Harbor casino in Oxon Hill. 

The Washington Post reported that Hogan has begun the process of a potential "land swap" with the federal government. Maryland would surrender lands in the western portion of the state in return for the parcel of land next to the casino to develop a new Redskins stadium. 

Nothing is official, but conversations have been ongoing between the Hogan administration and the Department of the Interior. There is one important caveat, however, that Hogan wanted to make clear. 

"We are not going to build a billionaire’s stadium, either,” ­Hogan said. “We have no interest whatsoever, and there have been no discussions, ever, about us spending one penny in construction."

The Redskins' lease at FedEx Field runs through 2027, but sources have told NBC Sports Washington that if the team builds a new stadium in Prince Georges County, those terms could change. The Oxon Cove site would be in Prince Georges County.