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Enemy Intel: Which teams can help Redskins into playoffs?

Enemy Intel: Which teams can help Redskins into playoffs?

The Redskins are holding onto playoff hopes, but they necessarily will be scoreboard watching as soon as their game in Chicago concludes. As the number of contenders shrinks here is my weekly Redskins-centric look around the NFL.

Let’s pull up the wild card contenders and relevant division leaders and their remaining schedules to get a perspective on what’s going on.

Lions (NFC North leaders, 9-5): (@Cowboys, Packers)
Falcons (NFC South leaders, 9-5): (@Panthers, Saints)

Giants (10-5): @Redskins
Packers (8-6): Vikings, @Lions
Bucs (8-6): @Saints, Panthers
Redskins (7-6-1): @Bears, Giants

  • Taking a look back first, the Giants’ loss came a week too late to help the Redskins. They couldn’t catch the Giants going into the game anyway. The only negative is that the loss means that the Cowboys have clinched everything they can clinch, so they won’t have much incentive to beat the Lions on Monday night. That is a game the Redskins may need Dallas to win. But the fact that Dallas is locked into its playoff position might not matter much as you’ll see when we get to that game.

 

  • One route the Redskins have to the playoffs if the win out involves having the Buccaneers to lose one of their two remaining games. They are three-point underdogs at the Saints. New Orleans has not checked out, despite being out of playoff contention, and they probably are going to want to show that their miserable offensive performance in Tampa a couple of weeks ago was a fluke. That said, the Bucs play some tough defense, and it won’t be easy for Drew Brees and company. This one kicks off at 4:25 p.m., so the Redskins will be monitoring it and pulling for the Saints as they head to the airport.

 

  • If the Bucs don’t lose this week or next, the Redskins need the Falcons to lose twice. That would make Tampa Bay the NFC South champions and leave the Falcons at 9-7, behind a 9-6-1 Redskins team if they win out. Atlanta plays the Panthers, who are facing the same short Monday night-Saturday turnaround that the Redskins are. The Redskins hope that the Panthers put up every bit of the fight at home against the Falcons as they did at FedEx Field. The visiting Falcons are favored by 2.5.

 

  • That takes care of the NFC South contenders. Now let’s turn to the NFC North. If the Packers lose to the Vikings and the Bucs lose, the Redskins will have their playoff fate back in their own hands going into Week 17. Green Bay has been on a roll lately while Minnesota has been struggling. Fortunately the Redskins aren’t relying on a Packers loss entirely; it seems like a long shot with the Pack sitting as 6.5-point favorites.

 

  • The final game with Redskins playoff ramifications comes Monday night when the Lions are at the Cowboys. If the Bucs lose Sunday and the Lions lose Monday, the Redskins will be win and in on the last Sunday of the regular season if they beat the Bears. The Lions host the Packers in Week 17. If Detroit loses and the Packers win, that game will be for the NFC North title. The loser would be 9-7 and would lose out to a 9-6-1 Redskins team for the last wild card. If you don’t want to root for the Cowboys, that’s fine, but a Lions loss helps the Redskins.

 

  • For those of you concerned about the Cowboys having no incentive to win against the Lions, look back two years ago. In 2014 Jason Garrett and the Cowboys came in to Washington in Week 17 with the NFC East and the No. 3-seed locked in. Garrett didn’t rest anyone, and he didn’t let up on the gas. Even though Tony Romo had been banged up during the season, he played the entire game. So did DeMarco Murray, who carried 20 times to add to the heavy workload he had pulled all year. Dez Bryant and Jason Witten played extensively. The Cowboys didn’t let off the gas, posting a 44-17 win over the Redskins. There is no reason to think that Garrett will be resting starters with Week 17 plus a bye week to go before the playoffs start.

To sum it up, the Redskins get into the playoffs with a Bucs loss or two Falcons losses AND a Packers loss or two Lions losses. Redskins fans should be pulling for the Saints, Panthers, Vikings, and, well, you know who.

It is possible that the Redskins will qualify for the playoffs if they split their last two games, but they are very remote and I’m sure you don’t want to hear it.

The good news is that I picked five teams that won last week. Unfortunately, the Patriots were the only team that covered. I’m already down one as I had the Giants -2.5 over the Eagles. My other picks are the Ravens +5 over the Steelers, the Cowboys -7 over the Lions and Atlanta -2.5 over the Panthers.

MORE REDSKINS: Cousins' completion percentage is down while production increases

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10 Questions for 10 Days: After Josh Norman, what's the plan at cornerback?

10 Questions for 10 Days: After Josh Norman, what's the plan at cornerback?

With Redskins Training Camp set to begin July 26th, JP Finlay takes a look at 10 of the most pressing questions for the Burgundy and Gold before the team heads to Richmond. 

No. 10: Major questions at linebacker on Redskins depth chart 

No. 9: What is Kevin O’Connell's new role in Redskins offense?

No. 8: More investments on D-Line, but who goes where?

No. 7: Do the Redskins have a 1,000-yard WR?

No. 6: Is Shawn Lauvao the concern, or is the issue bigger on the O-Line?

No. 5: What can the Redskins expect from Derrius Guice?

No. 4: After Josh Norman, what's the plan at cornerback?

In a way, the Redskins are quite lucky. Not every team in the NFL has an unequivocal No. 1 corner. Washington has that in Josh Norman

His interception numbers in 2017 did not get the job done, but he still played quite well. Norman got targeted significantly less than the league average, which means NFL quarterbacks actively chose not to mess with former All Pro. 

Still, Norman needs more interceptions than last year. He grabbed none, and he will admit that he must create more turnovers. 

Regardless, Norman is not the Redskins question mark at cornerback. What happens after Norman is the question. 

Washington moved quick this offseason to lock up Quinton Dunbar off restricted free agency. Dunbar has size and range, and has looked quite capable, in spots. He doesn't have a ton of experience, however, and will be asked to start this fall. The team also signed veteran Orlando Scandrick - from the Cowboys - as a likely nickel/slot corner. 

Second-year man Fabian Moreau will be expected to take a significant step forward this fall. The Redskins would like very much to be able to primarily rely on Norman, Moreau and Dunbar while asking less of Scandrick. 

Don't forget Washington lost Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland this offseason. Fuller got moved to Kansas City as part of the Alex Smith trade, and Breeland remains a free agent.

Redskins coaches won't tell the exact truth, but the the team would love for Moreau to emerge opposite Norman and let Dunbar play in the slot. Or maybe let Moreau emerge in the slot, like Fuller did in 2017, and Dunbar opposite Norman. Scandrick hasn't played a full season since 2013, and the 'Skins brass can't expect that in 2018 for the 31-year-old corner. 

Josh Holsey, Adonis Alexander and Greg Stroman will provide depth at the bottom of the roster. That's two seventh-round picks and a supplemental sixth round pick. While each player provides reasons for optimism, it's hard to think any of the three young players will provide immediate help. They're better focused fighting for a roster spot than a starting spot. 

In 2017, cornerback ranked as a strength for the Redskins. 

In 2018, it's a big question. Elite play from Norman could change much of that equation. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap

#REDSKINSTALK PODCAST

Don't forget to subscribe to the #RedskinsTalk podcast, hosted by JP Finlay.

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Need to Know: Redskins training camp preview—Offense

smith-guice-ap.png
Associated Press

Need to Know: Redskins training camp preview—Offense

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, July 22, four days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Training camp preview: Offense

Here are some of the big topics surrounding the offense at Redskins training camp along with some of the things I’ll be observing closely when training camp gets underway on Thursday. 

Alex Smith

The subheadline here doesn’t need any elaboration. The Redskins gave up a top-100 draft pick, a promising player, and $71 million in guaranteed money to get him. When asked about the timetable for Smith picking up the offense, Jay Gruden said, “He has got to get it down by the first game.”

That first game is seven weeks from today. Of course, the process has already started as Smith appeared to have a solid grasp of things in the offseason practices. There is every reason to think that he will look good in Richmond. 

The question is, how much will the coaches push him? Will they focus on him having success on shorter, easier throws to build his confidence? Or will they call plays that test his ability to throw deep? Last year in Kansas City his ability to hit on long passes helped transform him from being an above-average quarterback to an MVP candidate. The Redskins need him to be effective deep starting Week 1 and training camp needs to be the starting point. 

The running back rotation

This is primarily about Derrius Guice, who is the most anticipated rookie running back in team history. The Redskins were 28th in rushing yards last year and they bring back the same offensive line (although hoping for better health) and three of the same running backs. They are counting on Guice to be the difference maker. 

But Guice can’t do it by himself. Gruden will be wary of overworking his rookie, who has an aggressive running style and who was banged up for a lot of his last year at LSU. He also may give Guice a light load if he struggles in pass protection early on. Chris Thompson’s role is set. Where do Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine line up? Does one or the other take most of the first-team reps when Guice is getting a rest? 

The difference between being the third back and the fourth is big. The fourth back on the depth chart is unlikely to be active most game days. The active back could get five to 10 carries per game.

Who’s at left guard?

Is Shawn Lauvao going to be the left guard? It doesn’t seem logical that they would put all their eggs in Lauvao’s injury-prone and frequently ineffective basket. Will Ty Nsekhe line up there? Do they think that Tyler Catalina or Kyle Kalis can push for the starting job? Is a trade in the offing? 

Jordan Reed’s health

This does not need much explanation if you’ve been paying attention the last several years. It would be both a good sign and a major surprise if he starts camp healthy and doesn’t miss any time due to injuries. If he’s out there, there is no question that he and Smith will quickly develop chemistry. 

Wide receiver depth chart

The stakes at wide receiver are similar to those at running back. The top backup behind the three starters, who could be any of Maurice Harris, Robert Davis, Brian Quick or Try Quinn, will have a regular role in the offense line Ryan Grant had last year. The fifth guy will rarely play, the player who has the sixth spot will rarely play, and the seventh won’t have a job. 

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 and on Instagram @RichTandler

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Apparently, some teams are worried that their players are playing too much of the video game Fortnite. No, seriously.

Timeline 

Happy birthday to Redskins running back Quinton Dunbar, who was born on this date in 1992.

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 4
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 18
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 41

The Redskins last played a game 203 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 49 days. 

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