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Need to Know: Motivations very different for Redskins and Panthers tonight

Need to Know: Motivations very different for Redskins and Panthers tonight

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, December 19, four days before the Washington Redskins visit the Chicago Bears.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Redskins vs. Panthers, 8:25  

Days until: Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 5; Giants @ Redskins, New Year’s Day 13; Wild card playoff round starts 19

Injuries of note:
Out:
LB Cravens (elbow/illness)
Doubtful: LB Compton (knee)
Questionable: G Lauvao (groin), C Long (concussion), OT Nsekhe (ankle), TE Reed (shoulder), S Blackmon (concussion/thumb)
Final injury report

Final thoughts on Redskins vs. Panthers

—On the face of it, there couldn’t be more disparate levels of motivation for each team tonight. After the results of Sunday, the Panthers are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs (Correction: The Panthers do have a .0004 chance of making the playoffs. Among the things that would have to happen is the Redskins getting another tie in their last two games). They are now the 15th team to miss the playoffs the year after losing the Super Bowl. After the Cowboys’ win Buccaneers’ loss last night the Redskins can grab control of their own playoff destiny with a win tonight. If they win their last three games they will go to the postseason in two consecutive seasons for the first time since 1991-1992.

—I don’t want to get too deeply in psychoanalysis here but I do wonder what effect being eliminated from the playoffs will have on Cam Newton’s motivation tonight. After last year’s Super Bowl, he was clearly identified as being a bad loser. Even before his abbreviated press conference he chose not to go after a loose ball on the field, showing that when the odds are stacked against him he might just pack it in. Newton and the Panthers have won their division in each of the last three seasons. It will be interesting to see how much enthusiasm Newton has for the proceedings tonight, especially if the Redskins manage to get up by a couple of scores.

—On the team website Panthers coach Ron Rivera suggested that if Carolina is eliminated from playoff contention by kickoff, linebacker Luke Kuechly, probably their best defender, may be rested after missing the last three games with a concussion. Kuechly was cleared to play under the NFL’s concussion protocol but there is concern about his history with concussions. Such an injury forced him to miss three games last season as well. The Panthers defense will be considerably weaker if Kuechly, who was first-team All-Pro in each of the last three seasons, does not play.  

—The Panthers are exceptions to the rule that a good pass rush will lead to a good pass defense. Going into Week 15 they led the league in sacks with 39 but they are 22nd in the league allowing 7.6 yards per pass attempt and 20th in opponent passer rating at 92.5. The passing game is the Redskins’ strength as they get 8.2 yards per pass attempt (3rd), have a passer rating of 100.5 (5th), and have allowed just 18 sacks (3rd).

—This game is there for the taking for the Redskins. They are favored everywhere you look and their motivation for winning is clear. I like the matchup discussed above, the Redskins’ passing offense against the Panthers’ Josh Norman-less pass D. Still, the key could be if Rob Kelley can get 75 yards or so rushing to slow down the Carolina pass rush. I think that he gets is, or something close, and the Redskins come away with an atypical comfortable win.

Redskins 31, Panthers 14

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This was tweeted prior to the Bucs’ loss to the Cowboys last night.

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Need to Know: The five best teams the Redskins will play in 2018

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Need to Know: The five best teams the Redskins will play in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, July 15, 11 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The best teams the Redskins will face in 2018

This week we’ll be looking at the best of what the Redskins will face during the 2018 season. Most of the focus will be on individuals such as quarterbacks and pass rushers, but we’re going to get started with the best teams on the schedule. These are roughly ranked by Football Outsiders’ DVOA, although I did some juggling based on offseason moves and other factors. 

1. Eagles (13-3, Super Bowl champs)—They were fifth overall in DVOA and the second-ranked team on the schedule. But DVOA is calculated for the regular season only and you have to say that by the time the playoffs were over that the Eagles had taken their game up a few notches over everyone else. They haven’t lost much over the offseason, putting them at the top of the heap and the Redskins play them twice. 

2. Saints (11-5, lost in divisional round)—New Orleans was the top team in DVOA in 2017. After a couple of mediocre seasons, the Saints have retooled, and they will make a push to get Drew Brees his second Super Bowl ring. They play in Week 5, which means that Mark Ingram will be back from his four-game suspension to open the season and he will be alongside Alvin Kamara in the Saints backfield. They both had over 100 yards from scrimmage when the teams played last year. 

3. Jaguars (10-6, lost AFC title game)—They finally made the jump after failing for the last few years as the trendy preseason pick. It was no fluke as they outscored their opponents by 149 points on the season. Their quarterback situation is far from ideal with Blake Bortles, but they are strong enough defensively (first in defensive DVOA) to rely on their running game. 

4. Panthers (11-5, lost in wild-card round)—They certainly have had the Redskins’ number, winning the last six matchups, a streak going back to 2009. This doesn’t seem to be one of those fluke situations. The Redskins simply have problems matching up with Cam Newton. Carolina also is solid defensively (No. 7 in DVOA). 

5. Falcons (10-6, lost in divisional round)—Even though the Cowboys ranked a couple of notches ahead of the Falcons in DVOA, I’m putting the Falcons ahead of them. Dallas doesn’t have a good enough defense to win with their running game. I’ve always been a big Matt Ryan fan and a lot more people would be too if he hadn’t been victimized by poor defense and bad play calling in the Super Bowl a couple of years ago. Add in Julio Jones and their running backs and you have a scary offense. Defensively they are not that good but I still like their unit better than that of the Cowboys.

Rest of top 10:

6. Packers—Almost put them ahead of Falcons, their DVOA suffered last year with Rodgers out.
7. Cowboys—Even with problems on D, still have the Redskins’ number.
8. Texans—Way down the DVOA rankings last year but they will the tough with J.J. Watt and Deshaun Watson back. 
9. Titans—I’m not sure if they’re ready to take the next step up but they will be hard to beat. 
10. Bucs—The bolstered a defense that already with tough with Jason Pierre-Paul and Vita Vea.  

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 11
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 25
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 48

The Redskins last played a game 196 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 56 days. 

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Breaking down the Alexander pick

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Breaking down the Alexander pick

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, July 14, 12 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The Redskins week that was

Is Junior Galette hinting at a possible return to the Redskins? I would be very surprised if Galette ever wears a Redskins uniform again although it would make sense for them to talk to him. I think the Redskins should be very nervous about their depth at outside linebacker. Pernell McPhee can get them some pressure, but he has missed 10 games over the last two seasons. Ryan Anderson’s next NFL sack will be his first. You can’t have too many pass rushers; the Redskins could well find themselves in a spot where they don’t have enough. 

Upside outweighed risk in Redskins' selection of Alexander—The selection of Adonis Alexander wasn’t quite a no-brainer, but it was not a tough call for the Redskins to make. Torrian Gray, who recruited and coached Alexander at Virginia Tech, gave the green light so it came down to his potential and what draft pick they were willing to give up. They have two in the fifth round next year and they had three in the sixth. They might as well get one of those late Saturday afternoon picks in a year early and see what they have. We have more analysis of the Alexander pick here and here

If Guice is legitimate, the Redskins running game could explode—With the exception of the 2012-2013 seasons, when quarterback Robert Griffin III was kicking in a lot of yards on the ground, the Redskins have not been in the top 10 in the league in rushing yards since 2008. Derrius Guice could help change that. Read the post for my in-depth look at the running back position. 

Madden has a clear answer for the Alex Smith-Kirk Cousins debate—I don’t know much about Madden ratings, so I don’t have a lot to add here. It doesn’t look to me like the difference between the ratings of Smith and Cousins constitute and “clear” advantage but, again, what do I know?

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Joe Jacoby belongs in the Hall of Fame. If you’re reading this, I think you know that. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

Timeline 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 12
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 26
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 54

The Redskins last played a game 195 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 57 days. 

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