The Redskins probably need to win at least three and maybe four of their final five games to take their first division title since 2012. That likely means that they will have to do two things that they have not been able to do all year—win on the road and win two games in a row.
Other than a two-game losing streak in Weeks 5-6 the Redskins have alternated wins and losses in their first 11 games. If they don’t make Monday night’s game against Dallas their second straight win they will have to win three out of four to close out the season which means they will need two straight wins at some point. And, with three out of their final five on the road they will need a road win or maybe two.
Not only will the Redskins need consecutive wins and wins on the road to take the division, they need to do it to feel like they are a legitimate playoff team and threat to win a game or even two if they get into the postseason.
“Yeah, I think it would be a huge step in the right direction and a huge confidence builder if we can definitely win two games in a row, which we haven’t done in I think about a year . . . I think it has to do with the maturity of the team, and we’re growing as we speak. I think if we can get those two roadblocks out the way, it’ll be a huge confidence builder for this team,” said offensive tackle and team captain Trent Williams.
At the core, putting together winning streaks and winning on the road come down to consistency.
“I think it's just a matter of continuing to stay focused on the job at hand and the team at hand,” said Jay Gruden. “That's Dallas, obviously. We have to put this game behind us. Like I said last night, it was great to see us bounce back from a loss like Carolina. And then it’s going to be equally as important how we bounce back from a big win against the Giants and playing a game against Dallas on Monday night.”
A lot of the Redskins’ issues with consistency stem from the quirks of the schedule. Their slate of games on the road has been considerably tougher than the home game. With road games against some equal or lesser opponents coming in the next five games (Bears, Eagles, Cowboys), a consistent effort has a better chance of paying off than it did against the likes of the Panthers and Patriots.
Lost in the fact that Tress Way is having a stellar season is that his fellow specialist, Dustin Hopkins, is getting it done, too.
The Redskins' kicker has made 17 of 19 field goals so far in 2018, giving him an 89.5-percent conversion rate on kicks. Against Carolina, he nailed a career-long 56-yarder, plus he's 17-for-17 on extra points.
But on Tuesday, a report came out saying that Hopkins is "a bit banged up." As of now, the Redskins don't know if they'll have Hopkins or not this weekend vs. the Texans, which is why they worked out five kickers five days before the Houston matchup, per Field Yates.
Among the group of free agents was former 'Skin Kai Forbath, who made 32-of-38 three-pointers for the Vikings in 2017. He was with the Burgundy and Gold from 2012-2014 and also briefly in 2015.
Washington also reportedly tried out two maligned kickers in Roberto Aguayo and Blair Walsh.
The Bucs drafted Aguayo in the second round of the 2016 draft but he flamed out in Tampa and was gone after a single year and poor 2017 preseason. Walsh, meanwhile, hasn't been the same since missing a 27-yard game winning playoff attempt versus Seattle while he was with Minnesota.
Rounding out the group was Sam Ficken and Jon Brown.
The Redskins have been very reliant on both Hopkins and Way this season, seeing as their offense has had its issues. They've needed Hopkins to cash in on field goals to avoid wasting points and Way to help win the field position battle each week.
For some franchises, losing a kicker for a week or two wouldn't be much of a problem. And while Washington could very well be OK without Hopkins, they'd rather not have to bring in a new foot for any amount of time.
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The Redskins helped themselves in the NFC East division race with a big Week 10 win over the Buccaneers, and then the Cowboys helped their rival out again with a big win in Philadelphia.
With seven games remaining and the NFL calendar starting to get serious about playoff situation and scenarios, the 6-3 Redskins are in the driver's seat in the division.
"I think the good thing being 6-3, being in first place is we control what we have to control. We don’t have to look at the other teams, we just have to focus on what we do and if we do our job, we don’t have to worry about anything," head coach Jay Gruden said Monday.
And he's right. The Redskins have built a cushion in the division, and if they keep winning at a .667 clip, nobody can catch them.
Here's the NFC East update:
- Washington Redskins (6-3, 2-0) - This team isn't winning pretty, and they certainly don't make many highlight plays on offense, but the Washington formula for victories is working. At +11, the Redskins are 3rd in the NFL in turnover margin and they own a defense that doesn't give up many points. Fans can debate if the offense is too limited, but for now running the ball and playing strong defense is piling up wins. Washington hasn't been 6-3 since 2008. Another large test looms on Sunday when Houston comes to FedEx Field, riding a six-game win streak. Up next: Nov. 18th vs Texans,1 p.m.
- Dallas Cowboys (4-5, 2-1) - Things have been a roller coaster in Big D. Two weeks ago it looked like the Cowboys season might spiral out of control after a blowout loss at home to the Titans. Speculation began to mount about the future for head coach Jason Garrett. A week later, after a major win in Philly on Sunday Night Football, Cowboys fans are back focused on the playoffs, not firing their coach. Dallas has built an impressive young defense, though the offensive struggles remain. Similar to the Redskins, Dallas has one of the worst pass games in the NFL but relies on running the football. Up next: Nov. 18th @ Atlanta, 1 p.m.
- Philadelphia Eagles (4-5, 1-1) - At no point this season have the Eagles looked like the same 2017 juggernaut that won the city's first-ever Super Bowl. Much of that was chalked up to injury, particularly Carson Wentz working back from a knee injury last year, and new parts on defense. The Eagles had a Week 8 bye, made a trade to acquire WR Golden Tate, and were facing the slumping Cowboys in Week 9. All signs pointed to a big Eagles win and the Philly machine getting back on track for the second-half of the 2018 season. Only it didn't happen. The Eagles haven't won two games in a row yet this season, and road games against the Saints and the Rams are still on deck. Up next: Nov. 18th @ New Orleans, 4:25 p.m.
- New York Giants (2-7, 0-3) - The Giants doubled their season win total with a road win in San Francisco over the 49ers. It was a good victory, but hardly impressive. The Niners are equally bad and currently starting their 3rd-string QB. Still, Odell Beckham remains optimistic for his New York squad and thinks the team could go on a undefeated streak to close out the season. It's not realistic considering the offensive line and Eli Manning's play at quarterback, but it's a nice theory. The Giants are 0-4 at home and 0-3 in the division. Up Next: Nov. 18th vs Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.
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