Winning Turnover Battle Crucial to Redskins Playoff Hopes

DeAngelo Hall celebrates with Brian Orakpo after intercepting Tony Romo in Thanksgiving victory over the Dallas Cowboys - Tom Pennington

Washington will need complete performances from all their players if they want to finish out 3-0 and reach the post season, but continuing to dominate the turnover battle will go a long way towards owning the time of possession and keeping their best asset – the offense – on the field more often than their, ahem, less valuable asset.

Katie Garrett is a Washington, DC native and lifelong Redskins fan with a passion for all things DC sports. Katie is the founder of Hail from the Redhead and will be contributing a weekly piece to Hogs Haven. Follow Katie on Twitter @HailftR.

With a playoff berth within reach, the Redskins are riding high on their first four game win streak since 2008 and looking to finish the season with three straight wins against the Browns, Eagles and Cowboys. The Redskins seem to finally be gelling on both sides of the ball and have a major advantage over their final opponents - turnover ratio. The Redskins are currently ranked fifth in the league with a +12 turnover ratio while the Browns, Eagles and Cowboys combine for a whopping -21 turnover ratio. Washington will need complete performances from all their players if they want to finish out 3-0 and reach the post season, but continuing to dominate the turnover battle will go a long way towards owning the time of possession and keeping their best asset - the offense - on the field more often than their, ahem, less valuable asset.

After the ambiguously talented duo of Turnoversaurus Rex and John Beck racked up 24 interceptions last season, it is refreshing, going into Week 15, that the Redskins only have six interceptions thus far this season - four by Griffin III and two by Kirk Cousins. While the Redskins QBs may not pass the ball as frequently as some of their opponents, when they do, they are accurate, take good care to protect the ball and generally do not try to force throws. Griffin III's mobility and rushing prowess also help keep the numbers low, but those contributions should not be used to lessen the impact of his passing abilities.

The Redskins have 16 offensive fumbles to date, with six lost. Griffin III is responsible for nine of the Redskins 13 rushing fumbles, though he has only lost two. It is also worth noting that five of the team's fumbles came during the infamous October game of drops against the Giants. The Giants, who are second in the NFL with a +16 turnover ratio, recovered three of the five fumbles. The 16 fumbles become much less scary from that perspective.

Washington's defense has garnered a lot of criticism this season, much of it well deserved, but they have also contributed 23 take aways and four touchdowns. With 15 interceptions - including three by London Fletcher, four by DeAngelo Hall and two by recent standout Rob Jackson - the defense has already surpassed last year's season total of 13. Of the ten forced fumbles on record so far, the Redskins have recovered eight. With their improved performance over the last few weeks, I would look for the defense to continue to add to those totals, especially against this line up of foes.

First up, the 5-8 Cleveland Browns, who own the best turnover ratio of the three opponents at +8. That positive rating is a little misleading however, given that the Browns have 15 interceptions. The rating stems from the fact that they have recovered all eight of their own fumbles and that their defense has pulled in a ratio-balancing 15 interceptions. While that may seem impressive, the Browns have recent opponents include the Cowboys, Raiders, Eagles, Chiefs,Bills, Colts and Steelers who all rank in the bottom nine for turnover ratio.

Washington's first match up against the faltering 4-9 Eagles and rookie QB Nick Foles saw our defense reel in two interceptions and recover one fumble. The Eagles are ranked 31st in the NFL with a -19 turnover ratio that is largely a carry over from earlier in the season. Foles only has one interception since his start against the Redskins, with the other nine coming from veteran QB Michael Vick. In addition to his interceptions, Vick has also lost three of six fumbles, while both of Foles's fumbles have been recovered. Philadelphia's rookie is certainly helping their offense minimize turnovers, though their defense could stand to contribute a bit more. The Eagles defense has seven interceptions and has only recovered three of their 14 forced fumbles.

To round out the 2012 season, the Redskins have Dallas Week Dos featuring interception machine Tony Romo. The now 7-6 Cowboys own a -10 turnover rations with 16 interceptions thrown by Romo and only six picked by their defense. Against the Redskins on Thanksgiving, Dallas gave up two interceptions and their only lost fumble of the season, though they did also claim one of Griffin's league-low four interceptions.

If the Redskins continue to play at they level they have the last four weeks, I would expect these numbers to continue to work in their favor. The one unknown for the Browns game is whether or not Griffin III will start, but I have faith in Cousins to step up to the plate and in our defense to keep Brandon Weeden to his one plus interceptions per game average. While the Redskins will need a few other things to go their way in order to reach the playoffs, dominating the turnover battle is a crucial, and manageable, element of the post-season push.

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