- After almost 15 years of marriage, my wife, St. Megan, is finally catching on to some of my tricks. She does love the Redskins, but she grew up in a non-NFL city with no family affiliation to any team. In other words, there was a lot of room in her life for both football as well as for someone (me?) who followed the sport passionately, but she faced a steep climb to bridge the knowledge gap. For example, St. Megan’s only real experience with the NFL Draft was watching me wake up at 6 AM on Saturday mornings for Bloody Mary’s and to start yelling at my television whenever anyone dared to speak ill of Mel Kiper, Jr. She had no way of knowing it wasn’t the national holiday it seemed like it was in our house. After getting married, people would look quizzically at her when she politely declined invitations to family and friend gatherings during draft weekend. Over the years, St. Megan has gone from saying, “It’s the Draft,” in a matter-of-fact, delivering-the-news style, to uttering it in sheer contempt. Yep, she’s learning—though mostly she’s learned those days were actually FAR better, as now our “Meringolo Draftacular” runs four days long and starts on Thursday morning instead of Saturday morning. In a similar fashion, bye weeks have added a bit of a wrinkle to her learning curve. As I am somewhat preoccupied on the average NFL Sunday (and at the stadium for half of the season), St. Megan has come to loathe “football season,” but something very magical happens—seemlingly at random—when I dip out from the regular Sunday routine and am all kinds of present and attentive. The first couple years I was a straight-up hero, eschewing NFL Sunday for strawberry-picking, pumpkin-patching, or hiking her choice of trails. Nowadays, when St. Megan asks me what the plan is for a weekend in the fall/winter, and I say, “Let’s do a family thing,” her first reply is, “Bye week, eh?” She’s a smart lady. I hope you all enjoyed and made the most of your bye week. It’s back to business this week, y’all!
- The season doesn’t end today. The playoffs don’t start today. That said, there is a pecking order in the NFL that most media outlets keep track of called the “Standings.” These “standings” indicate that the Redskins sit at 6th in the NFC, clinging to the last postseason opportunity at the moment. It is a wondrous nugget if you ask me, because the sting of the “Draw at Union Jack” (working title) remains, and actively eats away at Redskins fans worried about lost chances in the first half of the season. Think about it: the Redskins have a golden opportunity in front of them. Over the next four weeks, the Redskins get to face three teams that sit just behind them in the “standings,” nipping at their heels. The Vikings, Packers and Cardinals all present chances to put a stamp on our march to the playoffs. Mix in a little #MakeThanksgivingMatter, and you potentially get to baste a Texas-sized turkey on national television. Coming out of this bye week, I feel a little like Ebenezer Scrooge must have felt when he realized he hadn’t missed Christmas. Like old Scrooge, I typically open my bedroom window every morning and toss down a purse full of coins to HogHunter to buy me the juiciest breakfast biscuit they sell at McDonald’s (and of course one for himself). Let’s keep perspective everyone—this Redskins team is absolutely in the thick of things.
- Unless a team is undefeated, there is no team in the league that doesn’t look back on the string of games directly preceding them and see one or two or three instances when they feel they left a win on the field. The Redskins are no different. I don’t find it especially productive to play that game because it distracts from the task at hand, but it would be fair to suggest the Redskins could have another win or two. By the same token, the Skins could also be looking at one or two more losses (or three). My point here is that the four wins we did secure have given us the ability to set up base camp from which we can make our final ascent to the peak.
- I do worry about playing a team that had been undefeated and has since lost three straight games. The Minnesota Vikings have plenty of talent and boast a defense that is capable of winning games almost by itself. On the season, the Vikings are allowing 15.8 points per game—up to 21 points per game during their three-game slide. The Redskins offense is putting up just over 23 points per game, so we should expect there to be some serious difficulty executing our mojo on Sunday. Their offensive coordinator rage-quit on the team last week, which can have any number of possible outcomes. I expect this game on Sunday to be won or lost (or tied) with a play made late in the fourth quarter. Nobody is running away with this thing—at least in my humble opinion.
- I know many of you are struggling about how to view the playoff race in light of our tie. I have switched to baseball standings lingo. We are two behind the Cowboys in the loss column, which is closer than anyone really sees us. A Redskins win and a Dallas loss this weekend (the Cowboys have opened up as an underdog against the Steelers in Vegas) would certainly help us to #MakeThanksgivingMatter! Another key thing to remember is that as long as we can match anyone’s win total by the end of the season, we hold the winning percentage advantage. That means 9-6-1 gets into the playoffs ahead of 9-7, and 8-7-1 gets in ahead of an 8-8 record. Who knows if the logjam around the 0.500 winning percentage we see in the NFC will persist, but the Redskins are in control of their own destiny in terms of staying ahead of that line.
- This week on The Audible, we’ll bring in a Hogs Haven writer for a segment on second half predictions and we’ll preview the upcoming stretch for this Skins team. As always, our “After the Whistle” show will give the Redskins season the televised drama treatment. It feels a little like these shows that now do a mini-break between stretches of new episodes (a la “The Walking Dead”). Sure, there is no action to cover from the weekend, but there is plenty to cover when it comes to the compelling nature of this NFL season. A lot happened yesterday that is material to how our second half of this season can go. I look forward to that conversation, and as always, I hope you’ll give me some great nuggets below that I can use to sound smart when arguing with T and Kevin over a bottle of whiskey.
Bye weeks are great opportunities to reconnect with your family before the second half of the season preoccupies you through New Year’s.