The 5 o’clock club aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.
With the Redskins on a bye this week, and not playing today, I thought it might be a good day to look ahead to the next four games — the second quarter of the 16-game season. I’m not sure the 2017 Redskins can match Doug Williams when it comes to second quarter performance, but I’m hoping they can take inspiration from the boss’s playing days and show up big over the next 4 weeks.
Each of the four games offers its own challenges and opportunities.
The most immediate challenge, coming out of the bye week, will be fielding a healthy team. Josh Norman is out for 4 weeks according to his Twitter account. That would indicate that he expects to miss the 49ers, Eagles, and Cowboys, returning for the road game in Seattle in Week 9.
Trent Williams aggravated a training camp kneecap injury during the Chiefs game. Williams’ backup, Ty Nsekhe, is out for a few weeks following knee surgery, so TJ Clemmings would be the next man up.
Rob Kelley left the Chiefs game with an ankle injury, but according to at least one report was seen running sprints on the sideline after returning from the locker room. It sounds like the bye week may be enough for him to recover. If not, then Mack Brown would be active on game day against San Fransisco.
The walking wounded seems to include, or potentially include, Montae Nicholson, Quinton Dunbar, Mason Foster, Josh Doctson, Jordan Reed, and Jamison Crowder. There may be others; honestly, it was hard to keep up with the players hobbling off the field in Kansas City, and with the bye week there haven’t been a lot of updates coming out of Ashburn.
The fact is, aside from Norman and Nsekhe, I’m guessing that the players will all be fit enough to take the field when next they play.
Week 6 - San Francisco - Sunday 1:00 p.m.
The 49ers are currently winless, with a road game today against the 1 - 3 Colts.
According to the SportsInteraction website, the Colts are favored at -1.5.
“Nobody expected the 49ers to beat the Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, Los Angeles Rams or Arizona Cardinals in their first four games. They’ve been a dog each time. The fact that they nearly upset three of their last four opponents is a testament to hard work of the players and coaching staff.
San Francisco is one of the worst teams in the NFL, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index, which measures perceived strength based on roster talent. However, the 49ers have lost each of their last three games by three points or fewer – including an overtime defeat in Arizona last week. Quarterback Brian Hoyer has done just enough to keep them close in games without being good enough to put them over the top and win a game.”
Nothing about the Niners record should scare the Redskins, and few fans are really intimidated by a Brian Hoyer-led offense. The wildcard here may be Kyle Shanahan, who will be having a homecoming of sorts. After all, he was the Redskins offensive coordinator from 2010 to 2013; coaching a team playing at FedEx Field should feel very familiar. Another guy who will feel the familiarity is Pierre Garcon, who spent 5 years lining up for the home team in FedEx Field, and may feel that he has something to prove to the Redskins brass.
If the Redskins play like they played against the Rams, Raiders and Chiefs, then this game shouldn’t be particularly close. The 49ers, after suffering a year under an overmatched Jim Tomsula, and being further decimated under Chip Kelley’s ‘guidance’ last year, simply aren’t the talented team that won the 2012 NFC Championship and competed in the Super Bowl.
This version of the 49ers is in full rebuilding mode, with a brand new GM (John Lynch) and head coach (Shanahan) who both enjoy the security of 6-year contracts that provide them with time to implement their shared vision. They might be able to cobble together a few wins with a 4th place schedule and playing in an under-powered NFC West division in 2017, but they are likely to be a couple of drafts away from serious playoff contention.
Every week in the NFL is a tough contest, but if the Redskins can’t take care of business at home against this team following a Redskins bye week, then Jay Gruden and his squad should probably shelve any playoff aspirations they might have.
Of course, injuries — particularly the rib/lung injury that Josh Norman got against Kansas City that will keep him out for 4 weeks -- may play a role here, but with this weekend off to rest and recover, the Redskins are likely to go into this game as healthy as any NFL team is in Week 6.
This should be a businesslike day-at-the-office victory for a team that will be hungry to follow up on a strong effort, but ultimately a losing performance, in Kansas City last Monday.
Playoff teams win the ones they are supposed to win.
The Redskins simply have to take care of business in this home game against a visiting team, with a journeyman quarterback, in the first year of a rebuild.
Week 7 - @ Philadelphia - Monday 8:30 p.m.
This will be the Redskins 3rd prime time appearance in 4 games, and second Monday Night Football appearance of the season, and it features two divisional rivals who don’t like each other very much, and who will be playing for the ability to control first place in the NFC East going forward.
The Redskins owe the Eagles, having allowed the Philly team to come to FedEx Field and win back in Week One.
The fact is, prior to the Week 1 loss to Philly, the Redskins owned the Eagles, having won 5 straight games against them, so beating the Philadelphia team at Veterans Stadium is nothing new for Gruden, Cousins or most of the players on the team.
The Redskins can’t really afford to lose this game. It would add one game to the Eagles’ lead in the division standings with regard to the won-lost record, but — in effect — it would add two games, as the Eagles would hold the tie-breaker, meaning that the Redskins — to be able to win the division — would have to have a better overall record than Philadelphia at the end of the season.
Games don’t get much bigger than this in October.
Monday Night Football.
On the Road.
Control over first place in the division on the line.
It’s been suggested that the Eagles are not as strong as their record suggests. We all know how miserably the Redskins play every year in Week 1 under Gruden, so the Eagles victory in that game is easy to discount. The other two Eagles victories have been against the winless Giants and Chargers.
Having watched the Eagles play the Chiefs tough in Arrowhead, though, I’m not quick to discount this Philly team. This game should be reminiscent of the one in Kansas City — a hard fought bare-knuckle brawl with nothing left on the field.
It’s a bad game to be without Josh Norman. Let’s hope the rest of the team is healthy and on the field in this fight for control over first place in the division.
The Redskins need to win this game, or start doing the calculations for a wildcard berth instead of a division championship.
To me, this is the biggest game on the schedule in the second quarter of the season.
Week 8 - Dallas - Sunday 4:25 p.m.
We’ll know more about this Dallas team by the time we see them in Week 8. Right now, they have victories against the 0-4 Giants and the 2-2 Cardinals.
We all know about the Giants, but those Cardinals may be the worst 2-2 team in the NFL. They’ve given up 17 points more than they’ve scored, and their two victories have each been by 3 points; 16-13 vs the hapless Colts, and 18-15 against the winless 49ers. Arizona looks to be a team on the decline.
All this is to say that the two Cowboy victories have come against third-tier opponents — at least based on Giants & Cardinals play in the first four games.
Meanwhile, the other two games on the Dallas schedule in the first quarter were both ugly losses to good teams, coming in the form of a 42-17 beatdown on the road in Denver, and a 35-30 home loss to the visiting LA Rams. These are the same Rams that the Redskins beat 27-20 in LA two weeks earlier.
These Cowboys, who suffered so many free agency losses in the offseason due to the albatross of the Tony Romo contract still hanging around their collective necks, simply aren’t the same team they were a year ago when they went 13-3 while Ezekiel Elliott ran roughshod over the rest of the NFL, aside from the NY Giants.
Of course, there’s no way of knowing right now whether Elliott will even play in the Week 8 contest, given the legal wrangling currently going on with regard to his suspension.
Opposing defenses this season have kept Zeke Elliott from breaking loose. He has amassed 277 yards (69 p/g) and 2 TDs in the first quarter of the season. He’s on track for 1,100 yards and 8 TDs, but that would be a significant regression from his spectacular 1600+ yard rookie season. The Cowboys defense, in particular, isn’t good enough to win games if Dallas can’t play ball-control with the run game. They lost too many quality defensive players in free agency following the end of the ‘16 season. DeMarcus Lawrence is playing lights out, but he can’t win games all by himself. We saw the Rams exploit that weakness last week, and I suspect that other teams — including the Redskins — will exploit it for the rest of the season.
The Cowboys play the Packers at home today, and then travel to SF next week, before coming to FedEx Field for the Week 8 divisional game. Assuming the Cowboys lose to the Packers — and right now fans on NFL.com are picking the Packers to win, 71% to 29%, while the betting line has Dallas favored at -2.5 — the Redskins would have the opportunity to pin a division loss on the Cowboys in Week 8, drop them below .500 for the season, and open up a substantial lead in the division race.
Week 8 against the Cowboys is a home, division game. It’s another of the games that the Redskins have to be able to win if they want to be a playoff team.
The Redskins need to be 5-2 by the end of Week 8.
Faltering in any of these three games (SF, Philly, Dallas) would signal that the Redskins are not truly playoff-ready.
Week 9 - @ Seattle - Sunday 4:05 p.m.
The least critical game in the second quarter for the Redskins is likely to be their Week 9 contest against the Seahawks on the road in Seattle. This will be a non-division game, on the west coast, against a team that is talented, but has proven to be wildly unpredictable over the past couple of seasons.
The Seahawks typically get stronger as the season progresses, and the noticeable improvement often kicks in right around the early November date of this game.
Of course, this game also represents the Redskins 2nd foray into one of the loudest and most difficult stadiums in the NFL for visiting teams (Kansas City was the first). The Seahawks are tough at home.
Washington should have the talent to compete against the Seahawks, but this looks to me like the second quarter game in which the Redskins are most vulnerable.
If they take care of business against the two division opponents, and get the win at home against the 49ers, then a loss on the road in Seattle won’t be disastrous.
In addition, the second half of the season (Weeks 10-17) looks like it will be less brutal than the first half, featuring games against the Saints, Cardinals, Chargers, and Giants (twice), providing the opportunity for the ‘Skins to finish strong down the stretch.
My prediction is that, following a non-division road loss in Seattle, the Redskins finish the second quarter 5-3 overall, and 2-1 inside the division. Anything less will likely put pressure on the team’s playoff hopes.
What do you think about the upcoming games that make up the second quarter of the Redskin season?
Question 1: Looking ahead to the next 4 games on the schedule, which team do you think is the most dangerous matchup for the Redskins?
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49ers (1pm Sun)
Cowboys (4:25 Sun)
Seahawks (4:05 Sun)
Question 2: What win-loss record do you expect the Redskins to amass over the next 4 games?
This poll is closed