A nice holiday
The Redskins last played a game in Week 3. When the Texans beat the Cowboys in overtime Sunday night, that brought the entire slate of Week 5 games to a close — except for the Washington - New Orleans contest, which will be played on Monday Night Football.
Without stepping on the field for two weeks, the Redskins have moved up in the divisional and conference standings.
At the end of Week 3, when the Redskins beat the Packers, the Eagles were 2-1 and ranked first in the NFC East, and the Cowboys and Giants were both 1-2. It was so early in the season that nearly anything was possible. In the 6 games our division rivals have played over the past two weeks, they have gone 1-5, with the lone win being the Cowboys’ victory over the Lions, who went into the game 1-2. The five losses came against the Titans, Saints, Panthers, Vikings and Texans, who today sit at a combined 13-9-1.
Getting lots of help
It’s hard to imagine how Sunday could have gone any better for the Redskins. The team is in the division lead at the moment, but in a 16-game season there are a lot of ups and downs. Washington wants to be in the best position, not only to win the division, but to get a wildcard spot if they need to. In addition to all 3 divisional rivals losing, the Redskins ability to secure a wildcard spot at the end of the season was helped along by game results. The undefeated Rams, who will likely be the NFC’s top seed no matter what, handed a conference loss to the Seahawks, dropping them to 2-3, while the Lions took care of business with the Packers, dropping Green Bay to 2-2-1.
Opportunity and risk
At the close of play on Sunday, not only did the 2-1 Redskins have a full one-game lead on the 2-3 Eagles and Cowboys for the division title, but Washington is sitting all alone in the 5th position in the conference, with a great opportunity available on Monday night — though opportunity is always accompanied by risk.
If the Redskins beat the Saints on Monday night, these good things will all happen:
- The Redskins resulting 3-1 record would increase the lead in the division to 1.5 games.
- The ‘Skins would vault into a tie for 2nd place in the conference with the Bears and Panthers.
- The Redskins would earn a potentially critical tiebreaker against the Saints, which could matter in playoff seedings or wildcard calculations at the end of the season.
- The Redskins would put up an important win against a quality opponent on prime time television, something the Redskins haven’t done often enough in the past.
By contrast, a loss to the Saints would see the 2-2 Redskins’ division lead drop to a half-game, they would fall into a tie with Tampa Bay for 5th/6th seeding in the conference, they would lose position relative to the Saints for any end-of-season playoff seeding or wildcard spot, and suffer yet another loss on Monday Night Football.
In a sense, because the Redskins are in a strong position in the division and the conference at the moment, the stakes are much higher than they would have been if the team was buried in the middle of the standings.
The Redskins-Saints rivalry
Fortunately, history gives the Redskins a lot of hope for showing up and taking care of business on Monday night.
The Redskins lead the overall series with New Orleans 17-9 in a rivalry that dates back to 1967. But this isn’t a cherry-picked stat that requires wins from the 1970s to favor the Redskins.
Washington is 4-2 in its last 6 games against the Saints, with both losses coming in overtime. The Redskins are actually 4-1 in the last 5 games played in the Mercedez-Benz Superdome, with the lone loss being last year’s Week 11 game in which the Redskins had a 2-touchdown lead with less than 7 minutes remaining, but ended up losing in overtime.
In short, the Redskins have historically played well against the Saints and in the Superdome.
Incidentally, Jay Gruden is 2-2 in games after the bye, with the two victories coming in ‘16 and ‘17.
Monday Night Football
The huge monkey on the back of the Washington Redskins franchise is the team’s consistent failure to win on Monday nights, a trend which has continued in the Jay Gruden era.
Last season the Redskins lost to Kansas City on MNF in Week 5 in the game that featured the famous Doctson non-drop. The key turning point in that game seemed to come when Josh Norman was lost to a rib injury. The other loss came against the Eagles, on the road in Philadelphia in Week 8.
In 2016, the Redskins also lost twice on Monday night, starting the season with a home-opening beatdown at the hands of the Steelers, and going on to lose at home to the Panthers late in season.
In 2015, the eventual division champion Redskins lost at home, 19-16 to the Dallas Cowboys.
Only in 2014 has Jay Gruden’s team found any success on Monday night. After losing to Seattle at the beginning of October, the Redskins managed to get a road win against Dallas at the end of the month, getting their lone Gruden-era MNF win, 20-17 behind 299 passing yards and one rushing touchdown from Colt McCoy. That win was so long ago, that Desean Jackson amassed 136 receiving yards while Alfred Morris, Roy Helu and Silas Redd all got carries at the RB position in that game.
In short, if the Redskins are going to take advantage of the huge opportunity that sits in front of them, they will have to break the long history of failure under the bright Monday night lights.
Execution matters more than history
The ghost of past prime time failures won’t matter nearly as much as the team’s ability to execute on the field. Everyone knows how dangerous the Saints offense, led by future Hall of Famer Drew Brees, is. Everyone knows that Mark Ingram rejoins his team this week, after serving a suspension for the first four weeks. Ingram and Kamara may be the most dangerous running back duo in the NFL.
But the Redskins have some pedigree of their own. Led by the DHogs — Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Matt Ioaniddis — the Redskins bring the league’s top ranked defense, which is also #1 against the pass, to New Orleans. Allowing just 278 yards per game overall, and just 187 ypg passing, the Redskins have blanketed opponents’ ability to move the ball through the air, and have also been pretty good against the run, giving up 90 yards per game on the ground — 6th best in the league.
Of course, yards don’t win games, points do. The Redskins have the top-ranked scoring defense, giving up 14.7 points per game — one of only six teams in the league to hold its opponents to less than 20 ppg.
The Redskins rank 3rd in the NFC in point differential at +20, meaning that — while the offense hasn’t lit the world on fire, the team as a whole has managed to be about a touchdown better than their opponents over the first month of the season.
To beat the Saints this week, the Redskins are going to need their top ranked defense to shut down one of the best running back pairs in football, and a QB who, literally, by the end of the game, will almost certainly be the most prolific passer in the history of the league.
But the Redskins should have the horses to do it. In addition to the DHogs, the Redskins have a good OLB unit, featuring Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith, and a young but talented cornerback group, led by one of the NFL’s best in Josh Norman. Although Zach Brown has looked a bit off, suffering all season long from an oblique injury, Mason Foster has stepped up and played like a man on a mission. At safety, DJ Swearinger has brought his usual passion and mouth, and backed it up with some flashy play.
On the other side of the ball, the Redskin offensive attack has been led by Adrian Peterson, who is 5th in the league in yards per game, and tied for 2nd in the league for rushing touchdowns per game, having crossed the goal line 3 times in 3 games.
Alex Smith, meanwhile, has the 7th best QBR among signal callers with at least 10 passing attempts. Jordan Reed is 6th in the NFL among tight ends in receiving yards per game, while Chris Thompson is ranked 5th among running backs.
The only real concern seems to be at the wide receiver position, where Doctson, Crowder and Richardson seem to be struggling to establish themselves in the pass game. Even that could change on Monday night. The Saints currently rank 30th against the pass, giving up 311 receiving yards per game to the Bucs, Browns, Falcons and Giants, who combine for a 6-12-1 record on the season. While TB leads the league in passing, and Atlanta is in the top-10, the Browns and Giants both rank in the bottom half of the league in passing, which indicates that the Redskins 20th rated passing attack should be able to find enough success against the porous Saints defense to allow the running backs and defense to lead Washington to a road win on Monday Night Football.
There’s a great opportunity available for the Redskins in Week 5; the rewards for a win tonight are huge. The Redskins have the league’s highest rated defense for total yards per game, passing yards per game and points per game, along with two of the best running backs in the league in rushing and receiving, and a quarterback who is 71-32-1 since 2011. Playing with three different teams, Alex is averaging 11 wins and 5 losses per 16 games.
The Redskins have put together a team that can win a huge game on the road on Monday night.
Now is the time to do it.
How many points will the Redskins defense (14.7 ppg) give up to the Saints offense (34.2 ppg)
This poll is closed
less than 15
16 - 21
22 - 28
29 - 34
How many points will the Redskins offense (21.3 ppg) score against the Saints Defense (30.2 ppg)?
This poll is closed
less than 15
16 - 21
22 - 28
29 - 34