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The 5 O’Clock Club: Unhappy Thanksgiving

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It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

Washington Redskins v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

The 5 o’clock club is published Wednesday to Saturday during the season, and 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.

The Redskins scored 31 points against the Packers in Week 3, and 24 in Week 1 versus the Cardinals, but they hadn’t scored more than 23 in any other game this season.

So, if Redskins fans had known before the game started that the offense would end up putting up 23 points against the Cowboys in Dallas, they might’ve expected a win.

It didn’t turn out that way, as we all know. The defense struggled to contain Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott, but the real killing blow came from three interceptions that Dallas pulled down.

The Redskins won 6 of their first 9 games of the season, with Alex Smith playing whistle to whistle, by winning the field position battle. That involved a few elements: the offense protecting the football, the defense getting stops and turnovers, and the kicker & punter consistently keeping the opposing offenses on long fields.

That formula relies on slowing down the game, stealing some of the opponent’s offensive scoring chances, giving them to the Redskins offense, and not giving many of them back. It’s a formula that breaks down when the offense gives the ball away.

Alex Smith was obviously very very good at not turning the ball over, though it was often frustrating to watch the Redskins offense sputter down the field and average less than 20 points per game. But the team was winning, and winning regularly.

Against the Cowboys on Thursday, the team showed more of what the offense can be. The offense put up 23 points, and — had the officials done their job and thrown a penalty flag when Jordan Reed’s head was nearly taken off just a few yards outside the Cowboys’ end zone — might well have scored 4 touchdowns in the game.

You get the feeling that Colt McCoy, AP and the crew have the opportunity to run Jay’s offense in a way that makes it look more like it did over the three years that Kirk was the starter — something that didn’t appear likely with Alex Smith under center.

If Colt can cut down on the mistakes (and the refs can remember to throw flags when opposing teams commit penalties and keep them in their pockets when the Redskins don’t commit fouls) then there’s a chance that this team becomes more balanced and can rely on offensive scoring as much as they’ve relied, so far, on defensive playmaking.

D.J. Swearinger said after the game that the Redskins defense didn’t play well enough, and he’s right — the ‘Skins allowed 31-points to be scored by the Cowboys — but they were sent back on the field early three times by a quarterback who was much looser with the football than Alex Smith had been for the first 9 games of the season.

Everybody’s gotta play better, but not many teams can win a game when they give the ball to the other team three times.

Poll

Which would you prefer?

This poll is closed

  • 32%
    More of the same, conservative careful-with-the football style of play that got the Redskins 6 wins
    (107 votes)
  • 67%
    The opportunity to open up Jay Gruden’s offense, score like a ‘normal’ NFL team, and let the offense win some games, even if it comes with the risk of more turnovers and losses like this one
    (226 votes)
333 votes total Vote Now

In the meantime...

I’m sure D.J. Swearinger realizes that the Redskins still have the opportunity to take back control of the NFC East by winning some big games in Weeks 13 & 14. Let’s hope that he and his teammates prepare for the big game, because the next one up for Washington is in prime time.

Week 13 begins with the Saints at the Cowboys on Thursday night. Forgive me for marking that down as an “L” for the Cowboys right now.

Atlanta Falcons v New Orleans Saints Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Week 13 closes up shop with the Redskins at the Eagles on Monday Night Football. If Washington can use the 11 days in between to get their minds and bodies right, then they have the chance to walk out of Lincoln Financial Field in first place in the division with a one-game lead again.

Those two games (Thursday & Monday nights) could see the division looking like this:

  • Redskins 7-5
  • Cowboys 6-6
  • Eagles 5-7 or 4-8
  • Giants 3-9 or 4-8 (I’m giving the Bears the Week 13 win)

Assuming that works out...

In Week 14, the Redskins host the Giants while the Eagles travel to Dallas. Assuming that the ‘Skins win the next two division games in Weeks 13 & 14 and the Saints take care of business in Dallas next Thursday night, then the Redskins would be able to enter the final three weeks of the season with the Giants completely out of it, the Eagles practically eliminated from the division race, and the Cowboys either one or two games behind with 3 games to play.

If Redskins win the next two and Saints beat Cowboys:

  • Redskins 8-5
  • Cowboys 7-6 or 6-7
  • Eagles 6-7, 5-8 or 4-9
  • Giants 3-10 or 4-9
Miami Dolphins v Washington Redskins Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Poll

How will the Redskins finish in 2018?

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    Division champs with 9 or 10 wins
    (137 votes)
  • 14%
    9 wins & a wild card
    (74 votes)
  • 41%
    8 win mediocrity
    (212 votes)
  • 18%
    a second consecutive losing season
    (94 votes)
517 votes total Vote Now