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.
A quick peek backwards
It occurs to me, as the season progresses, that — the Atlanta Falcons aside — the Redskins 2018 losses don’t look so bad in retrospect.
When they lost to the Colts, the feeling was that Washington had dropped a game to one of the weaker teams in the league. Well, the Colts are now 6-5 and in 2nd place in their division. They’ve got a good chance of being a wildcard team in the AFC this season. A lot of NFC East fans are holding out hope that they’ll be good enough to beat the Cowboys at Indy in Week 15.
Going into the game with the Saints, a lot of Redskins fans looked at the matchup and thought that, despite being in New Orleans, the Redskins were likely to match up well, and could very possibly get the win. This feeling was bolstered by the Week 1 win for Tampa Bay against New Orleans. It turned out to be an embarrassing prime time embarrassment for the Redskins, but, looking back, it’s just one in a string of beatdowns the Saints laid on opponents this season.
The Texans game was an important home game, but perhaps the least surprising loss of the season for the Redskins. It hurt more because of the way in which the team lost, with the multiple turnovers, the loss of Alex Smith to a gruesome leg injury, and the fact that it allowed Dallas to close the gap in the NFC East race.
The Thanksgiving Day loss to Dallas was painful for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that it took the Redskins out of sole possession of first place in the East. The way Dallas handled the Saints high-powered attack in Dallas on Thursday night, though, makes the painful loss seem a bit less difficult to understand. With 4 straight wins against the Eagles, Falcons, Redskins and Saints, the wins don’t look “flukey” any more. The Cowboys look like a team that has finally figured out the 2018 season.
I just hope we don’t end up adding to that list of ‘understandable’ losses in the upcoming games against Philly.
But before we move forward to look at the challenge the Redskins will be facing when they visit the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night, let’s take a final quick look back at the Thanksgiving Day Dallas Cowboys game.
Last weekend, ahead of the Dallas game, 5 o’clock club readers were invited to vote on over-under predictions for the game. Let’s see how we did.
Predictions & actual results for last week’s Dallas Cowboys game
30.5 points scored by the Redskins on Thanksgiving day, 2018
- prediction: under (78%)
- actual: The Redskins put up 23 points in their loss to the Cowboys — tied for the third highest point total of the season. The offensive production was limited by three interceptions thrown by Colt McCoy, a missed extra point by Dustin Hopkins, and an egregious non-call on a 3rd down pass to Jordan Reed inside the Dallas 5 yard line in the waning minutes of the game. Still, likely not many Redskins fans were expecting much more, given the overwhelming number of readers who took the “under” on 30.5 points.
Zeke Elliott rushes for 95.3 yards against the Redskins
- prediction: under (66%)
- actual: The Redskins run defense, which looked impenetrable for the first half-dozen games of the season has been shredded like a wet paper bag recently. Still, readers expected the Redskins’ defense to hold Zeke Elliott below his season average. They didn’t.
Elliott rushed 26 times for 121 yards (4.7 ypc) and a touchdown.
While Elliott is undoubtedly a good back, something has changed dramatically from the first 7 games of the season when the Redskins faced outstanding backs (including Elliott) every week and managed to keep all of them in check in terms of ground attack.
The Cowboys score 19.5 points against the Redskins on Thursday afternoon
- prediction: over (55%)
- actual: The Cowboys, helped along by a +3 turnover margin, put up 31 points against Washington, with rushing touchdowns from Elliot and Dak Prescott, and two touchdowns from Amari Cooper. The long Amari Cooper TD against Fabian Moreau was, perhaps, the most disheartening moment of the game, as it looked initially like a routine catch for limited yardage until the CB whiffed on the tackle, Clinton-Dix overran the play and Cooper made an outstanding after-catch juke and simply outran the entire defense for a 90-yard touchdown.
The Redskins will be +0.5 takeaway margin on Thursday in Dallas
- prediction: over (79%)
- actual: The Redskins defense has given up a lot of yardage to teams this season, but with the exception of the Saints game, they had been able to get more opportunistic takeaways than the opponents, making them a frustrating defense to play and a hard team to beat.
Not so on Thanksgiving day in Dallas. For the first time all season, the Redskins defense failed to force a fumble or interception. Coming as it did in a game where the offense gave the ball away 3 times, it was a recipe for failure. The Redskins had their first negative turnover margin of the season against Dallas on Thursday at -3. The Cowboys also forced a fumble by Colt McCoy that the Redskins recovered, and at least one time a Redskin receiver ‘played defense’ to break up an errant pass from McCoy that might’ve added to the giveaway total.
The Dallas offense gives up 3.5 sacks against the Redskins this week
- prediction: under (52%)
- actual: Respect for the Dallas offensive line, and perhaps for Dak’s athleticism, dies grudgingly. Hogs Haven readers weren’t expecting a ton of pressure to get home against the Cowboys. Nevertheless, the Redskins managed 4 sacks against Dallas, all of them in the first half. The defense looked to have Prescott trapped a couple of more times at least, but he managed to unload the ball — incredibly, for completed passes.
By the second half, the Redskins defense appeared to be running out of gas. Instead of getting the benefit of winning the time of possession battle that they usually got from Alex Smith, the ‘Skins defense was worn down by Dallas running 69 plays to 61 for Washington, and seeing Dallas win the important time of possession battle 33:23 to 26:37.
In a game with no defensive or special teams scores (which tend to skew time of possession) this is a huge differential, caused in part by the three McCoy interceptions thrown, and may help explain the relatively weaker pass rush in the second half. The hidden benefits of Alex Smith’s style of play seem to emerge as we see the three phases of the game all affected by a shift in the quarterback style of play.
Who will have the most receiving yards on Thursday?
- prediction: Jordan Reed (27%) / Amari Cooper (21%)
- actual: Readers picked the top two names correctly, but put them in the wrong order. Amari Cooper had the breakout game that Jerry Jones was probably hoping for when he traded a first-round pick to acquire him. Cooper pulled down 8 receptions for 180 yards (22.5 ypc avg) and 2 touchdowns.
The leading yardage producers for the Redskins were their bookend tight ends, Jordan Reed (with 6 catches for 75 yards) and Vernon Davis (2 catches, 73 yards, 1 TD).
Adrian Peterson rushes for 60 yards against Dallas on the road this week
- prediction: over (80%)
- actual: Coming into the 11th game of the season, a few things have been true. Among them, the team to score first had won all 10 games, and when AD rushed for more than 60 yards, the Redskins won; when he rushed for less, the ‘Skins lost.
Both streaks are unbroken. The Cowboys scored first, Peterson rushed 12 times for 35 yards, and the Redskins lost.
Shifting the focus to the Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles looked like the weaker team throughout the first half of last week’s game against the Giants, but came back in the second half behind some questionable offensive play calling by the Giants’ coaching staff. The win by the Eagles effectively snuffed out any hope that the Giants had of sniffing a playoff spot as it is now mathematically impossible for them to finish the season above .500.
Philly, with its current sub-.500 record is just a game back of the Redskins in the NFC East. With two games against the Redskins and one against the Cowboys, if the Eagles can win their 5 remaining matchups, they could yet finish as 10-win division champs. Even a 9-7 record might win the division or see Philly qualify as a wildcard team.
But the 4 remaining opponents (Skins, Cowboys, Rams, Texans) have a combined record of 31-14, with every one those teams being above .500 and in sole possession of first place in their respective divisions or within half a game of the lead. The Eagles could just as easily lose the final 5 games to finish 5-11 on the season.
Both the Eagles and the Redskins are at a key point in the season.
If the Redskins win, they restore the tie with the Cowboys for first place in the division after Week 13, holding a 2-game lead over the Eagles with 4-games left to play.
If the Eagles can get the win, they would pull into a tie for 2nd place in the division, with the first-place Dallas team next up on the schedule in Week 14. That would spell trouble for the Redskins, who would lose a tie-breaker with either team under that scenario, meaning that the winner of the Philly-Dallas game would be in no worse than a tie for 1st place and ahead of Washington at the end of Week 14 even if the Redskins take care of business against the Giants. That would put a huge amount of pressure on the Redskins to win out to hold onto any hope of a playoff spot.
In short, while not quite a season-killer if they lose on Monday night, the Redskins really need to win this week in Philly if they want to keep their season off of life-support.
Against the Cowboys, the Redskins gave up 404 total yards. Against Houston, 320 yards.
The Eagles gave up 402 to the Giants and 546 to the Saints.
That’s 1,672 yards in total, or about 836 yards per week.
800 yards of total offense in the Redskins-Eagles game on Monday night
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Philadelphia has given up 3 sacks in each of the past two games - 6 total sacks. They have given up 34 sacks total in 11 games, for an average of just over 3 per game.
Washington gave up 3 sacks to the Cowboys and FIVE to the Texans, for 8 total over two games (4 per game). On the year, the Redskins have given up 27 sacks (2.45 per game).
The two teams are averaging 5.45 per game across the season, but 7 per game in the two most recent contests.
7.5 combined sacks for the Redskins and Eagles defenses
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Here are the Time of Possession figures for the same four games:
Redskins 2-game Time of Possession: 57:34 (28:47 per game).
Redskins season long Time of Possession average: 30:58
Eagles 2-game Time of Possession: 49:48 (24:54 per game).
Eagles season long Time of Possession average: 31:59
Both teams have been winning the Time of Possession battle for the 11-games of the season, but both have lost the combined ToP battle for Weeks 11 & 12.
The ToP winner has 31:05 on Monday night
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Here are the team turnover statistics from the past two games for both teams:
In these two losses, Washington forced 3 turnovers while giving up 5 for turnover differential of -2.
The Redskins have a season-long TO diff of +9.
Philly forced 3 turnovers against New Orleans & New York while giving the ball away 6 times for a turnover differential of -3.
The Eagles have a season long TO diff of -8.
Turnover differential of +0.5 for the Redskins on Monday night
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This is from James Dorsett’s Skins Snaps & Stats (defense/ST):
Tress Way- Tress Way’s spectacular season continued on Thanksgiving Day. His 5 punts went for 228 yards and a 45.6 net average. The Cowboys did not return one of Way’s punts, which marks just the second game in which a Washington opponent did not returned a single punt this season. He pinned Dallas’ offense inside their own 20-yard line four times, with three of those ending up inside the 9.
Way leads the league in punts inside the 20 (31) and inside-the-20 percentage (59.6%). He is the only player with more than 25 punts (among 30 qualifiers) who has not kicked a single touchback this season.
Tress Way has essentially been perfect in 2018 and he deserves to be a first-team All-Pro.
Tress Way pins the Eagles inside the 20 yard line 4 times during the Monday night game
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exactly 4 times
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A Tress Way punt will result in a touchback for the first time this season
Tress Way’s touchback-free streak continues
Carson Wentz as a rusher
Carson Wentz has played in 9 games this season, and has rushed 26 times for 100 yards, averaging 2.88 rushes and about 11 yards per game.
In 2017, Wentz had 13 starts, and rushed 64 times for 299 yards (4.92 rushes and 23 yards per game).
In Wentz’s career games against the Redskins, he has accumulated the following rushing stats:
- 23 Oct 17 - 8 for 63
- 10 Sep 17 - 4 for 6
- 11 Dec 16 - 2 for 5
- 16 Oct 16 - 2 for 2
Colt McCoy as a rusher
Colt McCoy rushed 5 times for 35 yards against Houston, and 5 times for 28 yards against Dallas.
For his career, Colt has played in 38 games. He has 128 attempts for 428 yards (3.36 attempts and 11.26 yards per game).
Who rushes for more yards in this game?
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The leading receivers for 2018 from the Eagles and Redskins:
- Zach Ertz - 84 rec, 895 yards
- Jordan Reed - 50 rec, 537 yards
- Nelson Agholor - 47 rec, 467 yards
- Alshon Jeffrey - 40 rec, 461 yards
- Josh Doctson - 32 rec, 334 yards
- Chris Thompson - 28 rec, 209 yards
- Maurice Harris - 27 rec, 291 yards
Which Redskins player will have the most receptions against the Eagles?
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Here are some reports from various James Dorsett articles about the Redskins’ defensive performance against opposing tight ends this season:
Ricky Seals-Jones and Gabe Holmes were the only Cardinals’ tight ends that played with the Arizona offense in Sunday’s game. They combined to catch three passes for 2 first downs and only 19 yards on 36 routes run and 6 targets
The Washington D allowed the trio of Eric Ebron, Jack Doyle and Ryan Heywitt to catch 5-of-10 targets for 46 yards, 3 first downs and a touchdown.
The Washington D held Jimmy Graham and Lance Kendricks to just 5 receptions for 45 yards, 2 first downs and no touchdowns on a combined 47 routes run and 8 targets. To be fair, the Redskins were bailed out by a Lance Kendricks drop which would’ve just about doubled the aforementioned yardage total.
The Redskins have only allowed opposing tight ends to gain a total of 127 receiving yards so far this season, a figure which ranks 10th best in the league.
Ben Watson and Josh Hill combined to catch 6-of-6 targets for 54 yards, 4 first downs and a touchdown. This was easily the team’s worst performance against the position this season.
Greg Olsen caught 4-of-7 targets for 48 yards and 3 first downs. This is an adequate performance by the Skins’ defense when you consider that they were going up against a tight end who has been named to the Pro Bowl in each of the last three seasons.
(in DC) Cowboys’ tight ends Geoff Swaim, Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz combined to put up 5 receptions, 53 yards and 3 first downs on 7 targets and 44 total routes run.
(in Dallas) The Redskins had one of the best performances against enemy tight ends this season. Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz caught 3-of-4 targets thrown their way, but only gained 21 yards and picked up a single first down on those plays.
New York tight ends Evan Engram and Rhett Ellison received a combined 10 targets, but caught just 5 passes of those passes for 25 yards and a touchdown.
The Redskins have not allowed any of the seven tight end corps they’ve faced this season to gain over 54 total yards and they are only giving up an average of 44 yards per game to the position. Last season seven different tight ends had at least 59 receiving yards against the Skins and tight end groups averaged 61 yards per game against the team.
Austin Hooper was the only Atlanta tight end targeted in the game, but he caught all three of the passes thrown his way for 41 yards and a pair of 20-yard-plus first downs.
Washington’s defense held the Bucs’ elite tight end duo of O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate to a combined 2 receptions for 29 yards, 2 first downs and 0 touchdowns on 5 targets and 43 routes run. The reception and yardage totals are the lowest by Tampa’s tight end corps this season.
Star tight end O.J. Howard posted either his lowest or second-lowest target, reception, receiving yardage and first down totals in the game. One of his three targets ended with a Redskins’ interception.
The Redskins have allowed the ninth fewest yards to the tight end position in 2018 (379 yards).
The Texans have what is probably one of the worst tight end corps in the league, at least when it comes to receiving production. This is why it was a bit disappointing to see the duo of Jordan Thomas and Jordan Akins put up 3 receptions for 53 yards and 2 first downs in the game.
Akins’ 28-yard reception on a third down was the second-longest offensive play of the game.
The Redskins are a top-ten team in terms of limiting tight end production.
Zach Ertz is the top-ranked tight end in the NFL, averaging around 9.5 receptions and 80 yards per game.
Zach Ertz gets 79 yards receiving against the Redskins
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