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The 5 O’Clock Club: Have injuries ended the Redskins 2018 season?

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It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

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.

Some key Redskins players on Injured Reserve

  • OG Arie Kouandjio
  • RB Rob Kelley
  • WR Robert Davis
  • S Troy Apke
  • OG Shawn Lauvao
  • RB Derrius Guice
  • WR Cam Sims
  • WR Paul Richardson
  • WR Trey Quinn
  • OG Brandon Scherff

Here’s a couple of things I notice about this injury list:

  1. I don’t see any defensive players on it. The Redskins in 2018 are primarily a team led by its defense, and that unit is pretty much intact. I think the only player dealing with any significant injury on that side of the ball is Quinton Dunbar, and he not only played against Atlanta... he played well.
  2. Ths is not a Who’s Who of offensive NFL talent. Looking down the list, I see a couple of UDFAs, Mr. Irrelevant, and a handful of mid & late round draft picks. There are only a few names on the list that are likely to have a huge impact.

Derrius Guice was lost for the season before the season began. He has already been capably replaced by future Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson, who has been the team’s most consistent offensive weapon. I’d rather have Guice healthy than injured, and I’m keen to see him in a Redskins uniform in a regular season game, but — at least for the moment — it feels like AD’s got this.

Shawn Laovao was the starting LG, but he had already missed a couple of games with injury earlier, and the Redskins offensive line played pretty well without him, with Bergstrom at Center and Roullier at Guard. I don’t know why that combination wouldn’t work again.

Paul Richardson was the team’s only big free agent signing of 2018, but it was probably always optimistic to expect him to stay healthy or be highly productive. So far this season, he has averaged about 3 catches and around 37 yards per game. Honestly, that production shouldn’t be hard to replace.

Brandon Scherff is the huge loss here. Scherff is a talented, 2-time pro bowl right guard who was having perhaps the best season of his career prior to the injury. The Redskins were already thin at the position, and losing Laovao and Scherff in the same game leaves a gaping hole in the O-line.

Compounding the dual injuries to Laovao and Scherff is the fact that Trent Williams just had surgery, and is expected to miss 2 to 3 more games. The Redskins are gonna have to field a patchwork offensive line for at least a couple of weeks, and the position group is likely to be a bit underpowered for the remainder of the season.

Losing 2 or 3 starters by mid-season isn’t unusual for an NFL team

I realize how much this sucks — especially to have a rash of injuries hit the offensive line group, in particular, for the second season in a row — but the fact is, the Redskins have really lost two top tier players for the entire season (Guice and Scherff) and currently have one star player out for a month in Williams.

As mentioned before, the running back injury is covered.

The problem is — just — the offensive line. Yeah, I know... “just”.

But, again, I’m not sure that Bergstrom-Roullier is really a downgrade from Laovao-Roullier.

Tye Nsekhe has shown himself to be a pretty good short term solution when Trent Williams has been gone, and he’s been gone a fair bit. Williams has played in just 10, 12, 14 and 15 games over the past 4 season. That’s thirteen missed games in the Jay Gruden era, and typically it was Nsekhe stepping up to the plate when Trent was missing. Nsekhe isn’t as good as TW, but then, probably nobody is —certainly no backup OT in the NFL — but Nsekhe is probably good enough to start for some NFL teams, and is probably as good as a team could hope for as a backup. If all goes to plan with Trent, he’ll only miss two to three more games. Nsekhe has pinch hit before for 3 to 6 games and acquitted himself pretty well. He’ll probably be just fine again.

The big issue

Losing Brandon Scherff for the season is, of course, the huge loss that truly hurts. He was probably playing the best of any Redskins lineman this season, and the team simply doesn’t have anyone to replace him with.

The Redskins wasted no time this week signing 3 street free agents to try to create some instant depth.

The fact is, losing Scherff will hurt an offense that was already struggling.

But most teams in the NFL lose a key player to IR each season. Many teams lose two.

The loss of Scherff could spell the end of the Redskins season, but it doesn’t have to.

Chasing the division title and a playoff berth

I can hear you now in your best Jim Mora voice: “Playoffs?... PLAYOFFS?!”

Yes. Playoffs.

The season is half over. The Redskins are 5-3, and our NFC East rivals are, for the most part, struggling and facing a challenging remaining schedule.

To reach the playoffs, all we really have to do is have one more win than the next-best team.

So, what record do we need to get there?

Let me caveat this by saying up front that I’m not pretending that I can predict wins and losses for the four division teams for the rest of the season. I just want to see what it would reasonably take to win the division, and make an assessment of whether it’s possible for the Redskins to get there with an intact defense and special teams, but without their pro-bowl right guard, and missing TW for three more games.

The Giants

Stick a fork in them, they’re done. At this point, the Giants are probably hoping to lose out. They need to be at the top of the draft to get a quarterback, and they know it. The key thing for Washington is that they get the win against the Giants at FedEx Field in Week 14.

Frankly, if they can’t do that, they don’t deserve the playoffs anyway.

The Cowboys

The Cowboys are 3-5 after losing to the Titans in Dallas on a Monday Night after the bye week. That’s gotta hurt.

Like the Redskins, the Cowboys play 4 division games in the final 8 weeks. I’m gonna say that they beat the Giants and the Redskins, but lose to the Eagles twice. Frankly, that’s all “worst case” stuff for the Redskins’ playoff hopes. If any of those 4 games goes the other way, it should actually help the Redskins win the division.

That leaves the Falcons, Saints, Colts and Buccaneers. I’m saying that Dallas goes 2-2 in those games, losing to the Falcons & Saints, but beating the Colts & Bucs.

That means that I see Dallas going 4-4 down the stretch, finishing at 7-9. Even if the Cowboys go 6-2 (don’t see them beating the Saints or sweeping Philly) then the best they can achieve is 9-7.

The Eagles

Philly has only played one division game so far, beating the Giants in Week 6, so five of their remaining eight games are inside the division. I’m predicting that they go 4-1 in those remaining division games, losing only to the Redskins at FedEx Field in Week 17.

If the Redskins can’t win that Week 17 game, they don’t deserve the playoffs.

If the Cowboys can steal a win against Philly, that only helps the Redskins’ playoff chances.

The key to Philly’s best possible record, then, is the three remaining non-division games, which come against the Saints, Rams and Texans. I predict a 1-2 record in those games, with the Eagles losing on the road in New Orleans and Los Angeles.

So, overall, I see the Eagles finishing strong, with 5 wins and 3 losses, to finish 9-7. I think they could lose a game to Dallas to drop to 8-8.

What does this mean for the Redskins?

Looking at the remaining schedule, it looks like the Eagles will finish 9-7 with a Redskins victory in Week 17, and maybe 8-8 if they split with the Cowboys.

The schedule for the Cowboys seems to point to a 7-9 overall record, with upside to 9-7 if they can win one against the Eagles plus another non-division game.

That makes a pretty clear target for the Redskins. To finish at the top of the division and earn a play off berth, the Redskins probably need 10 wins.

That means they need to finish 5-3 for a clear division win, but even 4-4 might be enough.

Is that possible?

I think it is.

First of all, if the Redskins can’t split the remaining 4 division games to go at least 2-2, then they don’t deserve the playoffs.

That means that they need to go 3-1 against the four remaining non-division opponents: Tampa Bay, Houston, Jacksonville and Tennessee. It’s not a slam dunk, but I think it’s possible.

The team really needs to get a win this week in Florida. The Buccaneers are probably the weakest non-division opponent left on the schedule. Again, if Washington can’t win in Week 10, they probably don’t deserve to be in the playoffs.

I’m thinking that the Week 11 game at home versus Houston is a loss. Houston is playing well, the Redskins still won’t have Trent Williams, and the Redskins just don’t seem to play as well at FedEx as they do on the road.

I’m predicting back-to-back nationally televised/prime time division losses to Dallas on Thanksgiving and Philly on MNF to extend the Redskins losing streak to 3 games, and put them 6-6 on the season, a game behind Philly following the Monday Night road loss.

That means the Redskins need to win out the final four games versus Giants, Jags, Texans, Eagles, and I think they do it. They’ll have Trent Williams back by then, plus one two players returning from IR. They will be in December with a strong defense and Adrian Peterson, and by that time, the ‘Skins offensive line should be back to an ‘average’ level, which should allow them to compete and win against decent teams like the Titans and Jags. In this scenario, Weeks 15, 16 & 17 become critically important.

So, here’s my roadmap to the playoffs. It’s not so much an effort to predict the outcome of nineteen NFL games as it is an effort a look at whether the Redskins have a chance to reach the playoffs, or whether — in the light of this weekend’s injuries — they should just call it quits now.

Poll

Which sentiment is closest to your opinion?

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    The Redskins are in first place in the NFCE and very much alive for the playoffs. The injuries are just an obstacle to overcome — the type of obstacle that playoff teams overcome every year. Let’s go!
    (372 votes)
  • 47%
    Yeah, I understand that you’re saying "there’s a chance" but too many things need to go right for the Redskins to win 5 more games. I’d call this "unlikely".
    (444 votes)
  • 11%
    Delusional. The season’s over. Schedule the surgeries and start the mock drafts.
    (111 votes)
927 votes total Vote Now