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The 5 O’Clock Club: Can the Redskins keep their playoff hopes alive against the Titans?

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

Tennessee Titans v New York Giants Photo by Al Bello/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.

A quick peek backwards

Before we move forward to look at the challenge the Redskins will be facing when they visit the Titans today, let’s take a final quick look back at last week’s gritty win over the Jaguars in Jacksonville.

Combined with the outcomes of several other games, the Redskins playoff opportunities were maintained, and possibly expanded, by the victory over the Jaguars.

Philadelphia unexpectedly beat the Rams, but that didn’t actually hurt the Redskins at all, since any playoff scenario for Washington includes beating Philly at FedEx Field in Week 17, which will have the effect of knocking the Eagles out of contention.

Dallas was shut out by the Colts, leaving the door just slightly ajar for the possibility of the Redskins winning the division. To do that, Washington needs to win its final two games while the Cowboys lose their last two. Unlikely, but possible.

Seattle’s unexpected loss to the 49ers opened the same door for a wildcard spot. If the Seahawks lose out while the Redskins win out, then Washington would get a wildcard seeding over Seattle.

Minnesota remains the best chance of a team faltering and letting the Redskins take advantage. If the Vikings lose to either the Lions or the Bears while while the Redskins win out, then the Skins would get a wildcard seeding over the Vikings.

Last weekend, ahead of the Jags 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 Jacksonville Jaguars game

Jacksonville scores 13.5 points against the Redskins on Sunday

  • prediction: over (70%)
  • actual: The Redskins defense played the way it had early in the season, limiting the Jaguars offensive point scoring while forcing two turnovers — a fumble and an interception. Jacksonville’s offense, which has struggled for several weeks now, managed only two field goals, though the special teams for Jax did put a touchdown on the board with a punt return in the closing seconds of the first half. Jacksonville’s final point total of 13 was UNDER the mark, and lower than their season-long average.
NFL: Washington Redskins at Jacksonville Jaguars Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Leonard Fournette rushes for 65 yards against the Redskins on Sunday

  • prediction: more (79%)
  • actual: Once again, Hogs Haven readers underestimated the Redskins defense (or overestimated the Jaguars offense), as Washington limited Leonard Fournette to 46 yards on 11 carries. The Jaguars tried to change things up a bit by handing the ball to David Williams 5 times, and he managed 32 yards, so the two running backs did put up 78 yards between them.
Washington Redskins v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

The Jags leading rusher for the day, though, was quarterback Cody Kessler, who ran 6 times for 68 yards, choosing to tuck the ball and run on several called pass plays. While he was able to rack up a lot of yards and move the chains several times, Kessler’s rushing ultimately didn’t help the offense get the ball across the goal line, while his two turnovers (fumble, interception) were integral to the Redskins victory.

Jacksonville’s leading receiver puts up 69 yards against the Redskins defense on Sunday

  • prediction: over (68%)
  • actual: Jacksonville’s offense was no more successful through the air than it was on the ground. Just as Fournette was held in check, so too were the Jacksonville receivers. Dede Westbrook led all Jaguar receivers with 3 catches for 21 yards, though he did gash the Redskins special teams with a 74-yard punt return for Jacksnonville’s sole touchdown of the game.
NFL: Washington Redskins at Jacksonville Jaguars Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Johnson will get 2 TDs (passing, rushing, receiving) in the game against the Jaguars

  • prediction: Exactly 2 (43%)
  • actual: Redskins fans showed a surprising amount of faith that Josh Johnson would be productive against one of the better defenses in the NFL, predicting that he would put the ball across the goal line twice. He managed one touchdown on the day — a pass to #3 tight end Jeremy Sprinkle — though that proved to be enough. He did lead three other scoring drives that resulted in field goals, including the game winning drive inside the final two minutes to set up Dustin Hopkins for the coup de grace as the final whistle blew.
NFL: Washington Redskins at Jacksonville Jaguars Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Johnson could have been more productive with a little more help from his receivers. Vernon Davis, for example, suffered another of his too frequent drops right after the two-minute warning in the second quarter; he was unable to haul in what would’ve been a first down catch and possibly a 60-yard touchdown on that third-down play.

NFL: Washington Redskins at Jacksonville Jaguars Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In addition, the Redskins patch work offensive line struggled all day to handle a good Jacksonville defensive front seven, with the right guard position looking particularly bad. With Brandon Scherff on IR and Tony Bergstrom out injured, the Redskins started Luke Bowanko, who is the subject of this James Dorsett summary:

On the Redskins’ first drive of the game, he gave up a sack on third down that moved the team out of field goal range. Bowanko was at least partially responsible for allowing a sack on the second offensive drive, as well. He kept things going on the third possession, when his holding penalty negated an 18-yard Josh Johnson run on third down.

Oh, and did I mention that he was tied for the most sacks (1), hits (2) and hurries allowed on the team, which gave him a team-high 5 pressures on the day.

When Ty Nsekhe, starting at left guard in place of the injured Jonathan Cooper, who had in turn replaced the injured Shawn Lauvao, hurt his knee, the coaches turned to the recently-signed emergency backup guard, Zac Kerin. Report from James Dorsett:

Kerin came in to replace the injured Nsekhe at left guard for the final 19 snaps of the contest. The fifth-year interior O-lineman gave up a QB hit on one of his 10 pass-blocking snaps and earned the third-lowest PFF grade on the offense (48.1).

Kerin was the eighth player the team has used at one of the guard positions this season.

As far as Redskin linemen go, Austin Howard was active, but did not play on offense, and Kyle Fuller, formerly of Baylor University and the Houston Texans was inactive for the Jacksonville game. There are reports of the Redskins equipment managers painting burgundy & gold jerseys on a pair of traffic cones for use in emergency, and lengthy discussions among coaches about whether to rely on Bowanko, Kerin & Fuller this week, or simply go with the cones.

Josh Johnson, whose life may depend on the decision against a fierce Titans defense was asked for his opinion, but reportedly couldn’t decide, and suggested to Jay Gruden that he “flip a coin”.

How many 2-point conversions will the Redskins attempt on Sunday against the Jaguars?

prediction: zero (66%)

actual: This question was a test to see how many people were paying attention. I have no idea what the four people who voted “4” were thinking. Did anyone actually think the Redskins were gonna score 4 touchdowns?

Redskins rush for 118 yards against the Jacksonville defense on Sunday

prediction: under (64%)

actual: The readers got this one right, but it was close. The Redskins actually rushed for 109 yards. I don’t know how many fans considered the Josh Johnson factor when voting. Washington’s starting quarterback rushed 9 times for 49 yards (and still rushed for the lowest yardage of any QB in the game). Combined with his 151 passing yards, JJ accounted for 200 yards of the Redskins total offensive production of 245 yards.

NFL: Washington Redskins at Jacksonville Jaguars Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Oh, yeah. Adrian Peterson ran for 51 yards on 19 carries. He had very little success for most of the game, but showed the value of sticking with a running game when he picked up tough yards and first downs on the ‘Skins final, game winning drive.

Shifting the focus to the Tennessee Titans

The Titans are one of three AFC teams fighting for the #6 seed in the playoffs. Due to a relatively weaker AFC W-L record, the pressure is on the Titans (as it is on the Redskins) to win their last two games. A loss in either Week 16 or 17 will likely result in Tennessee players watching the AFC playoffs from the comfort of their living rooms.

The team that takes the field at home against the Redskins is talented, and should be highly motivated to win on Saturday afternoon, but, while they are undoubtedly skilled, they can be beaten, and have been 6 times already this season.

The Titans have been streaky in 2018, winning three, losing three, winning two, losing two, winning three.

They look ripe for the picking, as a two-game losing streak in Weeks 16 & 17 would be in keeping with the rest of the season and would give them a perfectly symmetrical 8-8 season record.

While a three-game win streak sounds impressive, when you look at the opponents — the Jets, Jags, Giants — it’s perhaps less intimidating. That’s not to say the Titans don’t have ‘quality’ wins this season, because they do. They’ve beaten the Cowboys and Patriots post-bye week, and they split with the Texans.

But the Tennessee Titans, while a very good football team, are not an unbeatable juggernaut.

Saturday’s game pits two teams against each other who each desperately need the win.

I wrote this in an article I published on Friday:

The Titans have won three straight games against three weak opponents: the Jets (4-10), the Jaguars (4-10), and the Giants (5-9). Who could blame them for feeling as though the Titans were invincible?

Tennessee has lost some games this season, but mostly to good teams: Texans, Colts, Chargers and Ravens, along with a couple of ‘uh-oh’ losses to the Dolphins and Bills.

But, to the Titans fans, the Redskins must look like another easy meal to extend their three-game win streak against teams with a combined 13-29 record.

I get it. They see the 7-7 Redskins, just past their recent 4-game losing streak that came at a time when the Redskins were forced by injury to play 4 different quarterbacks in 13 quarters of football. They see a 16-13 win against the Jaguars, who the Titans dominated a week earlier in prime time. They see Josh Johnson listed as the starter, and they think: easy pickins.

Tennesee has the second-ranked scoring defense in the league, and the Redskins haven’t shown any consistent ability to score touchdowns this year. Offensively, however, the Titans are ranked alongside the Redskins in points-per-game, averaging 19.1 compared to Washington’s 18.9.

This week is likely to see a game for the Redskins not significantly different from last week’s matchup against the Jaguars, except that the Titans have a recently-resurrected running attack in Derrick Henry. Saturday afternoon is likely to see two teams trying to play ball-control offense, featuring a lot of running from Henry on one side, and Adrian Peterson on the other. The two defenses are likely to play tough, with the Redskins likely to surrender more yards, but also more likely to win the turnover battle, as Washington is still ranked 4th in the league at +9, despite the recent quarterback turnstile and rash of turnovers, while Tennessee is ranked 21st at -2 turnover differential.

This game, featuring a lot of running, will likely see a quick clock and a limited number of possessions. Winning the turnover and field position battles, which were keys to Washington’s early season success behind Alex Smith, may prove to be the difference in this game. This Saturday game against the Titans seems tailor-made for the Redskins.

The Titans are 7th in overall defense (one spot behind last week’s opponent, the Jacksonville Jaguars) allowing 329 yards per game.

In the past three games — all Titans wins — the Tennessee defense gave up:

  • 280 to the Jets, who scored 22 points
  • 255 yards to Jacksonville, who scored 9 points
  • 260 yards to New Yord, who were shut out

Tennessee ranks 2nd overall in scoring defense, at 18.1 points per game (The Redskin defense is 13th, at 22.1 ppg).

The Redskins offense is ranked 28th in the league, at 265 yards per game, and is also 28th in scoring, at 18.9 ppg.

NFL: Washington Redskins at Jacksonville Jaguars Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past three games, Redskins offense has produced:

  • 235 yards, 13 points in a loss to the Eagles
  • 288 yards, 16 points in a loss to the Giants
  • 245 yards, 16 points in a win over the Jaguars


The Redskins generate 259 yards of total offense against the Titans

This poll is closed

  • 53%
    (153 votes)
  • 46%
    (135 votes)
288 votes total Vote Now


The Redskins score 15.5 points against the Titans

This poll is closed

  • 66%
    (188 votes)
  • 33%
    (95 votes)
283 votes total Vote Now

The Redskins rank 4th in the league in turnover differential at +9.

The Titans rank 21st at -2.

Over the past three games, the Redskins have been ‘zero’ vs Eagles, -2 vs Giants, and +2 vs Jaguars.

The Titans have been ‘zero’, ‘zero’, and +2 in their three wins.

Marcus Mariota has 42 interceptions in 1,592 attempts (one INT per 37.9 attempts).

Josh Johnson has 11 interceptions in 218 career attempts (one INT per 19.8 attempts).

Johnson’s figures for the Redskins are 1 INT in 41 attempts.

The Titans have lost 5 fumbles as a team this season; the Redskins have lost 4.


Redskins will be +0.5 on turnover differential against the Titans

This poll is closed

  • 73%
    (189 votes)
  • 26%
    (67 votes)
256 votes total Vote Now


Who will throw more interceptions on Saturday?

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    Marcus Mariota
    (110 votes)
  • 21%
    Josh Johnson
    (57 votes)
  • 38%
    exactly the same
    (103 votes)
270 votes total Vote Now

When it comes to giving up sacks, the Titans offense is tied for 7th worst, giving up 44 sacks this season (3.14 per game).

NFL: New York Jets at Tennessee Titans Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

The Redskins, who have started 4 different quarterbacks and (I think) 8 different guards, are tied for 14th worst, giving up 38 sacks on the season (2.7 per game).

Josh Johnson has been sacked 3 times in roughly 5 quarters of play (roughly 2.4 per game).

The Redskins defense is ranked 9th in the NFL with 40 sacks this season (2.85 per game). The Titans defensive unit is tied for 14th, with 36 (2.57 per game).


Which defense will generate more sacks this Saturday?

This poll is closed

  • 68%
    (183 votes)
  • 26%
    (70 votes)
  • 5%
    exactly the same
    (15 votes)
268 votes total Vote Now

NFL: Tennessee Titans at New York Giants Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Derrick Henry, the Titans running back, struggled with production for the first 12 games of the season, accumulating just 474 yards and 5 TDs on 128 attempts. His averages for those games:

  • 39.5 yards per game
  • 3.7 yards per attempt
  • 1 TD per 25.6 rushes

In Week 15, Derrick Henry exploded for 238 yards and 4 touchdowns in the victory over division rival Jacksonville, and followed up with a strong showing against the Giants last week, running for 170 yards and 2 TDs on 33 attempts. His averages for those two games:

  • 204 yards per game
  • 8.16 yards per attempt
  • 1 TD per 8.33 rushes

The opposing team’s leading running back rushing totals in each of the last three Redskins games:

  • Josh Adams - 20 carries, 85 yards
  • Saquon Barkley - 14 carries, 170 yards
  • Leonard Fournette - 11 carries, 46 yards


Derrick Henry rushes for 114 yards against the Redskins

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    (110 votes)
  • 58%
    (155 votes)
265 votes total Vote Now

Here are the numbers for the Titans leading receiver from each of the last three games:

  • Taywan Taylor - 3 rec, 104 yards versus Jets (5 targets)
  • Taywan Taylor - 6 rec, 59 yards versus Jaguars (7 targets)
  • Corey Davis - 3 rec, 33 yards versus Giants (6 targets)

Overall pass defense rankings:

  • Jets - 19th, allowing 243.4 yards per game
  • Jaguars - 2nd, allowing 198.9 yards per game
  • Giants - 14th, allowing 237.4 yards per game
New York Jets v Tennessee Titans Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The Redskins are ranked 18th, between the Giants and the Jets, allowing 240.8 yards per game. Remember that the Titans didn’t need to pass much against the Jags & Giants because Derrick Henry was running almost at will.


The Titans leading receiver will have 62.5 yards against the Redskins on Saturday

This poll is closed

  • 66%
    (157 votes)
  • 33%
    (78 votes)
235 votes total Vote Now

Here are Dustin Hopkins’ career stats:

In 14 games this season, Hopkins has attempted 26 field goals (1.85 per game) and has made 23 (1.64 per game).

Twice this season, Hopkins hasn’t attempted a field goal (Falcons, Giants) and he missed his only field goal attempt against the Texans. Hopkins attempted 4 field goals in a game only once this season (Colts) and has not made more than 3 in a game this year, though he has hit three FGs in a game 3 times, two in a game four times, and one in a game 3 times.

Washington Redskins v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images


Dustin Hopkins scores 8.5 total points on Saturday against the Titans

This poll is closed

  • 60%
    (135 votes)
  • 39%
    (87 votes)
222 votes total Vote Now

The Peterson Principle

The Redskins are 7-0 when Adrian Peterson has at least 17 carries in the game.

NFL: Washington Redskins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports


Adrian Peterson will carry the ball 16 times against the Titans

This poll is closed

  • 85%
    (210 votes)
  • 14%
    (37 votes)
247 votes total Vote Now