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The 5 O’Clock Club: Revenge Week Part II - On the Road to Minneapolis

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

Minnesota Vikings v Detroit Lions Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The 5 o’clock club is published several times per week 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.

Part I

On Sunday, the Redskins lost 9-0 to the San Francisco 49ers, coached by former Washington Redskins Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan, in some of the sloppiest weather conditions I can recall in the past three or four decades.

In the days preceding the Week 7 game, Kyle played a game of passive-aggressive taunting in the press. Sometimes the aggression wasn’t as passive as others. Kyle clearly felt that he and his father, former ‘Skins head coach Mike Shanahan, had been hard done by in their tenure here, and Kyle obviously put a lot of blame for that at the feet of Dan Snyder and Bruce Allen.

If there had been any doubt at all about Kyle’s feelings, they should have been erased when, after the game, Niners tight end George Kittle reported that the Kyle Shanahan had given the game ball to his father, Mike.

If you weren’t around to witness the Shanahan era firsthand from 2010-2013, or if you simply don’t have a very good memory, Niners Nation did a pretty competent job detailing Kyle Shanahan’s issues with Dan Snyder in an article published last week. This week’s Six Pack of the Mondays and its comments section color in a little more detail.

Part II

This is a short week for the Redskins, as they are scheduled to play on Thursday Night Football.

If you don’t know already, the TNF contract is lucrative for the NFL, but generally unpopular with players and coaches. It is typically seen as a ‘burden’ to have to play on the short week. For this reason, every NFL team is required to play one Thursday game; it’s an effort to ‘share the burden’ around. There is, of course, a downside for the TNF guys since they are always gonna get a few stinkers on the schedule. When the TV shot-callers see a team that is expected to have a crappy season (like the 2019 Redskins) then they look for a matchup on the schedule that can offer a bit of an enhanced storyline to attract viewers.

This season’s TNF game for the Redskins was probably never in doubt. Kirk Cousins, former Redskins QB who left the organization after 6 years, and apparently happy to be gone, is the starting quarterback for the Vikings.

The Redskins starting offense features Adrian Peterson, the future Hall of Fame running back who was cast aside by the Vikings at the end of the 2016 season, and Case Keenum, the quarterback who led the Vikings to the NFC Championship game in 2017, only to be allowed to leave in free agency to make room for Kirk Cousins and his $84m contract.

Prior to Jay Gruden’s firing, the game also pitted Cincinnati’s former offensive and defensive coordinators against one another. Had Dwayne Haskins been promoted to starter ahead of Week 8, the network could have focused on the kid who’d been drafted to replace Cousins after he left for the Vikings. There were sure-fire stories everywhere.

If the Redskins weren’t 1-6 and playing atrocious football, NFL fans across the country would probably tune in to watch the story lines play out.

As it stands right now, the game is likely to represent a personal vindication for Kirk Cousins, who, after an inconsistent 2-2 start to the 2019 season, has come on to play very good football while leading the Vikings on a 3-game winning streak against the Giants, Eagles and Lions.

Minnesota Vikings v Detroit Lions Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

In that stretch, Cousins has thrown for 976 yards, 10 touchdowns, and 1 interception, quieting the criticism that had started to mount in Skol country following the divisional losses to the Bears and Packers in Weeks 2 and 4.

Leading the offense for a team that is devoted to running the ball well and playing strong defense, Cousins is doing what he needs to do to win games. He is 18th in passing yards per game among NFL quarterbacks — 15th if you count only those who have thrown at least 100 passes this season. He has 13 touchdown, 3 interceptions and a 114.3 rating. That rating is #1 in the NFL for passers with at least 10 attempts.

Cousins is on fire.

Minnesota Vikings v Detroit Lions Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Redskins, meanwhile, will show up for their road game with an interim head coach and offense that has scored 27 points in the past 4 games. That’s not the average score; it’s the cumulative score. From Weeks 4 - 7 the Redskins are averaging a pathetic 6.75 points per game.

Their total passing yards in those 4 weeks have been: 144, 122, 166, and 77. That’s an average of just 127.25 yards per game against the Giants, Patriots, Dolphins and 49ers.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Washington Redskins Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps some good news is available by way of the Redskins defensive performances. Following Sunday’s “slip & slide” game in which neither team could really generate much offensive yardage or scoring, the Redskins defense is now ranked 21st in both yards per game and points per game given up.

Unfortunately, the Redskins have given up 31 points or more in 4 out of 7 games this year. The other three games saw them give up 24 to a Daniel Jones-led Giants offense, 16 to the pathetic Dolphins, who are playing for draft position, and 9 points in the mud this past Sunday. It would take a level of optimism that I do not possess to think that the Redskins will be able to shut down the Vikings offensive attack in the dome for 4 quarters.

In their current 3-game win streak, Minnesota scored 28 versus the Giants, 38 against the Eagles, and 42 against their divisional foe, the Detroit Lions. With the explosive offense and a motivated Kirk Cousins on a hot streak playing at home against a weary and dispirited Redskins team whose season has totally unraveled, I can’t see any reason why the Vikings won’t be able to put a 50-burger on the Greg Manusky-coached defense.

San Francisco 49ers v Washington Redskins Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Cousins’ history and the Redskins recent story are very intertwined, and often difficult to disentangle. For example, both Cousins and the Redskins have developed a reputation for beating the teams they should beat, while being unable to overcome quality opponents. That, of course, is largely because Kirk was the quarterback in so many circumstances when the Redskins came up short, and he hadn’t really changed the narrative in his first twenty games in Minnesota. Beating the Redskins tonight won’t do anything to get that particular monkey off of Kirk’s back, though a victory for Washington would do a lot for them in that regard.

A second issue is the inability to win in prime time — a bugaboo that haunts both Kirk Cousins and the Redskins. This TNF game offers a chance for one of them to put the lie to the notion that they can’t win when the lights are bright on the big stage. A big win for the Redskins might have some therapeutic effect, but beating the Redskins in prime time on Thursday night would be the next step in the Kirk Cousins rehabilitation that started three weeks ago, and won’t end until his team either wins the Super Bowl or is eliminated from the playoffs.


The Vikings have won their last three games by 18, 18 and 12 points. The Redskins beat the Dolphins by a point. I’m setting the margin of victory for Thursday’s game at 17 points.

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