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Rich Tandler is the author of Gut Check, The Complete History of Coach Joe Gibbs' Washington Redskins.
December 26, 2004
The "Root For" List
As a reminder, here is what has to happen for the Redskins to be in a position to wrap up a playoff spot with a win next week against Minnesota. (Thanks again to Kevin Mac):
Skins beat Dallas (4:15pm)And two combinations of a pair of teams winning are the only thing that will eliminate the Redskins (besides, of course, a loss to Dallas)
+ Tampa over Carolina (4:15pm)
+ Atlanta over New Orleans (1pm)
+ Cincy over G-men (1pm)
+ Philly over St Louis (Monday)
Wins by both Carolina and Tampa
Wins by both St. Louis and Seattle (vs. Arizona 4:15 Eastern)
Bold Predictions: Redskins vs. Cowboys
This game is a pivotal moment for the Washington Redskins, for two reasons.
First, the Redskins need to continue to win against the mass of mediocrity in the NFL and the Cowboys are firmly in that group. A team can do quite well winning the games it should win and Washington needs to establish itself as one that does that with regularity.
The second reason revolves around the numbers .176 and .071. Those represent the Redskins winning percentage in the division in the last three years and against the Cowboys in their last 14 meetings. Certainly, the latter is a major factor in the former. The Redskins have to prove that they can beat the Cowboys if they are to become the team that they and their fans expect them to be. If you start off your season by penciling in two losses to a division rival, especially one that often is on or below your level, you're in a serious hole.
This one seems simple. Both teams are 5-9 but seem to headed in very different directions. The Redskins are dead set on finishing their season on a high note. They have a lot of the pieces for 2005 in place already and want to build some momentum and energy for next year. Their playoff hopes are slim, but that is keeping them motivated as well.
Dallas has even longer odds of making the postseason and they aren't using that as any kind of motivation. They don't quite know who among them will be around for 2005 as many positions, especially quarterback, are in various states between flux and turmoil. Bill Parcells have spent the virtually the whole season telling his team how dumb they are and how poorly they are playing. It appears that they are beginning to believe him.
In the Fort-Worth Star Telegram, columnist Randy Galloway sums up the differences between the two teams quite nicely:
The Gibbs bashing will come to a sudden end next season.So, it's an easy Redskins win, right? Not so fast. Among those 13 losses in the last 14 games were quite a few where Washington seemed to have the upper hand. In 1999, the Redskins took the NFC East title despite two losses to an 8-8 Dallas team. In 2001, the Redskins were streaking, having won their last five and the Cowboys were reeling. At FedEx Field, it was Dallas 20, Washington 14. I'm sure it's not necessary to go through the whole litany, you get the idea.
While both he and Parcells share blame at the moment for their teams' miserable years, the NFL of today is all about sudden turnarounds.
Depending on Ramsey, the Redskins have the people in place to totally flip things next season.
This can be a good team in '05. Real good.
And Gibbs is now giving his young quarterback the learning room.
Of course, that optimism for the future is the fork in the road when it comes to the current plight of Gibbs and Parcells.
What exactly is the Cowboys' future?
What about the defense? What about the quarterback?
The best guess six months ago was that Parcells was loading up for '05, and using this season to identify his key pieces and needs.
If that was actually the case, we now know the needs far outweigh the pieces.
Both stellar coaches today at Texas Stadium have a 5-9 record.
But there's a difference; a big difference.
It's just very difficult to get a feeling for one of these games because things rarely unfold as think they will, or even as it appears they will as the game progresses. That goes back to Clint Longley and '79 in Texas Stadium. But here's a stab at it.
- One of the pieces of the puzzle that the Cowboys know will be in place next year is rookie running back Julius Jones, who has been impressive after returning from a shoulder injury four games ago. He had three straight 100-yard performances before being held to 80 against the Eagles last week. Look for him to get about half that against the Redskins defense, the best in the NFC against the run.
- The last time the two teams met, Vinny Testaverde was a hot quarterback. Now he's contemplating retirement. He passed for 214 yards in the first meeting this year. To give you an indication as to how unimpressive a performance that was, Mark Brunell passed for 111 yards more than that. Still, he was the winning quarterback that Monday night and he is always dangerous. He'll get his couple of hundred passing but I think he'll face a bit more pressure and will take a couple of sacks and throw an interception or two.
- Patrick Ramsey will continue to progress as he looks to being the unquestioned starter from the first minicamp of 2005. Pencil him in for an efficient but not spectacular performance, say a QB rating of 95.
- Clinton Portis needs 217 yards to become the first NFL player ever to rush for 1,500 yards or more in each of his first three seasons and 148 to become the team's single-season record holder for rushing yards in a season. He'll get about halfway to the first record and will be on the doorstep on the second one when this game is over.
Redskins 24, Cowboys 14
Yes, I know I said earlier this year that I wouldn't pick the Redskins to beat the Cowboys until they actually did it. But that was my own rule and I'm entitled to break it!
Skins Have Shot at #1 Defense
The Redskins' defense has virtually locked up the #1 ranking in the NFC and has a good shot at being first in the entire league.
Through 14 games, the Redskins have allowed 3,655 yards. In second in the conference is Tampa Bay, which has given up 3,981. That's a difference of 326 yards. For the Bucs to catch the Redskins, they would have to hold their opponents in the last two games, Carolina and Arizona, to 163 yards per game less than the Redskins do. That's a tall order.
Pittsburgh holds the NFL lead at 3,619 yards, an advantage of just 36 yards or 18 yards per each of their remaining games. The Steelers play Baltimore and Buffalo. This is so tight that it could hinge on a meaningless draw play in garbage time.
The fact that it might happen at all, however, is nothing short of amazing considering the turmoil and injuries that the unit has faced this year.
Blache on the Move?
There has been a lot of chatter about the possibility of Gregg Williams leaving for another head coaching job after guiding the Redskins to the #1 defensive ranking in the NFC. Williams has said that he's going nowhere. Another valuable member of the defensive coaching staff, Greg Blache, might be a candidate to take a head coaching job himself. Blache has the title of defensive coordinator (Williams is the Assistant Head Coach--Defense) and his prime area of focus is the defensive line. After he nearly was hired in San Francisco two years ago, he could get some looks for the half dozen or so head coaching vacancies that will occur around the league.
According to an article in Friday's Post, it would take quite a bit for Blache to leave:
Blache said this week he is pleased with his situation in Washington and would only leave for an enticing head coaching job.
'All young guys would like to marry a supermodel,' said Blache, a defensive line coach for 11 seasons, six with the Green Bay Packers, then five with the Indianapolis Colts before joining Chicago. 'Half of 'em would drive you crazy and drive you to drink. As you get older, you learn to realize what you're supposed to like and what's best for you is not always equal.'
Daly: Redskins one of "Least Exciting" Ever
In his Sunday Column Dan Daly examines the premise that the Redskins might be one of the least exciting teams ever:
Nothing much seems to happen in Redskins games. Ever notice that? Joe Gibbs' offense doesn't score a lot, and Gregg Williams' defense doesn't give up a lot. In fact, only 443 points have been scored, total, in their first 14 games -- an average of 31.6 (or about 10 below the league norm).Daly checked back to 1978, when a round of major rules changes that helped scoring went into effect, to see which teams had averaged the fewest total points scored and given up per game. Here is his top (or bottom) ten: (Note: PF = Points For; PA = Points Against; PerG = Points Per Game.) Yr. Team PF PA PerG
- '93 Bears 234 230 29.0
- '78 Broncos 282 198 30.0
- '82 Seahawks* 127 147 30.4
- '00 Ravens 333 165 31.1
- '79 Chiefs 238 262 31.3
- '78 Bucs 241 259 31.3
- '94 Cardinals 235 267 31.4
- '99 Bucs 270 235 31.6
- '98 Eagles 161 344 31.6
- '04 Redskins 209 234 31.6
This is not necessarily to be interpreted as a swipe at the Redskins. Daly is careful to note:
"Least Exciting," by the way, doesn't necessarily mean bad. The '00 Ravens, after all, won the Super Bowl, and four other teams on the list made the playoffs.