Monday, January 02, 2006

It's Great to be Right

That pat, pat, pat sound you hear is the sound of my hand hitting my back. Hey, somebody’s got to give me credit.

Okay, I didn’t make any tackles or blocks or throw any touchdown passes, but I did predict here, here, and here that the Redskins would make the playoffs this year including this post when the Redskins were 5 – 5 in which I wrote that the Chargers game was not a must-win game for their playoff hopes. In fact, that was so accurate, here is an excerpt from that post published on 11-25-05:

Now, everywhere I turn, people are saying this Sunday’s game against the Chargers is a must-win game. That’s just more nonsense. I expect it to be close, but this is not must-win game. The Chargers play in the AFC and cannot take a playoff spot from the Redskins.

Obviously, overall record is the most important determinant in getting into the playoffs, so a win against the Chargers would be great if only to shut the pundits up, but with parity and six games left, several teams in the NFC East and South will wind up tied at the top of their division at the end of the year. The Redskins most important remaining games are their last five, which are against NFC teams. With apologies to Kornheiser, they actually have a good shot at running the table in their last five.

I caught a lot of flak for that analysis and not just from the Giants fans who are insecure about the quality of their team. Redskins fans thought I was nuts, too. Well, the Redskins subsequently lost the Chargers game and here they are in the playoffs.

So, why are the Redskins in the playoffs? Well, it’s simply because they are the best team in the NFC, as I posted here last week, and they have the best head coach in the NFL. They have the best record in the NFC at 10-2. They are tied with Seattle and Chicago with that record, but the Redskins beat Seattle and Chicago.

“C’mon, Counter Trey, you don’t really believe they are better than the NFC’s one and two seeds, do ya?” Yes, more than that, I know it is true. Not only did the Skins beat them straight up, the Redskins didn’t play in a powder-puff division like the Seahawks and Bears. The old “black and blue” NFC North should be called the “pink and lavender” North, and the West is anything but “wild.” The Redskins only true conference loss this year was against the NFC East Giants, and they subsequently avenged that loss decisively.

Going into yesterday’s games, the New York Times writer, David Leonhardt, wrote a piece that promoted a new tie-breaker for the NFL that is based on strength of schedule. In it, Leonhardt listed the fourteen teams in or still alive for the playoffs and the winning percentage of their opponents. No surprise, the Redskins had the most difficult schedule of all of the playoff teams with an opponents’ winning percentage of 0.546. The Seahawks had the easiest schedule with a 0.421 opponents’ winning percentage and the Bears were twelfth out of fourteen at 0.446.

I also think the NFC South was way over-rated because of all of the Fox and Vick lovers in the press; those two guys can do no wrong in the sports media. Here’s just one example from Schein whose top-ten NFL predictions for 2006 included that the Broncos and Redskins would finish in last place in their divisions and the Panthers would win the Super Bowl:

“I can't even begin to describe how much I respect this (Panthers) organization, from general manger Marty Hurney to coach John Fox.”
It sounds like the pages of his Panthers media guide might stick together. And, you need to look no further than the NFC Pro Bowl selection of Vick to see the media adoration of him. Mark Brunnell’s quarterback numbers are so superior to Vick’s this year that Vick wouldn’t be qualified to hold Brunnell’s clipboard. And, oh yeah, the Redskins are in the playoffs that Vick will watch at home. Oh, and the Panthers and Bucs are ranked eleventh and thirteenth in Leonhardt’s piece with a 0.454 and 0.446 opponent winning percentage, respectively.

So, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a rematch of the 1986 NFC championship game between the battle-tested Redskins and Giants this year although it will be a more difficult road for the Redskins to get there than the Giants. The Skins will have to win in Tampa Bay and then in Seattle to get to that game in New Jersey. And the Skins lost three cornerbacks in yesterday’s game after already having one starting cornerback on the inactive list before the game.

But, I’ll have more to say on the game against the Bucs in a later post this week. There are a lot of positive things to focus on for that Bucs game, not least of which is the revenge factor. Redskins’ players were reluctant to provide any bulletin board material yesterday, but in every post-game interview, sly smiles crossed their faces whenever the interviewer brought up the rematch with the Buccaneers. They want revenge for that robbery in Tampa. Let’s hope Taylor leaves his gun at home for that revenge (see "Extra Points").

By the way, you can add James Hasty of Cold Pizza to the long list of NFL analysts who think the Skins were robbed. How important was that theft? The Redskins would have won the NFC East, a home playoff game, the number two seed, and a bye if the correct call was made in Tampa. Given how banged up the Redskins are they could have really used that bye. That might be the difference between an NFC championship/Super Bowl appearance and a playoff loss in the next few weeks.


At January 03, 2006 12:44 PM, Blogger Charlottesvillain said...

Nice win. But all that favorable bias about the Panthers is no different from the favorable bias you post below about the Redskins (from page 2 and other sources).

The Skins are looking good, but predictions are all hooey.

At January 03, 2006 1:50 PM, Blogger Counter Trey said...

I hear ya, but for every pro-skins article I find I can reference five to ten pro-Panthers articles. Most of the writers are absolutely smitten with Fox.

The other thing is this: All of the pro Skins articles you'll find were written in the past month. At the begining of the year, just about everyone called the Skins a last place team and said the game passed Joe Gibbs by. These were the same people saying that Fox was one of the best coaches in the NFL. I'm sorry, but even Gregg Williams is a better coach than Fox and Williams knows which coach is the best in the NFL. Williams just signed a three-year contract extension so that he could learn from the master for three more years.


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