Tuesday, October 30, 2007

F#&$ing Patriots 52 - Good Guys 7

Okay, take a deep breath Redskins fans. I haven’t posted since the Lions victory, so let me catch up.

The Skins should have beaten the Packers and should have lost to the Cardinals. No net change to their record there. And, the Skins got whupped by the best team in the NFL...right now. The only shame in that was the seeming lack of indignation on the part of some Skins players and possibly coaches, especially on defense. They should have taken some Pats’ heads off.

The F#&$ing Patriots 52 – the Redskins 7
The Pats made an absurdly bad mistake by running it up and trying to humiliate the Skins. I don’t buy what many fans said or what Riggo said on his radio show. Yes, the Redskins should have stopped them. But, it is just plain wrong-—when the Pats were winning 38 to 0 with 12-minutes left in the game-—for Brady and the Pats to go to a spread formation, in shotgun, and throw a 35-yard (in the air) bomb to Moss. Hell, it was just plain wrong for Brady and the rest of the starters to be in the game at that point. You do not do throw passes in that situation in D-1 college football when the final score could be beneficial to your BCS standings, and you certainly do not do that to professionals when the game has already been decided. The Pats scored a TD on that drive to go up 45 to 0, and Brady celebrated the TD as if it came in overtime. But, as they say on late night TV, “wait there’s more.”

The Pats were not content to stop there. Oh, BeliDick showed some mercy. BeliDick pulled Brady at 45 to 0. But, then he proceeded to have the backup QB, Casssel, throw on three of his first four plays...from shotgun formation...with multiple receivers spread out. One of those passes was a 21-yarder...on fourth down...with seven minutes left in the game! They were winning by a score of 45 to 0! Seven minutes!

What a dick.

But, wait there’s more. In that series with the backup QB, there was an incomplete pass. Cameras showed Brady on the sideline whining, begging, cajoling and finally yelling at the referee to call pass interference on the Redskins. In a 45 – 0 game...with seven minutes left. When Cassel scored a TD on another fourth down play, he and Brady did a leaping high five. I’m as competitive as anyone, but who raised these guys, Mephistopheles?

Good luck trying to get through the rest of the season with that huge frickin bull’s-eye on your back, Mr. Brady. You can thank your coach for putting it there and you can thank yourself for making it as big as a frickin house. I’d say good luck in the Super Bowl, but I don’t think your team will get there when you're on crutches and Matt Cassel is the starting QB. Manning will get all of the endorsement money again after another Super Bowl appearance this year. I only regret that your torn knee ligaments won’t be the result of a meeting with Taylor, Landry & Washington, LLP.

Back to the Skins
As I said, take a deep breath. It was only one game and it was one they were supposed to lose. Look, I hate to make predictions about individual games, but if they respond as I think they will, they will easily beat the Jets this weekend. Judging from the number of fans in the stands for this week’s Jets game, it could be like a Redskins home game. With a win, they will then finish the first half of the season with a 5 – 3 record. I do not know one Skins fan who would not have taken that before the season started.

Included in that 5 - 3 record are two games they should have won but lost (Giants and Packers), and one they should have lost but won (Cards). Given that information, they could easily have been 6 – 2 heading into the second half. If you average both of those highly probable outcomes (5 – 3 and 6 – 2) and project that out, they would finish 11-5, just as I had predicted at the beginning of the season. That will be good enough to win the NFC East this year.

How they get to 11 - 5
After the win over the Dolphins, I wrote a post in which I broke their schedule into three groups to estimate their potential wins. One was a group of five games in which I said that in order to get to 11 – 5, they had to win three. The five games included the Giants (H/A), Lions, Cards, and Packers. Well, they have two wins in four of those with one game left (Giants (A)), so they are on track to accomplish what I expected against this group.

Summary for ungrouped game:
Dolphins W

Summary for Group A (need win against Giants plus Groups B & C outcomes for 11 wins):
Giants L
Lions W
Cards W
@Packers L
@ Giants TBD

For the second group, I conceded that they had four tough games: the Bears, Pats, and two against the Cowboys. To get to 11 – 5, I said they would need to split these four. That’s no easy task; especially since they have already lost one (Pats) and now have to win two out of the remaining three. But, the Bears are not nearly as good as I thought they would be, so a split with the Cowboys and a win over the Bears in DC on 12/6 gets them where they need to be to earn eleven wins. So far, so good.

Summary for Group B (need a 2 – 2 record for 11 wins):
@Pats L
@ Cowboys TBD
Bears TBD
Cowboys TBD

In the final group, which consisted of six games, I said they would need to split with the Eagles and sweep the Jets, Bucs, Bills, and Vikings. Well, they have already earned at least a split with the Eagles by beating them in Philadelphia. The next Eagles game is 11/11 in DC, and the first of the four games that seemed very winnable at the beginning of the year is coming up on Sunday against the Jets. But, the Bucs at 4 - 4 and the Bills at 3 – 4 are playing better football than I expected. Here is where we might find a chink in the armor, especially since four of the six are on the road. Still, the Bucs did lose to the Lions, a team the Skins crushed, and the Skins get to play the Bills in DC.

Summary for Group C (need 5 -1 record for 11 wins):
@ Philadelphia W
@ NJ Jets TBD
Eagles TBD
@ Bucs TBD
Bills TBD
@ Vikings TBD

Given this framework, I think there are three key games that will decide whether they win the division, win a wild card, or go home for the playoffs. First, if they can find a way to sweep the Cowboys and not settle for a split, they are practically a lock for the division title. The second key game is against the Giants, although for reasons that I will make clear in a minute, that game is not as important as a second win against the Cowboys. The final key outcome will be whether they can win against the Eagles in DC and not have to settle for a split. It should be no surprise that I think the remaining games against division opponents are the most important.

A win against the Eagles will give them a cushion that I did not expect them to have at the beginning of the year. A win against them allows them to lose a game that I expected them to win, say the Bucs game, and still get to eleven wins. A sweep of the Cowboys gives the Redskins the tie breakers against them for the NFC East title. But, a win against the Giants just gets them to fulfill what I expected at the beginning of the year for the Group A games. I do not think they will need the series-sweep tie breaker against the Giants. It may seem crazy to say this about a Giants team that is currently 6- 2, but the Giants could conceivably lose six of their last eight games.

And I am not saying this just because the Giants have gotten off to fast starts in the past two years and then faded. I am not trying to reprise the prediction that I made last year after their hot start; a prediction that turned out to be correct. No, I am saying this because the extremely soft spot in the Giants schedule is behind them. The combined record of the Giants last four opponents is 4 wins and 26 losses. You can look it up. It gets much more difficult for the Giants from here.

Seriously, the Giants could easily lose each of the following games: Dallas, at Detroit, at Chicago, at Philadelphia, Washington, and New England. If they play way over their abilities and go 3 – 3 in these six tough games and sweep the Bills and Vikings, they will finish the year 11 – 5, but they will still miss out on the division title if two of those losses come against Washington, Dallas or Philadelphia. Why? The Giants would be 3 – 3 in the division. The Redskins or Cowboys would have a better division record and take that tie-breaker.

The Cowboys play five of their last eight games against division opponents, which are always tough games no matter what the teams’ records look like. In addition, they have to play Green Bay in Dallas and the Lions in Detroit. Say what you want, but the Packers (6-1) and Lions (5-2) just keep winning, so these are no gimmes despite the fact that the Skins trounced the Lions and should have beaten the Packers. Dallas’s five division games include two against Washington, and the last game of the year—which could decide everything—is in DC.

Given my three-part schedule breakdown, then, the Skins have some flexibility. Wins over Philadelphia, NJ Giants, and one win over Dallas along with the other outcomes that are likely and the Redskins are assured of a wild card spot and probably the division title at 11 – 5. A sweep of Dallas and they can take their 12 - 4 record to a bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. A split with Dallas and a loss to the Giants and Eagles leaves them at 9-7 (Ed: corrected a prior calculation error) and a wild card berth. The only really bad scenarios would be the latter one coupled with an unexpected loss to the likes of the Bucs, Jets, Bills, or Vikings. Even then they likely make the playoffs at 8 – 8, given the state of the NFC. Two unexpected losses and they’re likely out.

So, only two unexpected losses will keep them out of the playoffs. Take a deep breath Skins fans. With one caveat, the Redskins are a playoff team.

The Only Caveat
When will the injuries stop? C, RG, ROT1, ROT2, ROT3, SSLB, WSLB, RC, HB1, KR, WR1, and WR2 have all missed significant playing time this year. ROT1 and RC have been IR’d and RG will be IR’d if they are eliminated from playoff contention. Please make it stop. Seriously, it is statistically crazy for one team to have this many injuries two years in a row.


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