NFC East Notebook: Redskins in driver’s seat with a dream schedule
The Washington Redskins have pulled into first place in the NFC East and their remaining schedule gives them a major leg up in their quest to win the division for the first time since the 2012 regular season.
The Washington Redskins held a players-only meeting prior to their Week 12 20-14 win over the New York Giants. It’s hard to put a tangible result on the meeting, but the Redskins jumped out to a 17-0 lead at halftime and kept the Giants off the board entirely until the fourth quarter.
The constants were there for the Redskins — DeSean Jackson made his big touchdown play and Jordan Reed ate up coverage underneath. What was most impressive in the Redskins’ win was their ability to fix some of the issues that haunted them in recent losses. The run defense held the Giants under 2.5 yards per carry, and the running backs picked up key first downs on the ground on their way to over 100 yards. The team committed zero turnovers and limited penalties.
At 5-6, the Redskins have one more demon to tackle in their quest to become the NFC East’s most complete team — winning on the road. The Redskins have lost all five road games this season. The good news? The Redskins don’t have a single future road game against an opponent who currently has a winning record. In fact, the Redskins’ schedule in its entirety sets up very well for them to finish first in the division.
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NFC East – Remaining Strength of Schedule
With two games against the Romo-less Dallas Cowboys and a home game against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Redskins have an opportunity to improve to a division record unachievable by any other NFC East team. This will come in handy if the division ends Week 17 with a tie up top. A road game against the Chicago Bears and a home game against the Buffalo Bills won’t be easy, but both teams have combined for just a 10-12 record.
The Redskins enter the stretch run as arguably the NFC East’s healthiest and hottest team. In five weeks, no one should be surprised if the Kirk Cousins-led Redskins are atop the NFC East.
Not buying the Super Bowl season coincidences
In the New York Giants’ last Super Bowl season under Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning in 2011, they followed a disheartening late-season loss to the Redskins with a win over the New York Jets that sparked their run. Despite the scheduling coincidence, Giants head coach Tom Coughlin is not buying the Super Bowl season comparisons that have been thrown around.
"I don’t have them sitting in front of me in a box and go and look at them," Coughlin said to reporters Monday of the narratives, per Newsday. "I would say each situation is different … I don’t think they’re related."
Both teams scored a lot of points on offense, allowed a lot of points on defense and struggled to the move the ball on the ground. However, the 2015 version is missing one key element that helped spark the 2011 run — health. Key contributors returned to the Giants and stayed on the field throughout the postseason run in 2011, but in 2015, injury concerns have continued to plague the team.
Wide receiver Victor Cruz and left tackle Will Beatty were expected to give the roster a late-season boost, but both players have since been placed on injured reserve. Key defensive stalwarts Johnathan Hankins and Jon Beason are gone, and the current state of the offensive line is alarming. In their Week 12 loss, the Giants were forced to turn to four offensive linemen who were expected to serve as reserves prior to the start of the regular season.
Perhaps most troubling for the Giants has been their inability to find a consistent second target in the passing game. In 2011, Manning had Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz operating at the peak of their careers with the Giants. In 2015, Manning has been forced to rely on Odell Beckham Jr. too often due to the struggles of his complementary receivers. In Week 12, 35 percent of Manning’s targeted passes went to No. 13.
Going forward, Manning hopes that the recently signed Nicks can emerge as that second threat in the passing game.
"We have to be smart about not putting him in there for too much or putting too much on his plate," Manning said of Nicks to Mike Francesa on his weekly WFAN interview. "I think as you go into the second week, he’ll get more and more comfortable."
QUICK HITS: Eagles starting quarterback Sam Bradford practiced for the first time in two weeks on Tuesday. He is planning to test his shoulder in practice and decide on his status for this Sunday’s game after that … Cowboys owner Jerry Jones expects Tony Romo to play another "4-5 seasons", but he is aware that he needs to provide him with a backup and quarterback of the future. Keep an eye on Johnny Manziel if he goes on the trade block this offseason. Earlier this week Jones once again expressed his regret about missing out on Manziel in the 2014 NFL Draft.