It’s a third game in the span of 11 days for both the Washington Redskins (5-6) and the equally (5-6) Dallas Cowboys on “Thursday Night Football” at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
The Cowboys have lost three in a row, including the last two at home and have been outscored by a cumulative 92 – 22, per Todd Archer of ESPN. They are winless since Ezekiel Elliott started serving his suspension, of which he has three more games to serve. Dallas has also been without stud linebacker Sean Lee and for part of this stretch, stud left tackle, Tyron Smith.
The Redskins won on Thanksgiving night over the brutal New York Giants and as you know they are no stranger to injuries. They were without 60% of their starting offensive line last week and down to their third-center of the year, along with their top two running backs, a starting receiver, a stud tight-end, top three inside linebackers and more on top of that.
It’s a great idea, of course, for the NFL to schedule teams this way. The Cowboys did this type of stretch last year (three games in 11 days), winning all three (vs. Baltimore, vs. Washington, at Minnesota) but at least they are at home again this week. The three-game in 11 day stretch bit was in place for 2014 with the Cowboys, winning two-of-three with the two wins coming on the road.
The Redskins get screwed scheduling wise every year and once again this year.
Let’s go “Inside the Numbers” for this massive NFC East showdown that could be a franchise shaping game for Kirk Cousins and the Redskins.
1 – Schedule This!
The Redskins have had the hardest schedule in the NFL this year up until last week when they beat the Giants. They
are currently rated as having the second-hardest schedule played,
behind the Chicago Bears.
The reward for that and so far a (5-6) record is the easiest schedule by opponent winning percentage the rest of the way.
Mike Sando of ESPN.com
, Washington is tied with the Los Angeles Chargers for the easiest remaining set of opponents with a .364 winning percentage. Chicago is next up at .382 with Kansas City, Denver, Detroit, Jacksonville, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Tennessee following.
Further, the good news is that only one of those teams listed (Detroit) will be in contention with the Redskins for a wild-card spot in the NFC.
Easy schedules on paper are just that, but if there’s any chance for the Redskins to make a playoff run – this is it.
Redskins came into the season with the seventh-toughest schedule by opponent winning percentage
from 2016 at .543 (139-117)
II – If at First…..
The Redskins are always inconsistent for whatever reason when rushing on first down under Jay Gruden. We broke down the numbers earlier this year in this space, but here’s a look at where they are now through 12 weeks and 11 games.
Washington is averaging only 3.47 yards per attempt (YPA) on 184 first down runs this season. They have 14 first downs, 2 touchdowns and 6 fumbles as part of their output on first down.
Since the start of the 2016 season, a span of 27 games, the Redskins have run the ball 411 times on first down, per ProFootballReference.com (PFR) They are averaging 3.68 yards per attempt with 11 touchdowns,44 first downs and 11 fumbles.
Per Redskins PR, as inconsistent as the Redskins have been on first down, they are doing very well on second-down running situations with a 4.83 yard per attempt average. That’s second best in the NFC and fourth-best in the NFL.
By contrast, the
Cowboys are still the third-best team in the NFL when rushing the ball on first-down situation. They are averaging 4.94 YPA on 173 rushing attempts
. A lot of that success comes from having Zeke Elliott in the lineup until the last three games, right? Sure, but they’re still averaging 4.75 YPA on 40 first-down rushing attempts since Elliott has been out of the lineup.
Alfred Morris is (26 – 135) on first down runs in the last three games, an average of 5.19 YPA while Dak Prescott is (4-14, TD) and Rod Smith has a (9-43, 4.78) mark on first-down runs since the Elliott suspension went into effect.
The NFL league wide average on first down rushing attempts is 3.97 YPA per Pro Football Reference on 5, 197 first down rushing attempts in 2017.
As bad as it may seem that the Redskins are on first down runs, a few teams are actually below Washington on first down.
The teams that are below the Redskins first-down run average of 3.47 YPA is Pittsburgh (3.31), Seattle (3.28), L-A Chargers (3.27), Oakland (3.21), Detroit (3.20), Cincinnati (3.18), Arizona (2.96) and Miami (2.69).
III – Samaje Down the Stretch!
Samaje Perine has ripped off back-to-back 100 + yard rushing games in contests against the Saints and Giants and will attempt to become the first Redskins running back to rack up three straight 100-yard rushing games since 2012, when of course, former Redskin and current Cowboys back, Alfred Morris did it for his original team.
The Cowboys defense is # 17 in rushing yards per game (112.5) allowed and 25
in rushing yards per play allowed (4.36).
IV – Redskins in the Rankings
are ranked (for whatever it is worth) as the 12
best team in the NFL entering week 13 per ESPN
. They’re behind the Jaguars and just ahead of the Lions, Titans and Chiefs.
The Redskins are also
ranked as the fifth-most impacted team by injuries in this analysis by ESPN
. The teams ahead of Washington? Green Bay, Baltimore, Seattle and the Giants.
I don’t get it. Every team has been affected but outside of Green Bay, none of these teams have lost their starting quarterback to injury but none of them have lost at times 80% of their starting offensive line, top two running backs, three inside linebackers, a first-round pick on the defensive line, his tag-team partner, a starting safety, a starting corner for a couple of games and their placekicker.
Oh, plus their stud tight-end, a starting receiver and their top slot receiver wasn’t healthy for nearly half the year.
Chris Russell has covered the Washington Redskins for eight seasons for multiple media outlets and was a part of the Redskins Radio Network broadcast team for five years. He covers the Redskins, Washington Valor and Baltimore Brigade for Monumental Sports Network (www.DCHotRead.com). Listen to Chris on Washington D.C.'s # 1 sports radio station, 106.7 The FAN