5 Reasons Washington Redskins Will Emerge from NFC East
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Okay, who put money on the Washington Redskins winning the NFC East when they were 3-6? You know, when Shanahan seemed to give up on the season with talk of evaluating players for next year?
If you answered in the affirmative, congratulations. You're either a genius or someone with more money than sense.
Either way, you'll be sweating profusely through the matchup with the Dallas Cowboys that will decide the fate of the NFC East this year.
The Redskins traveled to Dallas and beat the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, so Tony Romo and friends would dearly love to get the ultimate revenge at FedEx Field on the final day of the season. Without a win, the Redskins need the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings to both lose in order to advance to the postseason.
It's best to take control of your own destiny, however, which is exactly what the Redskins have done since the bye week. Here are five reasons this will continue on Sunday to give them the divisional crown.
Washington's record under Mike Shanahan at FedEx has been poor, to say the least, but for the first time ever, the Redskins have a home game on the last week of the regular season against a divisional rival to decide the title.
If the team and fans can't get motivated for that, there's nothing that will work.
It's going to be a playoff atmosphere in Washington, with the chance to beat Dallas, take the division and end their hated rivals' postseason ambitions all in one game.
More than any other game, the crowd has to be the difference maker here. The team needs them to be at their loudest, making it uncomfortable for the Dallas team while spurring on their own players.
Washington has given up a lot of big plays on defense this year, so it's essential that the fans remain behind the team if it happens again. The way the players have responded since the bye week has shown that they believe in themselves and are putting together the results they expected from the outset.
In previous years the fans could take a modicum of comfort from the fact that the team was competitive over the course of the game but ultimately fell short. That has also happened this season, but with the way things are going in Washington right now, don't expect it in Week 17.
The last time the Redskins' linebackers had nine interceptions was 1991. The current crop have that total already and are consistently making plays to get the offense back on the field.
With a weak secondary, this has been a crucial factor in the recent run of victories. With his run of 239 straight games started, London Fletcher has epitomized this fighting spirit.
Although he has looked slower in games this year, Fletcher has shown up every week and played through injuries to lead his linebacker corps to a successful year. His 23 career interceptions are second only to Ray Lewis for interceptions by a linebacker and he has five for the year so far.
It's essential that this unit continues to make plays to protect the secondary. Romo and Dez Bryant have been an effective combination over the last few weeks, and Bryant hauled in eight passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns when the teams last met.
If the Redskins are to win the division, this combination needs to be stopped. The linebackers have proved they can come up with the big plays that tip the balance of the game, but with so much more on the line, it's required that they do so again this week.
Robert Griffin III
I must admit, the thought of what Griffin will put himself through in the Cowboys game is a little worrying. He's risked his body for the sake of an extra yard already this year, so the fact that the division is on the line means he is unlikely to hold anything back.
Griffin's limited mobility was evident during the last game against the Eagles, but he proved he is a good enough quarterback to stand in the pocket and make the throws needed to extend the drive and get points on the board.
Griffin threw for four touchdowns at Cowboys Stadium and was aided by a ground game that ate up 147 yards and reeled off 28 points in the second quarter alone.
In order for this to work again, Griffin needs to be back to full fitness.
If there is no threat of Griffin taking off on his feet, you lose a large part of what makes the running game so difficult to stop. That's taking nothing away from how great Alfred Morris has been, but he and Griffin have a symbiotic relationship that succeeds through misdirection and variation.
If Griffin is 100 percent, the options for the offense increase and the Cowboys will be looking at a very long day indeed.
The Cowboys have looked impressive in spurts this year, but have suffered inconsistency in their play across the season, demonstrated by three games decided in overtime. The fact that they can lose games when Romo throws for 416 yards and four touchdowns means that the opposition is always in with a chance.
The Redskins, on the other hand, have all the momentum and actually look like a team who doesn't believe they can be beaten. The defense, while it has surrendered huge yardage totals, has also managed to stay firm in the face of huge pressure and make goal-line stands to hold on for victories.
Everything has conspired to hand the Redskins a perfect way to end their season. Riding a seven-game winning streak to the playoffs would be an incredible team effort, and one which could mark the beginning of a turnaround in fortunes for the perennial cellar-dwellers of the NFC East.
Strike first, strike hard, no mercy. The motto of the Cobra Kai, and one that applies equally to the Redskins' kicker who just got a ball sent to the Hall of Fame.
Forbath has made 17 consecutive field goals to start his NFL career and, much like the Redskins themselves, doesn't look like he believes he can fail.
Finding a reliable kicker is so important to an NFL team and Forbath's presence means that the Redskins have solved quarterback, running back and kicker positions in one season.
There's no real magic to Forbath's approach to his art. He just stays focused and trusts his leg to get the distance needed to split the uprights. The way he stepped up to kick the winner in overtime against the Ravens showed that he isn't fazed by pressure situations, which means Shanahan can trust him with the game on the line.
If, after all the Redskins have put you through, you're still betting, you could do worse than back Forbath, not Griffin, to seal the game and take the team to the postseason.
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