Win-Loss Predictions for Rest of Washington Redskins' 2017 Schedule
Some, including Grant Paulsen of 106.7 The Fan, believe a .500 finish would be a creditable achievement in light of the injuries and the strength of Washington's schedule, even though it would mean a third year out of four with no playoffs on Gruden's watch.
The strength of Washington's remaining schedule is underlined immediately by this week's road trip to take on the red-hot New Orleans Saints—a team boasting the run-pass balance the Redskins can only dream of.
Still, the remaining schedule isn't completely unkind. There are three games against NFC East opponents left, including a doubleheader against the lowly New York Giants.
Read on to find out how the remainder of Washington's 2017 schedule will unfold.
Week 11: at New Orleans Saints
Prediction: Redskins 21-34 Saints
Imagine for a moment what it's like to have an offense as effective on the ground as it is through the air. The New Orleans O is dominating this season thanks to the ability to seamlessly shift between smash-mouth running and launching vertical strikes through the air.
Drew Brees is still throwing the passes and remains as good as any quarterback in football. He is relying on burners Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn Jr. to take the top off defenses.
Yet the root cause of the Saints' 7-2 mark is a dual-threat running game spearheaded by tough bruiser Mark Ingram and versatile rookie Alvin Kamara. Ingram wears out defenses between the tackles and a has a true nose for the end zone, while Kamara is the speedster. He's also a nifty receiver, having tallied 42 receptions—good for second-best on the team.
Ingram is averaging 4.7 yards per carry, while Kamara is averaging 6.5 yards on the ground. Those numbers should be causing sleepless nights for Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Manusky.
It's hard to pick what was most disturbing from his unit's dismal display against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 10. Case Keenum throwing four touchdown passes was bad enough, but Latavius Murray averaging four yards a carry was a close second.
Now Manusky will try to stop an even more nuanced offense with reshuffled and unfamiliar personnel. He lost another starter on defense when Will Compton joined fellow inside linebacker Mason Foster on injured reserve, per Rich Tandler of NBC Sports Washington.
The Redskins will look to bring back Zach Vigil, pending a physical, to plug the gap, according to ESPN.com's John Keim. It means Vigil or rookie Josh Harvey-Clemons will be left to partner Zach Brown inside.
Any weakness in the middle is sure to be exploited by a Saints team becoming increasingly adept at winning on the ground.
Week 12: Home vs. New York Giants
Prediction: Giants 20-27 Redskins
The 1-8 Giants thought their season was bad enough before they lost to the previously winless San Francisco 49ers in Week 10. Even so, head coach Ben McAdoo has retained the support of Giants ownership, although the language of the statement given to ESPN's Adam Schefter means he should plan on moving house this offseason.
McAdoo still being in place is good news for the Redskins because all is far from right with Big Blue on his watch. Admittedly, he's had his share of injuries to deal with, particularly along the offensive line (the Redskins can relate) and at wide receiver.
Yet injury woes don't explain everything that has gone wrong for the Giants in 2017. A defense loaded with talent has failed to deliver, while no solutions have been found in the running game (again, the Redskins can sadly relate).
Amid all the problems, veteran quarterback Eli Manning has crumbled under the burden of carrying the team. Washington's defense can heap more misery on the 36-year-old when the Giants visit FedExField for Thanksgiving.
The Redskins pass rush drew a blank against the Vikings, but players such as outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan have usually enjoyed big days against Manning. Expect Kerrigan, Preston Smith and Co. to once again hound Big Blue's passer into some costly mistakes.
By contrast, Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins will make the clutch throws against a defense struggling to get to passers this season. The Giants have recorded just 13 sacks, which is welcome news for a Redskins O-line back to full strength thanks to the return of Pro Bowl talents left tackle Trent Williams and right guard Brandon Scherff against the Vikings.
Week 13: at Dallas Cowboys
Prediction: Redskins 23-20 Cowboys
Two things lead me to believe the Redskins will go into Dallas and upset the Cowboys in Week 13. First, these two bitter rivals often split the series during a season, with the Redskins owing the Cowboys one after losing at FedExField in Week 8.
Dallas won with Ezekiel Elliott in the lineup, with the dynamic running back amassing 150 yards and two rushing touchdowns on 33 carries. Elliott is now finally serving his six-game suspension, so he won't be suited up for the visit of the Redskins.
In his place, the Cowboys will likely turn to a familiar face in Alfred Morris, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Morris topped the 1,000-yard mark three seasons in a row when he played for the Burgundy and Gold from 2012-15. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry in a losing effort against the Atlanta Falcons last week.
There was something about the way the Cowboys lost in Atlanta that should give the Redskins heart. Put simply, Dallas imploded in Georgia, with defensive back Orlando Scandrick getting in the face of his head coach—an incident the former played down, per Clarence E. Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Whatever spin the Cowboys put on the incident, it didn't look good and hinted at the frustrations among the ranks.
A lot of frustration came from the absence through injury of premier left tackle Tyron Smith against the Falcons. As Ryan Wilson of CBS Sports noted, Chaz Green proved no replacement for Smith, as Adrian Clayborn helped himself to six sacks of Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.
Things are just as sketchy defensively, with middle linebacker Sean Lee, the best defensive player on the Dallas roster, also struggling with injury, as owner Jerry Jones revealed on 105.3 The Fan, (h/t Rob Phillips of the team's official website).
The Cowboys might be healthier by the time Week 13 rolls around, but there are enough question marks about this team to believe the Redskins can earn a priceless win.
Week 14: at Los Angeles Chargers
Prediction: Redskins 21-17 Chargers
No team in the league has mastered the art of failure quite like the Los Angeles Chargers. Each week the AFC West outfit seems primed to win, only to find some creative way of losing.
Three of the Chargers' first four losses (excluding the game against the Chiefs) came by a combined total of seven points. Their last three defeats have come by a combined total of 13 points. This is a team with a natural aversion to closing out games.
Ironically, the problems are on offense. The presence of quarterback Philip Rivers, tight ends Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates, running back Melvin Gordon and wide receiver Keenan Allen has only added up to a unit ranked 23rd in scoring.
Inconsistency and turnovers have plagued the Chargers, something the Redskins can play on in Week 14. Generating pressure with a talented front seven will disrupt the rhythm of Rivers and his hurry-up offense and force the veteran passer into mistakes.
The 35-year-old has thrown seven interceptions this season and fumbled four times, although he's only lost one of those. Fortunately, the Redskins have the players, particularly linebackers Kerrigan and Brown, to harass Rivers in key moments.
However, it will be more important to keep Gordon quiet. He has been struggling lately, averaging a paltry 1.7 yards on 16 carries during last week's loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Washington remain pretty stout against the run, ranking 13th after nine games. If linemen Stacy McGee, Ziggy Hood and Terrell McClain can keep Gordon quiet, the Redskins will win.
Of course, it will be just as important to keep Cousins upright, a tall order against a pass rush in swarming form this season. The Chargers have 29 sacks thanks to Melvin Ingram, Joey Bosa and Chris McCain, making this a great time for the Redskins to be healthy again along the O-line.
Cousins has enough short-range targets in running back Chris Thompson, slot wideout Jamison Crowder and tight ends Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis, to connect on quick hitters to beat the rush and keep the chains moving at crucial times.
Week 15: Home vs. Arizona Cardinals
Prediction: Cardinals 20-18 Redskins
The Redskins have been impossible to trust this season. How else do you explain winning on the road against the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks and demolishing the star-studded Oakland Raiders but letting Keenum and the Vikes put up 38 points?
There always seems to be a sting in the tail just around the corner this season, and the sharpest yet will fall in Week 15 at home to the Cardinals. Arizona still likely having either Drew Stanton or Blaine Gabbert under center won't be enough to save the Redskins from another inexplicable stumble.
Quarterback Carson Palmer has revealed he won't be back in action before the final two games of the season, per Darren Urban of the team's official website. Meanwhile, running back David Johnson isn't expected back before the season finale against the Seahawks, according to David J. Chao, MD, speaking to The San Diego Union-Tribune.
The Cardinals still have weapons, though, notably ageing running back Adrian Peterson. The 32-year-old is still a workhorse, as he proved against the 49ers in Week 9 when he carried the ball 37 times for 159 yards.
Peterson could cause the Redskins problems if he's allowed to get into his groove early.
However, the bigger issues will be caused by a Cards defense still fairly adept at bringing the blitz. Chandler Jones is still an edge-rusher to be feared, while flexible safety Tyrann Mathieu can attack protection from anywhere.
Coordinator James Bettcher is never shy about sending multiple players on the blitz. His aggressive and creative schemes will force a few costly turnovers from Cousins and ultimately decide a close game in Arizona's favor.
The Cardinals have been hit as hard as the Redskins by injuries, but this remains a well-coached team on the watch of Bruce Arians. Coaching will make a difference in Week 15, with Gruden and his staff once again outthought.
Week 16: Home vs. Denver Broncos
Prediction: Broncos 22-17 Redskins
Another narrow home defeat to a losing team will ultimately condemn Washington to a third year in four with no playoff football.
There are just too many things about a matchup with the Denver Broncos that don't favor the Redskins, even though the sight of Brock Osweiler at quarterback usually means the opposition can bank on getting a W.
It's not Osweiller or Denver's offense making me nervous about this one. Instead, it's the Broncos defense—admittedly one struggling in recent weeks, but a unit capable of matching up well against the Redskins.
Most of the matchup problems posed by the Broncos are caused by what the Redskins don't have. Namely, Washington doesn't boast an effective running game to wear out the Denver front seven, meaning Cousins will be left at the mercy of dangerous edge-rushers Shane Ray and Von Miller too often.
The Redskins sent Rob Kelley to injured reserve this week, per the league's official website. I just don't see Thompson or rookie Samje Perine finding much joy against Broncos D-tackles Derek Wolfe and Domata Peko.
Nor is it too likely a depleted an underperforming group of wide receivers will produce a great deal against cornerbacks Chris Harris and Aqib Talib. Terrelle Pryor Sr. simply hasn't produced as a free-agent arrival, while Josh Doctson remains inconsistent, leaving Cousins without the weapons needed to loosen up experienced defenses.
By contrast, Osweiller does have Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders to throw to. The latter can make any quarterback look good. Denver will edge this one by shining an unforgiving light on the deficiencies obvious on the Redskins roster since opening day.
Week 17: at New York Giants
Prediction: Redskins 33-24 Giants
The Giants will either be desperate to put their 2017 out of its misery or else they will be playing for some pride in the final week. I'm going to bank on the former being the stronger factor for Big Blue, particularly if McAdoo is still patrolling the sideline.
Doldrums for a divisional rival will allow the Redskins to end their own disappointing season on a high. Key members of the roster will also have extra added motivation to play well, none more so than quarterback Kirk Cousins.
He will be playing to prove he deserves a longterm contract after two years spent operating under the franchise tag. This will go down as Cousins' most trying campaign yet as he's been left without star power at wide receiver or the support of a credible rushing attack.
Yet those issues will be shelved at MetLife Stadium in Week 17. Instead, Cousins will go with what he has and exploit Reed, Davis and Thompson against the Giants' suspect linebackers.
There won't be anything suspect about how Kerrigan finishes his season. No. 91 will be targeting his best sack total for a season as a pro, a mark he will likely reach after once again living in Manning's grid square.
Trouncing an NFC East rival will let the Burgundy and Gold save some face with an 8-8 finish. Ultimately, though, 2017 will rate as a missed opportunity for the Redskins thanks to injuries, poor coaching and a lack of attention toward fixing obvious areas of weakness, particularly the running game.