It feels like the Redskins are on the brink, but they are not. Not by the numbers, anyway.
They lost six times last season and won the division. A team could win the NFC Least with eight losses. Washington could "give" three to five losses in the next twelve games and still make the playoffs.
The contest against the Cowboys Sunday might be one of those "give" games although Washington is running out of room for another conference/division loss. Beating the Cowboys means outscoring the Tony Romo-led offense, or better, keeping that offense on the bench.
Hog Heaven's problem is that Washington has not yet played in a reliably predictable way. We can't forecast a win. We hope for a win against the Cowboys in Dallas. There is an eerie silence about this game from Redskins players and fans.
For those of you who bet on football, the sports books have installed the Cowboys as six-point favorites as the gambling public has swarmed to them after that amazing Sunday Night contest against the Broncos. The 'Boys were giving away 4.5 points against the Redskins before the Broncos game.
I'm not a gambling tout. You should not take my advice about this. (My lawyer made me put this in.) We take comfort in Joe Fortenbaugh's statement that the Redskins are 4-1 against the spread in road games. Um, yes, we are ignoring that most of that came during Washington's amazing seven-game win streak to close out 2012 and against the hapless Raiders who played without the mobile Terrelle Pryor.
The Cowboys are 3-10 against the spread in their last 13 NFC East games. Lines and spreads are about the Benjamins. We have to deal in wins and losses.
It' s not encouraging for the Redskins.
Redskins Hog Heaven previews games by using the only three stats fans need to know.
QB Passer Rating Differential
Third-down Conversions Allowed
QB Passer Rating Differential
Tony Romo QBR (5 games) ‒ 114.3
Robert Griffin III (4 games) ‒ 85.5
You wouldn't know it from the guttural noises out of Dallas, but Tony Romo has thrown only two interceptions so far. Of course, the second one against Denver was the shot heard around the world. Here's the rest of the story. Romo has thrown 13 TD passes and is completing 71.8 percent of his passes to a scary receiver corps.
It's the old story. The Cowboys wouldn't be these games without Romo who somehow isn't good enough to take back a lead the Cowboys defense gives away.
Robert Griffin is having a decent year and now we know that at "100 percent," he is not the dual threat he was last season. He is passing reasonably well. His passer rating by game over the last four contests are 77.7, 104.2, 74.3 and 91.7 (Eagles through Raiders). A poor decision on an intercepted pass to Pierre Garcon and absence of scoring passes in the Detroit game led to a poor 74.3 passer rating sandwiched between decent outings against the Packers and the Raiders. A lost fumble against Detroit was his second blunder that day and it cost the team.
Griffin is smart enough to learn from those mistakes. And he has a suspect Cowboys secondary, especially at safety, to throw against.
The problem is that Romo is red hot and the Redskins secondary is just as vulnerable as the Cowboys'. Griffin's unofficial preseason is over. We should see post-Bye improvement. "Should" is the operative word. We can't expect it until we see it.
That means Griffin needs help from other parts of the team. He may also get it from the Cowboys.
Dallas is converting to the 4-3 alignment in Monte Kiffin's defense. If you recall Washington's painful conversion to the 3-4 a few years back, you get the idea of the Cowboys's struggle against Peyton Manning. Their personnel does not yet quite fit scheme.
Third-down Conversions allowed
Cowboys (5 games) ‒ 25/62, 40.3%
Redskins (4 games) ‒ 20/55, 36.4%
Well this is a welcome bit of good news. The Redskins defense is better than the Cowboys at something. Remove the stats from that remarkable Denver game and the Cowboys defense held opponents to a 32.6 percent success rate. Ugh!
We discount the favorable impression of Washington's third-down stops, because we have yet to play the super team known as the Broncos.
Advantage: Slight Cowboys
Cowboys (5 games) ‒ 5 INTs, 5 Recovered Fumbles = 10 TOs, 3 TDs
Redskins (4 games) ‒ 2 INTs, 4 Recovered Fumbles = 6 TOs, 3 TDs
This is the best area of competitiveness to the Cowboys. The 'Skins are vulnerable to the big play like they were last year. The 'Skins are disruptive like they were last year. That fit the formula of the defense forcing turnovers and RGIII avoiding them that led to success last season. The D is holding up its end in this bargain. We are just waiting on RG to do his part.
Advantage: Slight Redskins
We are making projections into the future based on past performance. These stats only matter as they unfold in games. The team that gets the best in two of these three will likely win.
It's not enough for RG to show progress in the Dallas game. He has to have a dominant performance. Griffin is the tide that floats all boats. He could be helped by an effective running game (Kyle Shanahan, meet Roy Helu) so that the offense keeps Tony Romo on the sideline where we want him.
The Redskins won the division with a three TD, 200-yard game from Alfred Morris when these teams last met. Griffin completed 50 percent of his passes for a 66.9 passer rating. If Morris/Helu can deliver the same performance, passer rating differential may not matter.
The Hog Heaven Magic 8-Ball
Our Magic 8-Ball failed us when we asked for a prediction in the Lions game. We put it on suspension for the Raiders game.
Asked whether the Redskins will beat the Cowboys this Sunday, the 8-Ball replied, "Outlook not so good."
Mmm, maybe the 8-Ball will be wrong again.
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