One of the most interesting 1st place teams during this opening stanza of the 2018 season is the Washington Redskins. In the Nation’s Capital this team has foraged out to a 4-2 record and first place in the NFC East. On Sunday they knocked off Dallas 20-17 one week after the upset of the Carolina Panthers 23-17 as CB Josh Norman gained a measure of revenge against his former team and nemesis Cam Newton.
You’ll remember these two were teammates on the 2015 NFC Champions that went 15-1 before losing to Denver in Super Bowl L. That season began with a heated fight between Norman and Newton in the preseason. Now everyone said the right things after it was over however you could tell from some of the taunting and talking on field Sunday, time hasn’t healed all wounds.
The spirit Norman played with in an emotional 23-17 victory where he picked Newton off once and forced another fumble, helped thwart the favored Panthers. Cam Newton’s bunch believes they are back among the league’s elite. A perch they haven’t sat since Norman took his talents to DC after signing a 5 year $75 million deal.
Now off the win over Dallas this team is gaining notice nationally as they have thoroughly outperformed what prognosticators, including yours truly, thought at the outset of this season.
Yet look around this roster. Its not necessarily the group George Allen put together in the early 1970’s but this team has retreads off the scrapheap leading the charge.
Adrian Peterson (438 yds / 3TDs), who was signed after losing 2 RBs to injured reserve and he runs as though he has found the fountain of youth. Good for 9th in rushing although he was signed in week 3. At 33 he’s averaging 109 yards per game. Not bad after a lackluster season in Arizona after being released by the Saints.
What about 34 year old QB Alex Smith?? Twice shown the door in Kansas City and San Francisco, has been the safe/cautious QB (1,373 yards 7 TDs v 2 ints) that may get you in trouble in the playoffs, however he never leaves the NFL’s 5th best defense with a short field to defend.
Do you realize Alex Smith has ridden this formula to the NFL playoffs 6 of the last 7 years??
Along with Pro Bowl TE Jordan Reed he has 34 year old former 49er Vernon Davis to make a clutch catch when needed. Remember it was Smith to Davis, The Catch III, with :09 to go to beat New Orleans 36-32 in the playoffs to advance to the NFC Championship Game. Although he isn’t as explosive as he was then, he’s able to take over for 4 or 5 games should Reed get injured. However if Reed can stay healthy its hard to focus and account for a 2nd TE on a ‘backer in pass coverage from a run heavy offensive set of 2 TEs.
This team is coming downhill and gain a measure of physicality on their opponents behind Peterson running the football. It fires up and gets the Offensive Line in a nasty mood and does so to their top 5 defense. They held the big bad Dallas front 5 and Ezekiel Elliott to 33 yards on 15 carries after holding Christian McCaffrey to 20 yards on 8 carries in subsequent weeks.
Scheduling brings the Giants (18th in Defense), Falcons (30th), Bucs (29th), Texans (9th), before a rubber match with the improving Cowboys. It’s plausible this team could be 7-2 or 8-3 going into this encounter.
In 6 weeks, this team takes on the reeling World Champion Eagles with supremacy of the division at stake. If this team can continue to lay physical dominance over their opponents and Peterson keeps running like a man possessed, they could wrap up the division right after Thanksgiving. He is already the runaway winner of “Comback Player of The Year” as he is on pace to rush for more than 1,400 yards despite missing the first 2 games.
Aside from injuries it is hard to derail a veteran laden team playing with something to prove. When it’s fueled by a series of veterans playing with something to prove, the sky is the limit.
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