Thanksgiving Day 2016: Washington Redskins v. Dallas Cowboys Preview

When the Dallas Cowboys sprinted out to a 9-1 record, deep in the heart of Texas, fans were ready to anoint this the NFC’s best team. Its a legitimate argument as they have the NFL’s best record. However a closer look shows a series of teams separating from the pack along with The Boys from Jerry World.

Cousins is killing it in a contract year.

Cousins is killing it in a contract year.

Do you realize the Washington Redskins are 6-1-1 in their last 8 games? They come into this turkey shoot with the NFL’s 2nd ranked offense (3rd in passing/10th in rushing) as Kirk Cousins has dazzled in a contract year. All of this is happening under the radar thanks to the large shadow cast by the Cowboys.

What the Cowboys have feasted on has been coming out, establishing the lead and lean on their running game. Ezekiel Elliott is just ahead of former Cowboy DeMarco Murray for the NFL rushing lead 1,102 to 1,000. This masks their deficiencies as a defense. Sure Dallas’ D is 3rd in rushing yards allowed, however a closer look reveals a 17th ranking allowing 4.2 yards per rush. Did you know the Redskins 10th ranked running game is 5th in the league averaging 4.6 yards per rush?? So what happens if they establish a lead in Dallas??

The saving grace for the Cowboys and The Great Wall II is the Redskins are terrible against the run allowing 4.6 yards per carry. The 2nd worst in the league… yup 31 out of 32 teams.

While Dak Prescott has played tremendous and has shown to be the future in Dallas, Cousins has become that in Washington. He has 3,091 yards while passing for 17 touchdowns which equals Prescott’s TD total.

The Garcon Crowder, Jackson combination has been lethal in the nation's capitol.

The Garcon Crowder, Jackson combination has been lethal in the nation’s capitol.

  1. Jamison Crowder 47 rec. 637 yards 6 TDs
  2. Jordan Reed 49 rec. 535 yards 3 TDs
  3. Pierre Garcon 48 rec. 593 yards 2 TDs

Once you realize each of these Redskin receivers is in reach of having 1,000 yard seasons it hits you: Where is DeSean Jackson?? Right behind them with 34 receptions for another 467 yards and 2 touchdowns. Keep in mind this team is 4-2 against opponents with a .500 record or better. It would be 5-2 if the Green Bay Packers weren’t falling into the abyss.

While it’s true the Cowboys are building a legitimate Super Bowl contender, they have to get out of their own division first. This is the best race the NFC East has seen since the 90’s with both the Giants and Redskins coming on as the season’s progressed. No one is talking about this Washington Redskins team…

The Chancellor’s choice in a rousing game is Washington winning a high scoring affair 36-24.

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NFC Wildcard Predictions

How can we top that Cincinnati Bengal v Pittsburgh Steelers for drama? You have to love the NFL playoffs and its time to get into day 2 with both NFC games on the same day.

nfl-iphone-wallpaper-2First game up is the Washington Redskins hosting the Green Bay Packers in the nation’s capital. All year long you’ve heard The Chancellor of Football state the Packers are a flawed football team. They have gone 4-6 down the stretch and have the NFL’s 23rd ranked offense. Twenty third?? Not only that, the supposed great Aaron Rodgers and the Packers passing game ranks 25th. No team has won with more smoke and mirrors than Green Bay.

What this game will turn on is Kirk Cousins and the 11th ranked passing attack facing the 6th best passing attack of Green Bay. The reason the Packers rank so high against the pass is they have been run on all year…ranking 21st. Also the fact they have gone 6-2 at home and won 5 of their last 6, the Redskins will win 31-17 sacking Rodgers 5 times.

As for the Seattle Seahawks vs Minnesota Vikings it is nostalgic to have this game outside. Teddy Bridgewater will make it to the divisional round…next year. Today in below zero weather is not the time to develop your downfield passing. Seattle gave up 125 yards to the Vikings  in week 13. Too many match-ups Seattle won on the line of scrimmage. The Seahawks will win this 27-13. It will be closer than the last time due to the cold.

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SUPER BOWL XXVI CHAMPION 1991 WASHINGTON REDSKINS

When it comes to the strongest single season NFL champions, they rarely come from dynasties that rule a decade. Most are borne from the ashes of a playoff loss the previous season. Whether the team hadn’t quite peaked despite being in the playoffs, or an effort that comes up short against the eventual champion provides the motivation fueling the season to come.

wash26Washington Redskins best team…1991 Super Bowl XXVI champions 37-24 over MY Buffalo Bills!! Congratulations Wilber Marshall, Darryl Green, and Earnest Byner formerly of the Cleveland Browns. It was good to see him get a ring.

This team had no weaknesses. Mark Rypien also had RB Gerald Riggs and a prolific receiving corps in Gary Clark (70 rec / 1,340 TDs /10 TDs)  Ricky Sanders (45 rec / 580 yds / 5 TDs) and Hall of Famer Art Monk (71 rec / 1,049 yds / 8TDs). Byner was a 1,000 yard rusher while Riggs was the battering ram at the goal line, evidenced by his 11 touchdowns with just 248 yards rushing. Washington finished 4th offensively and 3rd in defense despite yardage gained in garbage time in 9 blowouts. This might have been Coach Joe Gibbs’ masterpiece.

After winning Super Bowl XXII, the Redskins slipped down to a team that was just under the league’s elite. Gone was Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams, Timmy Smith and the aging vets that carried the team through the late 80’s. With the signing of LB Wilber Marshall in ’88, they pulled a coup as he became the first free agent to switch teams in a decade. They retooled with middle round draft picks and trades as they stayed competitive 1988-1990. In ’91 Marshall had arguably the best season for a non Pro Bowl player with 135 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 5 interceptions and 4 forced fumbles. It was Marshall who also changed the way players were voted to the Pro Bowl. Pundits and writers argued players couldn’t leave their animosities before entering the voting booth. A few years later the fan vote was included.

wash26.2They were close in 1990 but weren’t quite ready for primetime.  They upset the Eagles in the wildcard (Buddy Ryan’s last game) 20-3 then tried to upend the 49ers in the divisional round but Rypien was intercepted twice in the endzone to thwart drives and lose 21-10.  Rypien was a steady veteran QB but could he win in the postseason?? However the 2 best NFC teams in 1990 were the New York Giants and the San Francisco 49ers, who was trying to three-peat. However both had peaked and would need to retool. The Redskins along with the experts thought 1991 was going to be different.

super-bowl-logo-1991In starting out 11-0, the ‘Skins outscored opponents 361-139 which included 3 shutouts. This team was stronger than any of Gibb’s other Redskin teams.  The 83 squad scored on everyone but everyone was scoring on them too…as evidenced by losing a game 48-47 to Green Bay and losing to Dallas 31-30 in the opener and allowing 38 in the Super Bowl loss to the Raiders.  The 82 team was more smash mouth and the ’87 squad was good but benefitted from the strongest 49er team in history being upset in the playoffs that cleared the path.

This team finished 14-2 as Gibbs utilized the full roster through situational substitutions. Every player had a designated role and they hit the playoffs running. Knocking off Atlanta 24-7 before clobbering the Detroit Lions 41-10 in the NFC Championship Game.  In Super Bowl XXVI they overpowered Buffalo 37-24 in a game that wasn’t that close. They led at halftime 17-0 and after 3 plays of the 3rd quarter were up 24-0 before Buffalo scored.

Joe Gibbs’ charges only had 1 more playoff season the following year before the team slid into obscurity. The team became a step too slow with many of their players aging. The Redskins wouldn’t make the playoffs in the next 7 years. By then Gibbs Hall of Fame career would be over as well as this championship era in Washington. Yet 1991 saw one of the strongest champions in league history.

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Lost NFL Etiquette: Player Curtain Calls

As the NFL is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl this year it causes you to look back at the NFL of yore. Many items changed due to knee jerk reactions instead of thinking the entire item through. One lost art is the player introductions before the Super Bowl. That moment of anticipation as you looked into players eyes as they came out before the big game. The intensity, inner desire, fear, and all the emotions you wanted to feel coming from that player at the moment of truth. Much like the camera that zooms in on boxers staring each other down when the referee gives the instructions.

John Riggins curtain call after the '82 playoff win over Minnesota.

John Riggins curtain call after the ’82 playoff win over Minnesota.

Another lost art is the curtain call for a quarterback who has just become league champion or a player after a great performance. Let the player come off the field alone to the applause of the crowd. This one is on the coaches.

I salute John Harbaugh for giving Ray Lewis his curtain call, platooning him for the Ravens’ last offensive play in the 2012 Wild Card win over Indy. The PSI Net crowd went nuts when he trotted on the field and were even louder after the kneel down and Lewis broke into his signature dance. How much did that emotional moment have to do with the Ravens winning Super Bowl XLVII 4 weeks later??

One of the greatest moments in NFL history happened in a 1982 NFC playoff as the Washington Redskins were putting the finishing touches on a 21- win over the Minnesota Vikings.

This curtain call along with John Riggins subsequent bow and the frenzied reaction by the RFK crowd propelled them through Dallas to Super Bowl XVII. The “We want Dallas!! We want Dallas!!” chant went on for the better part of 15 minutes. You just heard Russ Grimm talk about the moment being ‘electric’ and “brings the hair up.” That emotion and confidence set the tone for the NFC Championship to come for a town and a team. The next day Dexter Manley told the media he hated Dallas and the madness didn’t stop until an argument broke out in the House of Representatives the following Friday.

When it comes to great performances, coaches need to be aware of the moment and set it up for the player to hear the fans appreciation at the end of the game. Every moment may not be as catalytic as these moments were but these strengthen the bond between player, team, and fan. Today’s coaches shouldn’t lose sight of this.

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2015 NFC East Predictions

One of the most perplexing aspect of picking the NFC East is what is going on with Jason Pierre Paul’s hand?? How damaged is it?? Is he really missing his thumb?? Today he showed up to the facilities and is about to sign his contract yet we haven’t been shown what his hand looks like. As the Giants “alpha dog” on defense, without him being what he had been could have a ripple effect on the Giants as a whole.

dez2015 NFC East

  1. Dallas Cowboys 9-7 *
  2. Philadelphia Eagles 8-8
  3. New York Giants 7-9
  4. Washington Redskins 4-12

The Dallas Cowboys will come down a peg now that they are running by committee. This is the first time since 1946 when the NFL’s leading rusher switched teams the following year. Here at Taylor Blitz Times we made mention of “The Great Wall II” and an offensive line is great for an era. We stand by that but we have to see how the often injured Darren McFadden and Joseph Randle will perform.

Cowboys brass has to have some reservations or they wouldn’t have traded for Christine Michael from Seattle. The penchant is there to revert back to the pass happy era we saw earlier in Tony Romo’s career. At least in a few games this can happen. The defense begins the season with Rolando McClain, Kevin Hardy and Orlando Scandrick beginning the season suspended and on the reserved injured list doesn’t bode well. Dallas will have a sloppy start to this season as they try to establish their running game and find defensive continuity.

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Sanchez will have to play for Bradford several times this season.

Interestingly the Eagles are coming into 2015 with something old and something new. The old?? Chip Kelly jettisoning off top shelf talent. Gone is RB LeSean McCoy to Buffalo and WR Jeremy Macklin to the Chiefs. The something new is swapping QBs Nick Foles for Sam Bradford from the Rams.

The often injured Bradford won’t remain on his feet for the entire season. We saw the hit Terrell Suggs put on Bradford in the pre-season. Chip Kelly’s offense will expose Bradford too additional hits and Sanchez will have to take his place several times this season. This kills offensive continuity and we know Kelly’s too arrogant to change his play calling.

Not only will the Eagles wear down but the Giants will remain too inconsistent to take the division. Eli Manning just inked a new contact extension and will play loose. However Victor Cruz is still rounding back into game shape and Odell Beckham is getting the business from defenders set to get after him in his sophomore season.

If Jason Pierre-Paul had showed up with 10 fingers the Giants win the division. With his being sent home without signing his contract something is definitely up. And without an index finger he’s rendered one of his hands to be useless to pull on jerseys in pass rush hand fighting techniques. Pierre-Paul won’t be the same player and the defense will take a big step back without it’s dominant pass rusher. Remember he was their franchise player… not any more.

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Unsung Players: RIP Eddie LeBaron

Eddie LeBaronOn April 1st of this year, the football world lost Eddie LeBaron. To a prior generation he was remembered as a great quarterback that lacked the height to play the position at 5’7. However in a career that spanned 11 years he was voted to the Pro Bowl on 4 occasions. Three times he made it as a Washington Redskin and once with the Dallas Cowboys. In fact he was the first starting quarterback in the history of the Cowboys.

I first became aware of LeBaron reading the old Punt, Pass and Kick books covering players from the 1960’s. In some instances it seemed he was covered because of his oddity when it came to stature. Yet as I did more research it was discovered how good a player he was as this vignette barely saved from decades ago will attest…

It’s ironic the player who gives the strongest testimony to LeBaron’s playing prowess is “Concrete” Chuck Bednarik. Not only was he considered one of, if not the toughest player during the 1950’s, but we just lost him just two weeks prior. Like Bednarik, LeBaron had served our country as a Marine and fought in the Korean War prior to playing pro football.

Eddie LeBaron pictured with 1st Dallas Cowboy owner Clint Murchison.

Eddie LeBaron pictured with 1st Dallas Cowboy owner Clint Murchison.

In microcosm his story was an inspirational one to a generation of young men to fight on despite a lack of size. A father could drape his arm over his son’ s shoulder and tell them about Eddie LeBaron. Not only was he the first quarterback in the history of the Dallas Cowboys, he was a Pro Bowl quarterback for a large part of his career.

RIP Eddie LeBaron: January 7, 1930 – April 1, 2015

Epilogue: As we lose these players, it’s personal to me because reading their exploits in books as a kid back in the 1970’s is what lit my fire about football. I was never one into comic books and fictitious heroes, it was always about real people and their accomplishments.

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