Without going into every detail of the past three weeks, it has been more and more difficult to be a Washington fan. For weeks 12 and 13, the hype was high with two consecutive opportunities to play the night game in Washington. The first was against the 49ers and the second against the Giants. There is nothing to say about the game versus San Francisco. The defense just held RGIII and the run game in check. There was nothing the Skins offense could do to move the ball. Kaepernick and Boldin put on a clinic, while RGIII was sacked 6 times and had not touchdowns but 1 interception. The following week, the team had a chance and seemed to have a rhythm they lacked for the entire season. Getting the first opening drive touchdown of the season, they finished the 1st half with 14 points. Following the halftime break, the team could not get back into the red zone and managed only 1 field goal. The game ended on a strange set of bad calls by the refs, who could not agree on the acquisition of the 1st down. This led to confusion and eventually a loss, after Pierre Garcon had gotten his 1st down catch stripped.
That leads us to this week: the storm of the Chiefs. Coming off a 3-game losing streak, Washington had a chance to catch a team on the downturn. Instead, the offense looked anemic, the defense continued to fail to tackle, and the special teams gave up 2 return touchdowns. Other than an excellent touchdown catch by Paulsen and an interception by Riley, the team just slipped and slid around the field. Cousins was eventually brought into the game but also ended with only 59 yards on 7-16 passing and a sack.
There is little need to go more into the actual events of the game and only focus on what this means for the team moving forward. There has been a plague that has been feasting on DC area. RGIII looked rusty and underdeveloped coming off of the injury. The defense has been nothing but porous and pathetic. Somehow even worse than the defense has been the special teams, failing on both sides of the kick with poor returns and botched blocking. Meanwhile, the team’s identity has been under the microscope as the name continues to be a growing controversy. There has been nothing drama and failure in DC and there will be implications in the offseason.
Among those changes are going to be a combination of players and coaches. RGIII is the franchise at the moment, so there is no fear that he is going anywhere. He will have a chance to finally heal and develop his mechanics rather than nursing the recovery from the injury specifically. The coaches are another story. The Shanahans are in some real trouble. After their run last year, they could have weathered a mediocre season with the issues of RGIII’s recovery. With the defense giving up at least 24 points in 11 of 13 games leading into December and the offense scoring 20 or less in 7 of 13 games, there are clear questions about their decision making. Timeouts have been questionable. They have abandoned the run when they have produced the best rushing attack in the league. Snyder may decide to keep the Shanahans but they will be under the microscope the entire next season. But there is also a chance that a surprise firing or resignation could come in sometime during the next three weeks.
As for the players, there are a lot of cuts coming in all three phases of the game. The special teams could easily be completely replaced, but the coaching could actually be upgraded to work with some of what is left. The offense will drop players at every position. Kirk Cousins has some upside but has not been able to show it much outside of the WAS-BAL game last season and the 2013 preseason. He will probably be trade bait in the near future. Royster is also on the chopping block because Morris and Helu have produced fairly well. Santana may retire this season, but he has not made much of his opportunities and may be on his way out whether it is on his own power or not. The only receivers that are likely to be safe will be Garcon (who has had a career year) and Robinson, who has shown sparks from time to time. Fred Davis has dealt both with injuries and poor hands when he was touted as a receiving TE. He and Paulsen have dropped some key passes and are both likely out. The offensive line is just offensive. Trent Williams may be safe but Polumbus certainly is not. On defense, Kerrigan, Orakpo, Fletcher (unless he retires), Hall, and Riley are the only players who have been consistently solid. Everyone else, including Josh Wilson, could face serious conversations and be looking for work.
The season has long been over but the conversation about the future is just beginning…
Around the Rest of the League
- Philadelphia has eked out a couple of wins but seems to be the most consistent of the teams to make the playoffs.
- The Cowboys still have some questions about their defense and Romo’s ability to transition from regular to post season. Could this be his year to put it together.
- Eli and the Giants have been coming back from their abysmal start but have little chance of catching the other teams in the playoff race.
- The closest division in the league, the Lions have taken the lead but not been able to get away from the rest of the division. Stafford’s turnover woes have kept them from going to the next level.
- Chicago has not been able to handle the loss of Cutler that well but is still not out of the playoff conversation.
- Rodgers is clearly the heart of the Packers but his absence has not eliminated their chances to catch the Lions.
- The Vikings just have not had the steam to compete this year. The quarterback situation will be the biggest decision for the offseason as Ponder, Cassel, and Freeman fail to appear able to lead an offense.
- The Saints appeared to be the favorites to compete in a fairly competitive division but have not been able to shake the Panthers. With a primetime match and a followup two weeks following, there is a real chance that the two teams will make for a dramatic finish in the NFC seedings.
- For Carolina, their 8-game win streak is the current best in the NFL. Their defense is the most menacing and has put Newton in a position to achieve the success he had been predicted to have experienced by now.
- Tampa Bay started rough with Freeman and a series of losses. It was not until they dumped him and went with Glennon that they finally got to win some games. It is all just confidence at this point, as they are far away from the playoff picture.
- Atlanta has been the fighter for the past few years but something is poisoning the team this season. Julio Jones has been out for a long time now and Ryan has failed to get the offense going.
- The North may be the closest division but the West is the most competitive. The Seahawks are dominating on all phases of the game. Russell Wilson has established himself as the most successful of last year’s young QBs, but their defense has been close to unstoppable.
- The 49ers were the Super Bowl team last year but they have struggled a bit this season. Though healthy, Kaepernick had a slump to start the season as he tried to keep pace with Wilson in the West.
- The Cardinals have been one of the surprises after showing little change since the past couple years. The run game has improved and Carson Palmer has reemerged to keep them in the playoff race.
- The record does not show it but the Rams are in a good position for their future. Zac Stacy is their RB moving forward and they will be getting a great 1st round draft pick from the Redskins to boost their team.
- New England keeps finding ways to win. First it was without the Gronk, then they got him back, and then they lost him again. The running game has been a rotation that may have finally settled on Shane Vereen, but they have eked out far too many wins to feel comfortable.
- The Dolphins were predicted for some success this season but are hanging on by a thread in the playoff hunt. A little help could push them into the 6 spot.
- The Jets are surprisingly still in the hunt and could help themselves with a win at Miami to finish the season.
- The Bills continue to be the Bills and show no signs of getting better in the near future.
- Predicted to be an early-season favorite, the Bengals have found their competitive instinct and continue to win. They are fairly safe to take the division.
- The Super Bowl Champion Ravens are struggling their way into a wild card spot this season. The team has lost their run game and their defense is just starting to find themselves in the last few games.
- Pittsburgh struggled to start, then got better, and then fell flat. They are on the outside of the wild card hunt and are playing more for pride now.
- Cleveland has had glimmers of hope but to no avail this season. Their recent loss to the Patriots is an example of their inability to finish games.
- Luck has been solid in his sophomore season but the defense has some questions to answer to make a playoff run. They are comfortably in the lead of the division though.
- Tennessee has had sparks with Chris Johnson and Jake Locker but injuries have held the team back.
- Jacksonville looked like they would never win a game. Now after getting 4 out of the last 5, they have something to build from to plan for their future.
- The Houston Texans were a team that was Super Bowl or bust this season. After their first two wins, Schaub threw 3 INTs in his next few games and was eventually benched. They are now on an 11-game losing streak and questioning their future.
- Fighting with the surging Chiefs, Peyton and the Broncos started the season with a bang with their scoring and have not let up. They lost a couple but are the favorites to run the table in the playoffs.
- The Chiefs are a team that is hot on the Broncos heels. They have an offense that is improving, a defense that is devastating to other teams, and a special teams that can surprise even aware teams.
- San Diego seemed like they had a chance to compete but fell far below their counterparts in the division. They found a new great receiver in Keenan Allen and could be a challenge for teams next season.
- Not as confident as the other teams in the division is the Raiders. They have failed to have a winning season for over the past decade, with only 2 years at 8-8 (both ranked 3rd in the division). They have a lot of work to do to catch up to the Broncos and the Chiefs now.