Before we get started, I have to apologize for the longer than usual break in between blogs. I had some ideas for a Week 16 blog, mostly centered around Dwayne Haskins’ career in general, but I just didn’t really have time to do it last week. I’m thinking that’ll be a YouTube video at some point though (oh yeah I forgot to mention, I’m starting a channel, mostly for NBA content, but also might make one specifically for WFT opinions). But again, sorry about that. Then again, the Panthers game was so incredibly terrible that it would’ve been a lot of my tried and true whining, which not everyone loves. Hard to whine this week though because WE. ARE. IN.
That’s right, people, the team formerly known as the Washington Redskins, the team that has suffered numerous scandals and PR nightmares that have painted Dan Snyder’s franchise as the biggest dump in all of football has somehow, someway become the most heartfelt Cinderella story in the NFL. We’re NFC East champions! I can’t even believe it. It’s crazy to think that last year’s game against the Giants was the first real time I actively rooted against my own team for a higher draft pick, and now just one year later they’re playing playoff football. Who could have possibly seen this coming?
This team has a legitimate future; there are pieces in place to make this team a contender with the right kind of offseason. I’ve never been able to actually say that out loud before. The closest we’ve got to this point was probably RGIII’s rookie season which of course was filled with locker room controversies and power struggles that would carry over into the next two seasons, and the 2015 “You Like That” run, which of course was awesome, but it never really felt like we were in position to really become a true contender, especially with the Cousins contract drama starting to really come into full force.
I love this football team, no, I love the Washington Football Team. I’m officially for keeping the name now I don’t even care. It’s got a dorky charm to it when this team wins. A team with no name actually won a division, that’s just hilarious when you say it out loud. Granted, it’s in the worst division in football and is the result of a 7-9 record, but this is a happy blog, so we’re just going to turn a blind eye and start clapping.
In all seriousness though, we have to talk about this game against Philadelphia because I have truly never seen anything quite like it. My dad and I were just laughing after halftime because of how absurd it got.
The Eagles gifted us this victory
I’ll be the first to admit it: the Eagles did everything in their power to blow this game. As soon as I saw the injury report I knew this team would go out of its way to boost their draft pick rather than play spoiler. I just didn’t think they’d be so up-front about the whole thing.
The thing is, tons of teams tank their seasons away for better draft position, it happens literally every single year. We’ve had “Suck for Luck,” “Tank for Tua,” and now “Tank for Trevor” as the most notable ones in recent memory, and while I’m generally against it, it makes complete sense. Of course a team stuck in perpetual mediocrity would want to get its hands on an Andrew Luck or a Trevor Lawrence, who wouldn’t? They were clearly phenomenal college players with very clear NFL traits, but my problem with Philly’s tanking compared to someone like the Jaguars or the Jets this season (who were clearly tanking in their own right) is in the execution of it.
Sure, the Jets had that crazy Cover 0 play on the Raiders Hail Mary in Week 13, and the Jaguars consistently turned to quarterback Mike Glennon over better options to ensure they get Lawrence, but the Eagles managed to out-do them all by benching Jalen Hurts in the third quarter of a winnable football game for Nate Sudfeld.
Yes, THE Nate Sudfeld, a former Washington draftee that I’ve gone on record numerous times as saying that he had one of the least NFL-ready skillsets I had seen in that draft class. I remember him being so bad in training camp for us, but Eagles fans seem to love that guy as a third-string option.
The fact of the matter is that Hurts wouldn’t have been benched if the Eagles wanted to actually win this game. He threw the ball poorly against Washington (seven-of-20 for 72 yards and an interception), but he was killing the defense with his legs, rushing for 34 yards and two touchdowns. Sudfeld meanwhile threw for 32 yards on five completions to go along with an interception and a fumbled snap. He was terrible.
It felt so incredibly obvious that head coach Doug Pederson wanted nothing to do with beating the Football Team, who was up just 17-14 at the time of Hurts’ benching, and it resulted in some of the worst football my eyes have ever seen. Add that to the fact that it was in PRIMETIME and you’ve got yourself a flat-out disgrace to the game of football. Washington wasn’t even playing well with the Eagles trying to lose, so what we got was the mother of all slugfests where it looked like neither team really wanted to win. Washington has a habit of blowing must-win games in Week 17, and boy did they try, but Philadelphia just would not let them. It was so incredibly strange.
At the end of the day, I’d really rather not watch this game again, but also I’m not going to complain that this resulted in a NFC East division title for the first time since 2015. In fact, I’m going to live it up. Sorry, Giants fans! I know it sucks and I’d 100% be fuming if I were on the other end of the situation, but as a fan of this franchise, I’ve gone through so many heartbreaking disappointments from this team that I actually feel like we deserve just one bit of good fortune, even if it came off the tail of the worst NFL game in existence in which one team tanked on live television. Washington players shouldn’t and will not apologize for the decision of the Eagles coaching staff because they have no reason to. Take it up with the Eagles because that’s not our problem.
Final thoughts on the Eagles game
Before we start talking about the Wild Card game coming up on Saturday, I want to just air some things out about how Washington played in Week 17. Quite simply, it was just not good enough.
This team forced way too many mistakes for my liking, and I can guarantee you that if Hurts stayed in that game and if the Eagles actually wanted to, they would’ve probably pulled this out. I think that’s a fact. Washington did not play winning football on Sunday, and it’s for a few reasons.
First, Alex Smith did not look right. For a guy to be out for two and a half games for a calf strain, something needs to be seriously wrong. He looked like he could barely move out there. I mean he was seriously struggling to even step into throws. It’s sad to see because Smith in his prime had some seriously underrated athleticism and improvisational skills in the pocket, but he just looked like a shell of his former self. Can all of that be fixed in one week for a playoff game? I just don’t know. Having him out there might be a liability if he looks the exact same as he did on Sunday. I love Alex, but man he really couldn’t do much out there. As soon as he left the pocket, I knew we were about to see either a sack or a throwaway.
Weirdly enough, he did have two really solid drives despite the injury. His touchdown passes to Terry McLaurin and Logan Thomas were actually really impressive, especially McLaurin’s, who managed to find space in the corner of the endzone on the opening drive. Hard to believe that the one time I bet on Washington not scoring on its opening drive, they do it. I’m not complaining though.
McLaurin did all of this with a high-ankle sprain mind you. He barely practiced all week heading into Week 17 and it never really looked like he was going to be able to play. That dude is just tough though because it seems like the only way he wouldn’t play is if the leg just fell off. He was going to be out there no matter what. That’s the sign of a true leader.
I also want to talk about Steven Sims fielding punts. Despite a very promising rookie season, Sims has probably been one of the biggest disappointments on this team. He’s regressed into a total liability because of his issue with drops, especially when fielding punts. I have no idea why he’s still back there at this point, he’s muffed an NFL-leading three punts this season. That’s just unacceptable. Of course, he came in full force this week with another backbreaking muff that could’ve actually given the Eagles a chance to win (although I’m sure they would’ve found a way to “blow it”). It looks like we should add slot receiver and punt returner as areas of need for this team in the offseason.
Finally, we have to talk about Chase Young because a blog that doesn’t mention Young just doesn’t feel right. This week, Young further improved his chances at winning Defensive Rookie of the Year with a sack and a fumble recovery in a must-win game. That’s 7.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and a touchdown on the year for the second overall pick. Pretty great stuff from a guy that people were already questioning after six games into his NFL career. Young has backed up the hype in so many ways for this team, and the fact that we now have someone that is clearly turning into the face of a rising organization is something we have not felt since RGIII’s rookie year. The future of this organization has never been brighter.
Let’s look ahead to the Buccaneers matchup
As a reward for winning the NFC East, the Football Team gets a homefield matchup with the 11-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers coached by Bruce Arians. The Bucs have been on an absolute tear lately, winning their last four games, and they’re a team I predicted would be in the Super Bowl before the season started, but for some reason I still find this to be a winnable game.
Now hear me out now, Tampa Bay is a far better team on paper and will most likely take this game, but they haven’t been nearly as good as I expected them to be this year. They’re just 1-4 against teams with a winning record, and that four game winning streak I previously mentioned was against the Vikings, Lions and twice against the Falcons. Those three teams have just a 16-32 record.
They’ll also be coming into the game a little banged up. Mike Evans’ status for the game is up in the air after getting hurt in Week 17, and Carlton Davis and Jason Pierre-Paul seem to be limited heading into Saturday, although both of those seem more precautionary than anything.
On paper, this will specifically be a challenge for our secondary, who will have its hands full with the second-best passing offense in the NFL led by Tom Brady, who is playing in his first career Wild Card weekend. I don’t need to go on too much about the greatness that is Tom Brady, but I will say that our pass rush could give him fits considering he’ll strictly be making his impact within the pocket.
Brady has always been good at getting the ball out quick, but those big-play attempts aimed towards Rob Gronkowski or Antonio Brown are where we’ll really need to see the pass rush win its battles. If we can limit Brady to the short game and force them to rely on the ground game (which is solid in its own right), there’s a chance we can force a low-scoring affair. It’ll be a tough task, but the only way Washington can win this game is with a masterclass performance from Jack Del Rio’s defense.
On the other side of the ball, Tampa Bay has been just as good this season, boasting the eighth-best scoring defense and the sixth-best defense in yards allowed. Star linebacker Devin White will be out for the game which should be a big loss for the Buccaneers, but we’ll still have to deal with Pierre-Paul, Lavonte David, Shaquil Barrett and Ndamukong Suh. If Smith really can’t move around the pocket again, this will be a disaster for Scott Turner’s offense.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it, I don’t expect to win this game. The Buccaneers have too much firepower on both sides of the ball and just way too much playoff experience for Washington to handle, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a chance. In fact, I wouldn’t be shocked to see our defense really step up on Saturday and cause some chaos. It’s our offense that worries me. I just don’t know if we have enough in us to match what Tampa Bay puts up. I would absolutely love to be wrong though. Regardless, I can’t wait, it’s been so long since we’ve seen meaningful football from this team at this point in the season. I’m going to live this moment up, and you should too.
That’s all I got this week. I hope everyone enjoys playoff football this week, and I will talk to you again after the Wild Card weekend. Thanks for reading!