Monday, December 31, 2007

Playoffs!!!!!: Volume 2, Issue 20

Braves on the Warpath,

I've tried to be religious about sending out one Skin Serv per week as to not flood your inboxes with spam, but exceptions must be made sometimes.


Congratulations to all Skins Servers!!!! What a huge victory yesterday. Playoffs in 2007. Who would have thunk it????


After what has been the most trying year in franchise history, the Skins have battled back from near extinction and now, somehow, find themselves in the post-season for the second time in the last three years. This is a team of destiny, and this is a story we'll be all telling our children for a very long time.


And by the way, in case you live in a cave somewhere (and still get Skins Serv), the Skins are the hottest and most dangerous team in the NFC (but we'll get to that on Thursday).


For now, soak it up. Make a toast (l'chaim) to the Burgundy and Gold as we bring in the new year tonight, and make sure to give some appreciation to ole' Coach Joe and his group of fighters for this amazing miracle they have given us.



Wild Card Game versus Seattle.

4:30 PM ET Saturday.




Friday, December 28, 2007

Achtung Baby!!!!: Volume 2, Issue 19

Braves on the Warpath,

As has become traditional on Skins Serv over the last month, it would only be appropriate that we take a moment of appreciation for our beloved Redskins, the position they have put themselves in, and the magical ride they have taken us on. Never in our wildest dreams could have we scripted such a turnaround - a destiny-filled, emotionally-fueled run at, dare I say it, a post-season birth. The entire Redskins organization, from the kickoff kid right up to the big Danny, has provided all of us happiness, joy and most importantly, hope during the holiday season.


This team is a wellspring of inspirational stories, as they have re-defined the human triumph over adversity. From Todd Collins's ten years as a NFL nomad to Clinton Portis and Santana Moss's revitalization in the name of a fallen friend, the Skins have given even the most cynical hater reason to believe. Regardless of what happens this Sunday at FedEx, the Redskins have done enough - they have managed to erase the bitterness and tears, and have left all of us with a taste of how sweet this whole NFL thing can be. This team has literally crawled through 10 football fields of the most foul-smelling sh%$ and come out better for it. Thank you, Redskins.


But yes, unfortunately, there is still a game to be played. And yes, as fans, it is our duty to be as mentally ready as possible for this monumental showdown with the Cowboys on Sunday. There are no free passes in the NFL, so don't expect the Cowboys to hand us one now. I would like all us Skins Servers to approach this Cowboys game as the Redskins players will.


Monday and Tuesday - the players days off - are OK for celebration and playoff dreaming. Even Wednesday, when the Skins only had a walk through, could our minds be cluttered with thoughts of back-ups, no Romo and TO, and red-eye flights back to Seattle in time for work next Monday (Guilty as charged). But by Thursday, when the players strap on the pads and start hitting each other over in Ashburn, our minds need be solely focused on those shiny silver helmets with those stupid blue stars. For the next four days, its Cowboys and Cowboys only. Please don't mention that city with an "S" - not in front of me, not in front of anybody.


Yes, the Skins are the hottest team in the NFC and yes the Cowboys have nothing else to gain on Sunday, but to the 22 Cowboys who play offense and defense against the Skins this week, that won't matter one bit. If it's the starters, they'll want to play spoiler and ensure they don't have to see the Skins again. If its the bench players, they will try to use the opportunity to prove themselves to their coaches, and show off their abilities on a national stage. Football players are competitive beasts, and in no way should we think that those players and their coaches are going to let the Redskins run it all over them. Pride is a very strong human emotion and there will be plenty of it on Sunday.


Remember new years day '05? Remember how the Eagles were done and without Donovan? Did it matter? Nope. The Eagles went up early and scared the ba-jesus out of us (when we all thought it was a gimme) and not until Sean swooped in and saved the sons and daughters of DC, was that game in the books.


This game will be just like that one: a hard-hitting, cold, bitter affair between two of the biggest rivals in the NFL. It will be closely contested. It will be scary. The Skins are one game from the playoffs, but you better realize that it will be one long, hard game. I hope by the end of Skins Serv, you'll believe me. 


One game at a time,






First: Minnesota Gameballs


1) Elan Fredman - Many of you don't know Elan Fredman. A good boy from St. Louis, Elan was wed on Sunday to one Sara Sebrow of Teaneck, New Jersey. In their great Wisdom, Elan and Sara scheduled their wedding at 3:30 PM, so us Skinservers attending could still watch the game at 8:15 PM. With Elan's encouragement and screams of "Skins control their own destiny...wooooo," Skinservers in attendance were sent home after the first dance. Thank you, Elan and Sara.


2) The Coaches - All 300 Redskins coaches earned their combine 3 billion dollar salaries last week. What scheming, what preparation, what genius (in Bill Walton voice). First and most importantly, on the defensive side: Greg Williams delivered. According to a report today, the Skins used 10 different packages on defense. Normally the Skins come into a game with 6 or 7 packages and don't use all of them consistently. Not in this game. Using all 10 packages, including Buddy Ryan's famous 4-6 run-stopping defense, the Skins shut down Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor and confused the heck out of Tavaris Jackson (who was an angel sent from the heavens) and Brad Childress (aka Uncle Allen). The Skins had every gap covered, every pass defended, and got pressure on the QB. It was a coaching performance for the ages.


On offense, the law firm of Saunders, Buges, Beraux and Gibbs finally got it together. The Skins schemed the perfect run/pass mix and didn't back down from the Vikings great front four. Instead, the coaches attacked the Vikings on the ground - first at the edges and eventually up the gut. The Skins game plan tired out the Vikes defense, kept them off balance, and enabled the Skins to set up the play action - which came up huge on big TD passes to Cooley and Moss. The Skins could have opted to abandon the run altogether, but instead took it right at the Vikes defense - it paid off. Also, give credit to the Skins for pouring on the big plays late in the first half instead of being comfortable up 9 or 16 points. The halfback option call late in the first half was the perfect play call for that situation. Kudos to the boys upstairs for that one.


3) The Trench Warriors - This game was won in the trenches. On both sides of the ball the Redskins line play was marvelous. On defense, the Redskins got great push - moving a strong and successful Minnessota o-line backwards all night. Kedric Golston set the tone early with his stuff of Richardson for the safety and Montgomery and Griffin kept the heat up the middle throughout the game. The Skins also got great performances from Carter and Daniels, who didn't let Peterson get outside. Carter, who isn't the best run-stuffer, was tremendous in wrapping up Peterson on the outside toss plays.


On offense, the Skins o-line created creases for Portis and had the Minnesota front-line on their heels. This makeshift group seems to be gelling at the right time - if the Skins can muster 100+ running yards on that Minnesota front four, than they can do it on anyone. The o-line is also doing a great job in pass protection. Collins is comfortable and has enough time to read through all his progressions in the pocket. Heyer and Samuels continue to protect well on the sides and Rabach, Kendall and yes, Scrubini have been solid up the middle. Lorenzo Alexander again made his presence felt Sunday, pulling to both directions on Portis runs.


4) CP Baby!!!! - First, congrats to Coach Jenky Spanky on winning the NFC offensive player of the week this week - the first Redskins RB to do so since Stephen Davis in 1999. Sheriff Gonna Getchya was fantastic Sunday night - fighting for the extra yards and using his cutback ability to gain crucial yards on the outside. Dolla Bill was also excellent with yards after the catch, gaining numerous first downs after catching the ball in the backfield. Kid Bro Sweets seems to be moving quicker and better than he has since the 05 run and his threat alone is opening the field up for everyone else.


5) Santana - Some breathtaking catches, including the TD grab and the sideline acrobatics late in the game. I forgot how good he is when he's healthy.


6) Collins (No. 1 Gameball) - It's almost unthinkable for anybody, in any profession, to be inactive for 10 years and then come in and perform at such a high level. Collins's understanding of this offense, his ability to wait in the pocket, and his deadly accuracy have led to over an 100 QB rating thus far. Collins is making clutch throws, hitting important third down plays and throwing the ball deep - everything you could ask of a QB. Most importantly he hasn't thrown a pick (poo poo poo). Collins is Coach Joe's dream QB - a smart, unflappable veteran leader.


7) The LBs - This group's tackling on Sunday was flawless. Fletcher, Godfrey, Blades and Marcus didn't let anyone by them. They are playing sideline-to-sideline, they're hitting hard and they're fast. It's a scary group right now.


8) Smoot and Springs - These guys have been blankets for weeks now. They haven't given up big plays and are starting to force some turnovers. They're looking as good as any CB tandem in the league.


Dallas: Reason to be Nervous


1) Recycling - Remember Skins Serv before Skins/Boys I? When I showed you that history says the team that is supposed to win usually loses in this matchup? Well, in case you forgot...


2) History (zachor et asher asa Dallas) (note that all the below games took place at home) -


A) 12/5/1982 - The Skins, the eventual Super Bowl champs, are shocked at home by the Boys 24-10. Joe Theismann is sacked 7 times.


B) 9/5/1983 - The Cowboys come back from 20 points after halftime to beat the defending champs 31-30 in the season opener at RFK on Monday Night Football.


C) 11/5/89 - The Cowboys, who finished the season 1-15, get their lone win at RFK against a playoff-bound Redskins team, 13-3.


D) 11/24/91 - The Skins, who came in undefeated (11-0), lose to the Cowboys at home thanks in large part to an Alvin Harper-caught Hail Mary just before halftime. As we all know, the Skins went on to with the big one.


E) 9/12/99 - The Redskins blow a 35-14 lead and lose on a Rocket Ishmail OT TD catch, 41-35 in the season opener. The Skins would go on to make the playoffs and the Cowboys would finish at 8-8.


F) 9/18/00 - In a Monday nighter filled with huge expectations for the Skins (they got Deion and co. after making the playoffs), the Skins crumble at home 27-21 to a Cowboys team playing without Troy Aikman. Dallas would go on to win the next 8 out of 9 meetings.


3) Brad Johnson - For those of you licking your chops over 3 quarters of Brad Ball, please let me remind you of one score: Minnesota 19, Washington 16. Remember last year's opener? A sure-win game between the Super Bowl contender Skins and the rebuilding, new head coach-led Vikes? Remember their starting QB? That's right, it was Brad Johnson. He was angry at the Redskins then and he's angry at the Redskins now. You don't think he's itching for the chance to knock the Danny out of the playoffs? The guy who cut him for Jeff George after a playoff appearance in 1999? I don't care if Johnson hasn't played a snap all year - he diced us up for 223 yards and a TD last year in route to a win, he could do it again.


4) The Bench - I want to quickly address the notion of NFL bench players: to think it will be easier against the Cowboys bench than their starters is stupid. Was it easier for the Bears when Collins came in for Campbell? Was it easier for the Giants when Blades came in for Rocky or when Heyer came in to check Strahan? Absolutely not. If you're in the NFL, you can play - that's the bottom line. The Cowboys will sport a healthy, fresh and motivated roster on Sunday, and none of them like Redskins.


5) Starters - Last thought on this issue. The Boys ain't sitting everyone. Pro Bowlers Marion Barber and Jason Witten are going to play. DeMarcus Ware and Roy Williams are gonna play. Those four players can change a game by themselves. Barber will be breaking tackles, Witten will give our LBs fits and Ware and Williams will be looking to take heads off. That's scary stuff.


How The Skins Can Win


1) Establish the Run - Just like last week against the Vikes, the Skins will have to look to CP to ignite the offense on the ground by attacking the 'Boys 3-4 defense. The Cowboys will be without starting nose tackle Jay Ratliff - the anchor of the 'Boys 3-4 - so the Skins need to attack that front seven by going right up the gut. If the line can get push and CP can accrue some early yards, Saunders will turn things over to Collins to work the play action...


2) Attack the Corners - Even with starting cornerback Terence Newman, the Cowboys secondary has been vulnerable to the big play. With Newman out this Sunday, the Skins are going to have to test backup corner Jaques Reeves just like they did Sunday night with the Vikes Marcus McCauley. Moss is back to full speed and will be able to get room on Reeves or Anthony Henry. If the Skins can get some big plays early, they should be able to dictate what they want to do on offense for the rest of the game.


3) Knock Out Romo - I know I spent time shpieling about Brad Johnson, but I still would rather have him in there than Romo. If I am Gregg Williams, I force the issue with Wade Phillips. If Romo trots out on the opening drive, blitz the heck out of him. Get some body blows and even a late hit if need be. Philips has no reason to keep Romo under attack in a meaningless game and if he sees Williams sending the house, he'll put a very short leash on his Pro Bowl QB.


4) Stuff the Run - With no Terrell Owens in the lineup, Marion Barber becomes the top threat on the Dallas offense. The Skins need to take him out of the game early similar to what they did against Minnesota. The Skins have to make the 'Boys QB (whoever it is) throw the ball. Crayton and Terry Glenn are not TO and can be stopped in man coverage. If the Skins can avoid being burned by Barber (another Pro Bowler) they should be able to force some turnovers and slow the Dallas attack down. The Skins rund defense will get a boost as Cowboys Pro-Bowl center Andre Gurode will sit this one out too.


5) Cooley - Remember this guy having a field day in the first half against the Boys and Pack only to go silent in the second half? The Skins need to get Cooley the ball early and often - he can beat any Cowboy linebacker in coverage and his threat should open up the offense even more for guys like Portis and Moss. Cooley needs to have a monster day (see Skins/Cowboys December 2005)


6) Turnovers - Even though the weather forecast is changing for the better, the Skins still need to focus on ball protection. One of the easiest ways for a heavy favorite to give a game away is by turning it over. If the Skins limit their TO's to zero and stay positive in the turnover ratio, they can win this game.


7) Being Ready to Play - This is the most important factor on Sunday. If the Skins come out hungry, mentally prepared and with an edge, the will dominate this game. If it's the same Redskins team as it was in New York and Minnesota, than the 'Boys will get crushed. Any NFL team would struggle against those Redskins teams. But that's a big "if." The Skins might be in playoff cruise control already and it could prove fatal. This is the ultimate trap game. I know Coach Joe will do everything to get them ready, I just hope they are.




1) Skins - The Skins put jumbo guard Mike Pucillo on IR so he's done for the season. Todd Yoder was in pads today so he'll probably be available. Mike Sellers will also be ready after that scary play Sunday night. Everyone else should be ready to go.


2) Boys - The Cowboys will definitely be without TO, Ratliff and Gurode and most likely without Terence Newman. The Cowboys will get Terry Glenn back (he's missed all season) and he'll probably start alongside Patrick Crayton.


By the Numbers (I gotta get you guys a little hopped up)


61-23 - Coach Joe's career December record


2005 - The last time the Skins had a four game winning streak. That year the Skins advanced to the post season.


2 - The number of playoff appearances the Skins have had since Joe Gibbs retired after the 1992-1993 season.


9 of 15 (60%) - Years in which the Washington Redskins have made the playoffs under Joe Gibbs


11 of 55 (20%) - Years in which the Washington Redskins have made the playoffs under every other coach.


5-0 - Coach Joe's record in the wild card round.


1982 - The last time the Redskins faced the Cowboys in the playoffs.


Prediction - The Redskins are going to make us nervous - they always do. Whether its a slow start out of the gate or hitting the late 3rd quarter wall, they make us sweat. On a cold winter day against the arch-rivals on national TV, I can't imagine the Skins make it that easy on us. But as they did on New Year's 05 and as they've been doing throughout this magical run, the Skins will prevail when they're backs are to the wall. At some point on Sunday, the game will turn into a celebration of 75 years of Redskins football (I just don't know exactly when). Redskins 28  Cowboys 10


Pump Up Video - Make sure to watch this 5 times before Sunday at 4:15.


Parting Shot - If you're going to the game on Sunday, please be loud. FedEx Field usually sounds like a hotel lobby - under these circumstances, that'd be a terrible shame. Get jacked up and bring em' out, baby!!!!!



Friday, December 21, 2007

2 Down, 2 to Go: Volume 2, Issue 18

Braves on the Warpath,

First let me say that I was even nervous writing this Skins Serv. Do you know what its like writing a Skins Serv with so much on the line? Coming up with a title that captures the spirit of a late December playoff run? Not so easy.  I hope I didn't fail you, the reader (hineni aneni).


Again, like last week, I think its only fair that we first show some appreciation to the burgundy and gold. What a group of guys on this squad. For all the issues that you may have had this year with the coaches, players and those in the front office, you must put those things aside now and just admire how hard this team has fought, how much resilience they have shown and how much they have raised their games with their back against the wall (more cliches welcome). Most teams would have curled up and crawled home after what the Skins have been through, but not this team. If there was ever a football team you could really love, it is this 2007 edition of Washington's Warriors. No NFL team has as much heart as these guys have.


This team came out on Sunday night in a hostile environment, in a place they never win, in terrible conditions, and put together their best overall effort of the season. The simply wanted it more than the Giants and it showed on both sides of the ball. The Skins were the hungrier team - fighting for that extra yard and stopping the Giants on many crucial 3rd and 4th and one situations.


I don't know if the Skins can keep up their energy levels and come out with the same ferocity as they did Sunday night, but if they do, than many NFC teams will have a hard time stopping them - not just the Vikings.


So what now? Well for starters, the Skins play in their biggest game since January 2005. It is the biggest game on the NFL docket this week, and again, it is in front of a national TV audience. The playoffs are on the line and the season's on the line. It will either be the heartbreaking ending to a tragic season or step three of this most magical, most improbable playoff run.


And what stands in the way? The Skins must go on the road again, must go into a very loud and hostile dome and must stop the hottest team in football. Who, by the way, have the most prolific running attack in the league and are the best at stopping the run. And the Skins ask their 36 year old, 2nd string quarterback to lead them again. They are going to need a little more than karma to win this week.


But let me also say that this isn't an impossible task. This isn't Foxboro in October. The Skins can win this game. Only 3 more days until we find out if they will.


One game at a time,






The Skinny 

Skins Serv ran some serious numbers this week. Tracked many patterns and tendencies. Even did an algorithm or two. And guess what? I came up with the same thing everyone else has. But I'll break it down for you anyway. Before I do, I need to make light of a couple of things from this past Sunday.


1) Gameball to Silver Spring Skins - Great showing Sunday night by Skins Servers on the road. It is the first time I can remember that Skins fans and the Skins players brought it equally for a game. Kudos all around.


2) Ladies and Gentlemen: Mr. Lorenzo Alexander - If there is one person you can thank for the Skins turnaround, it is number 79. Who? The second year man out of California - who wasn't on the active roster last year and wasn't supposed to be this year either - is having an impact on three sides of the ball. Alexander is a special teams whiz, can also be found stuffing the run as a D-Tackle, but most importantly, is now the front man on many of Dolla Bill's scampers. Lets go to the video tape...Alexander is skyrocketing up the Skins depth chart. Going from defense to back up offensive line to extra tight end in jumbo sets to now his latest role, starting right guard! Yes, the coaches have plugged the more athletic, more mobile Alexander into right guard in many of the Skins running packages because of his ability to pull block and get out in front of running plays. The Skins are still lining up Fabini on the majority of downs, but if you go back and look at CP's biggest runs Sunday night, he was following Alexander's lead. This is a major turn of events in the Skins offense and running game, which has been suffering since losing Randy Thomas (one of the best pull blockers in the game).


3) A Healthy Tana Goes a Long Way - You just can't overstate how important Santana is to this offense. His big play ability forces corners and safeties to drop back, which either leaves openings in the running game or leaves the middle of the field wide open for guys like Cooley. The Vikings run defense is great because their corners pinch up on the edges and stop the outside runs. If Santana can have some early success down field, this will force the Minnesota corners to play further back and out of the running game. Santana should also get props for two spectacular sideline catches on Sunday night - both of which lead to scores.


4) CP!!!! - You know I have to give a shout out to CP for his performance last week. I am sick of people saying the guy is washed up. He was shot out of a cannon on most runs Sunday night. Give this guy some space and some creases and he'll get you lots of yards (the turf helps too).


5) Smoooooot - 2-7 might be playing the best football of his career over the past three games. I was seriously down on Smootsie at the beginning of the season. He was giving too much cushion, was getting beat under and over, and couldn't stay out on the field for an entire four quarters. It's a different Smoot now. He's playing much more physically, staying with receivers at all depths of the field and breaking up plays or wrapping up his man immediately after the catch. Smoot shut down Plaxico Sunday night, as Greg Williams kept Smoot on Burress man-to-man for the entire game (usually the Skins corners play a specific side of the field). One play in particular jumps out - in the middle of the fourth quarter with the Giants threatening to cut it to five, Manning sent Plax deep into the corner on a fade. Smoot stuck with Burress and timed his jump perfectly, knocking the ball out of bounds. If Smoot can be trusted to man up this week, it will go a long way in letting everyone else on the defense focus on stopping the run.



1A) Stopping Peterson -  In the Vikings 8 victories they have gained an average of 190 yards on the ground. Their smallest total in victory was 125 yards on the ground. In the Vikings six losses their running yards per game was a mere 121 yards per game. Quite simply, this team wins on the ground. If the Skins can contain the run and force the Vikings to convert first downs through the air, the Skins have a great shot. I will put the magic number at 120 rushing yards. If the Skins can hold the Vikes rushing attack to 120 yards on the ground, they win.


It's a lot easier said than done. The Vikings running offense, which is best in the NFL, is lead up front by pro bowl center Matt Birk and left guard Steve Hutchinson. These two guys are the best in the game in their positions. The Vikings also have veteran lead blocker Tony Richardson (also a pro bowler) and left tackle Bryant McKinnie, who is also as good as anyone in the league.


What this means is that the Skins defensive right side, Andre Carter, Anthony Montgomery and linebacker HB Blades, are going to have to put in their best efforts of the season. Randall Godfrey, who is better suited to stop the run, might spell Blades in that role. The Skins might also be concerned about Carter, who isn't as effective against the run - look for Peterson to run right at 99. It is possible the Skins might go to some five man fronts, bringing in Kedric Golston to help support Carter and Montgomery on the right side. No matter which personnel make up the formations, the Skins must keep the line of scrimmage packed with defenders: they must get Reed Doughty playing at the line and must get their corners pinching the edges. This will take a great effort from all 11 men on defense - but at least the Skins don't have to worry about being burned on the pass, because Jackson just won't be able to do it.


The Vikings have the 30th best passing offense in the league -which is even more pathetic than the number indicates considering how much the play action should help them. Despite the great ground attack, they're still inept in the air. Stop the run - win the game.


1B) ToddBall - Just like the Vikes are the best at running the ball, they are also the best at stopping the run. The number one run defense is led by pro bowl nose tackle Pat Williams (317 pounds) and pro bowl tackle Kevin Williams (311 pounds). The Vikings are also anchored up the middle by LB EJ Henderson who comes in with 105 tackles on the year. The Vikings run defens is also supported by LB Chad Greenway (88 tackles) and by great run stopping from their top cornerback Antoine Winfield  (67 tackles).


Amazingly though, the Vikings compliment their run defense with the worst pass defense in the league. If you consider that teams look at many pass-only downs against the Vikings because of how successful their run stopping is, to be dead last in pass defense is truly horrendous. The Vikes know the pass is coming and they can't stop it anyway. In the Vikings six losses, opponents have averaged 307 yards through the air while only mustering 77 yards on the ground.


The Skins are going to have to air the ball out. There is no other way to do it. The Vikes haven't given up more than 130 yards on the ground and we shouldn't expect anything different this week. The Vikings will likely be without their best corner Winfield (who has a pecs strain), so their corners and safeties will be vulnerable. Santana and Randle El are playing at full speed so they will be able to spread out the field and open space up for Cooley - who you can expect to have a huge game this week. The Vikings have run-stopping LBs, who will be more focused on staying in the box than pass coverage.


I can't stress how important Collins will be in this game. His timing, his accuracy, his ability to control the offense in a loud environment will all be huge. He's going to have to make lots of plays and pass for TDs.


If the passing game is successful early, Portis might have some room to work with. Especially if he can run effectively to the right side behind Alexander. Running left at Greenway, Henderson and those tackles will be tough, but if CP can get to the outside on the right, and force Winfield's rookie replacement to make plays, he might have some success. But only if the pass sets it up first.


2) No Turnovers - In the Vikings five game winning streak, they are plus 8 turnovers, but more importantly have scored 4 touchdowns off of turnovers. The Skins cannot afford to let the Vikings play on short fields and even more so, cannot let them score defensive points. If the Vikings are able to get a single defensive score, this thing will be over. Collins must make great decisions and guys like Portis and Moss cannot afford mental lapses that have hurt this team throughout this campaign.


3) Scoring First - I know the Skins have been very susceptible to blowing leads this year, but in this case, they have to take that risk. The Skins need to score first to win this game. Yes, I'm convinced the biggest play of the game might be the opening coin toss. I am usually pretty adamant about the Skins receiving in the second half, but I will make an exception this time. The Skins have to get the ball and have to score. Because the Vikings are such a running powerhouse, they are not as comfortable playing from behind. They have scored first in 6 of their eight wins, and in four of the five games in this winning streak. In the Vikings six losses, they only held the opening lead twice. If the Skins can somehow get early points (which they usually do), it will be much tougher for Jackson to orchestrate a comeback by handing the ball off.



1) Winfield - If Winfield doesn't play, this could be a huge plus for the Skins. Winfield gives them shutdown capability on the outside and is tremendous at run stopping. If Winfield doesn't play than Rookie Marcus McCaulley would fill in. With second year man Cedric Griffin (0 Ints) lining up on the other side, the Skins will have to take advantage of these matchups.


2) Sydney Rice - The Vikings will definitely be without their number two receiver Sydney Rice. The loss of  Rice, who is Minnesota's biggest down field threat, will help the Skins secondary focus even more on run stopping. The Vikes will likely line up with Bobby Wade and Troy Williamson (who didn't see a snap last week).


3) Rocky - I don't think the Skins will feel the loss of Rocky this week as much as they will throughout next year. It is unclear how much time Rocky will miss, but by most indications, this ACL/MCL tear will keep him off the field for a while. Because the Vikings don't have great pass-catching TE's, HB Blades and Godfrey will be able to focus on run stopping - hopefully the rook and the savvy vet will be able to make some plays.


4) Griff - Griffin hurt his hand Sunday night and was benched in the second half. Griffin will start this Sunday, however, JLC seemed to indicate that Griffin's benching might have signaled a changing of the guard on the Skins D line. I would expect the Skins front four next year to be Montgomery, Golston, Carter and a new end to replace Daniels.


By The Numbers (meant to get you jacked up)

28-42: The Combine Record of the Vikings opponents in their five game winning streak. If you take out the Giants victory (which Eli handed to them on a platter) than that record goes to 19-37. In their run, the Vikes barely edged out the Raiders at home and had the benefit of a INT TD in the first place from scrimmage against the 49ers. The Skins will pose as their toughest test in the last 6 weeks.


60-23: Joe Gibbs career record in December.


5-0: Joe Gibbs career record at the Metrodome (including Super Bowl 26). The last time Gibbs coached at the Metrodome was a 10-7 wild card playoff win in 1992.



As usual this game comes down to the wire. The Skins break a tie game half way through the fourth quarter and then the defense makes a huge stand. Finally, the offense slams the door on the game after converting two first downs through the air.

Redskins 23 Vikings 20


Parting Shot

I don't think Skins Serv has done a good enough job expressing the excitement and appreciation I have over the Redskins current situation. For this team to be playing meaningful games with playoff-like atmospheres this late in the season is something Redskins fans aren't usually privy to. 1999 and 2005 were it for this generation. Somehow this year we get to be part of something special again - at least for one more week. Soak it all up.




PS - for those who need some Skins vids to get the blood flowing before 8:15 Sunday, try this: 

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Meadowlands Miracle?: Volume 2, Issue 17

Braves on the Warpath,

As we approach the holiday season, I think we must show some appreciation to our beloved Redskins. Despite a myriad of heart breakers, a four-game losing streak during the stretch run, the death of a star player and a roster full of severe injuries, our Skins have still given us reason to hope with three weeks left to play. I can write proudly, albeit hesitantly, that when the Skins lace them up on this Sunday, December 16th, in front of a national TV audience, they will actually be playing for something. That is more than we could have ever asked for in this, the most tumultuous year in franchise history.


So what are there chances? Honestly, not so good. But that doesn't bother me or keep me from hoping. In fact, because the Skins situation looks so dire on paper, I have more reason to believe they could pull it off. You see, so many weeks of this season I have felt that the Skins should have beaten teams. And in most those weeks, the Skins have outplayed their opponent and still lost. Karma, my friends, Karma. The Skins had awful karma for most of this 07 campaign and it has always bit them at the most inopportune times. Games they should have won, they ended up losing (citations unnecessary and inappropriate).


But since last Thursday, I believe the Skins Karma has done a 180. This entire country, not just those of us in DC, are pulling for our boys. We are the true underdog story - and you know what, I think we should relish in it. Our franchise player goes down with a season-ending injury, and the Skins still overcome the odds to beat the Bears with a guy who hasn't started in 10 years (in the same week they lose on a heartbreak and all attend a funeral in Miami).


And there was much more to this story. In that same Bears game, CP overcame stomach poisoning, Shawn Springs fought severe back pain and Fred Smoot escaped the Skins training room (Jack Bauer style) and got back on the field for the end of the game. This team showed heart, grit and character and actually pulled out a tight one. Karma's starting to turn (or at least they remembered how to win).


And if you look at our opponent, they are eerily similar to us, yet still diametrically opposite. They have a very strong defense, a lackluster, underachieving offense and an ole' coach. Yet the Giants, unlike the Skins, have overcome poor performance after poor performance and squeaked out close games against inferior opponents. That's exactly what the Skins couldn't do this year.


Here are some numbers to chew on: in games decided by 8 points or less, the Skins are 5-6 this year (including all four games in their four game losing streak). The Giants, on the other hand, are 5-0 in games decided by 8 or less, including pulling out tight games in their last four victories. The opponents in those games had a combine record of 16-36. The Giants, despite playing less than mediocre, have found ways to win. The Skins, on the other hand, have found ways to lose. And we must look back to September to see when this trend started. Remember, it was week 3 when the Skins blew a 10 point lead to the Giants and couldn't get into the end zone on the game's final play. Hopefully the Skins reverse both teams trends and pull off the upset.


And so here we have it, with three games left the Skins have an opportunity to turn this thing around. Yes, their QB hasn't started since I was a sophomore in high school. Yes, the Skins haven't won in the Meadowlands since Gibbs took the helm. Yes, the team is decimated with injuries and is even more vulnerable going into a cold and snowy Giant stadium. But maybe, just maybe (in William Wallace "Braveheart" voice), karma will be good to the Skins this week and Sunday will be the start of a magical ride.


So need to discuss scenarios. It's all about one week at a time here. Win and move on.


Keep Prayin',





The Skinny 


1) Hello Goodbye, Hello Goodbye - You catch Randy Thomas on the field for two series on Thursday? Yup - that was ole 77 all right. Poor Randy fell on the arm a couple of times and realized he wasn't close to ready. Our best lineman is now on the shelf for good. Hopefully he'll be ready for OTAs in March. It's Scrubini time. God help CP.


2) Heyer V. Strahan - Saw an unnerving stat this morning. I can't remember the exact numbers, but it went a little something like this: When Todd Collins was a starter in Buffalo in the mid-90's he was sacked a lot. Saw a different stat that also sent chills down the spine: the Giants lead the league in sacks by 6. Eish.


And to make matters worse, the Skins have undrafted rookie Stephon Heyer manning up Michael Strahan on the outside this week. Let me just say that Heyer has filled in admirably for Jon Jansen and Todd Wade this year. Heyer is a huge boy and will be a big wall for Strahan to get around, but his technique and footwork are still very raw, and the savvy vet will find a way to get around the rook. The Skins are going to be asking Yoder, Cooley, Sellers and CP to chip on Strahan and with Samuels having to deal with another great rusher in Umenyiora on the other side, Collins could be in for a long day.


3) Watch for the Giants Scheme - I'm really not sure how the Giants will approach Collins. I assume it will be a constant mix of pass and run blitzing. The Giants, as all other teams have done against the Skins, are going to plug the gaps with their 3 LBs and make sure Portis can't get past the line of scrimmage. The Giants might also bring up their safeties and throw some all-out blitzes at Collins, hoping to rattle him early and force him to make mistakes. The Giants are going to try to make sure this game is played at the line of scrimmage, regardless of whether Collins drops back to pass or hands it to CP.


4) What do the Skins do- Part 1 - The Skins are going to have to take shots up field, and many of them. If the Giants are going to have 7 and 8 men fronts coming at CP and Collins, the Skins will get man-to-man opportunities on the outside. Both Moss and Randle El should be able to get open space against aging corner Sam Madison and inexperienced rookie Aaron Ross. Unfortunately, the weather conditions and the swirling winds will make throwing the ball much tougher for the weak-armed Collins, who might have trouble finessing the ball to the Skins WRs.


5) What do the Skins do - Part 2 - The Skins other hope to win this game is to marginalize Collins's roll. That means do all the other things well. 1) Get to Eli - the Skins have to make Eli throw off his back foot. Eli is rattled by pressure and makes lots of mistakes. If the Skins can win the turnover battle and play on shorter fields than they'll have a chance. 2) No TOs - even if the Skins offense is stagnant, they can still keep the game close if they don't turn the ball over. In every big loss this year (especially on the road), turnovers have killed them. If they can somehow avoid it completely this week, they might be ok. 3) Special Teams - I know its hackneyed, but if the Skins can steal yards on kicks and have good coverage, they could find a formula for winning in this environment 4) Running the ball - the Skins are going to keep it on the ground, especially in inclement weather. If somehow CP can find some holes and get some push, it will ease the pressure under center. 5) Collins can help himself by combating blitzing with effective hot routes and screen passes. Just like the Betts TD late Thursday, if Collins can remain unflappable and find open under guys, maybe the Skins will be able to move the ball a little but.


6) The Weather - You gotta assume the bad weather helps the home team. Giants stadium is hard enough to play in for the Skins, but having to face a potential ice storm could make it worse. On the other hand, inclement weather could even the playing field. Eli Manning isn't exactly a bright dude, and maybe he'll make some mistakes and turn the ball over even more than he does already. It's also possible that the cold and icy conditions can marginalize guys like Plaxico, Brandon Jacobs and Antonio Pierce who all have been nursing injuries and might be averse to doing some things in wet conditions. If the weather is as bad as they're predicting, this game will come down to holding onto the football. Remember Green Bay? That cannot happen. If the Skins are the benefactors of Giants turnovers, than their fortunes could change. But it could easily go the other way also.


7) Huge for the Giants - Something else that concerns me about this game is how big it has become for the Giants. Forget our scenarios for a second. If the Giants somehow lose to the Skins than they have to face going up to Buffalo and playing New England at home in order to make that last playoff spot. If the Skins, Vikings and Giants all finish 9-7 (which is possible), the Giants would be left on the outside. They realize how badly they need this game.


8) Injuries - Skins will likely get James Thrash back but might not have Philip Daniels. Heyer's in for Wade and there's nothing else of concern to report. Also of note - ARE is the third string QB.


9) Prediction - I'll be there and many of you readers will be there. All I can predict is a jolly ole' good time. Snow. Cold. NFC East Grudge Match. Impossible to predict. This thing can go any which way.



Thursday, December 6, 2007

Putting the Pain in Perspective: Volume 2, Issue 16

"Shver tsu zayn a Redskins Fan"  - Scott E. Zakheim, 12/2/07, 4:15PM ET         


For Those Still Reading,

Let me first start by saying that I understand the pain felt from Sean Taylor's tragic death in incomparable to any feelings rendered by a football team's success or failure. That being said, Skins Serv must go forward this week, and as inconsequential and meaningless as it may appear in light of Sean dying, I feel I must try to contextualize how awful the last four weeks have been on a football front.


Quite simply, 2007 has become a total nightmare.


Somehow, someway, a season that started with such great hope, has slipped away in just one month. But the Skins 07 undoing did not happen decisively, a self-destructing of monumental proportions due to the oppositions blitzkriegs, but instead, in the most torturous and twisted way possible: 4 winnable games, 3 blown leads, 4 opportunities to win or seal a win with in the last offensive possessions. 0 victories.


If your memory is a bit rusty right now - let me jog it for you.


Philadelphia 11/11 (The Skins are 5-3): The Redskins blow a 9-point 4th quarter lead and give up the go-ahead TD after the Redskins settled for a FG after having 1st and Goal from the Eagles 3 yard line (a TD would have given them a 10 point lead with 4 minutes to go).


Dallas 11/18 (The Skins are 5-4): Down 5 points, The Redskins have first and 10 from the Cowboys 19 yard line with under two minutes to go. On 3rd and 10, Jason Campbell is intercepted by Terence Newman to seal the Skins fate. Campbell, who had yards of daylight ahead of him on the play, could have run for a first down and possibly a TD.


Tampa Bay 11/25 (The Skins are 5-5): After laying an egg in the first half, the Redskins, down 6 points, are given two opportunities to win the game inside of 5 minutes. On the first drive, Campbell is intercepted by Ronde Barber at the Bucs 28 yard line (with just under 4 to go), and on the ensuing Redskins drive, with 25 ticks left, Campbell is again picked - this time in the end zone.


Buffalo 12/2 (The Skins are 5-6 and still very alive): The Redskins blow a 8-point fourth quarter lead and had an opportunity to run the clock out on the game with a single first down. Unable to convert, the Redskins gave the Bills the ball back with 56 seconds left down 2 points. We all know what happened from there. 


Looking at it from strictly a football perspective, the last four weeks might have been the most painstaking weeks in the history of the Redskins franchise (pretty shocking considering everything else the Skins have had to cope with).


Be a lousy team and tank it for four games - fine. Get blown away by superior opponents - fine, I can handle that too. But to play tight games over the course of a month and have a good chance to win them all and not come away with one single victory? No team deserves that. Not even a high-priced, big-market team with a sometimes-greedy owner.


I'd venture to say that these last four might be the toughest stretch of losses for any team in this league's history. Most teams who lose heart-breakers fold at some point, so getting the opportunity to lose four straight in this manner rarely comes around. There's usually a blow-out or two mixed in. To the Skins credit, they've hung tough. Unfortunately for them and us, the pain of all this losing and they way they're doing it is just too much. Enough already - I'm too old to cry this much.


Mix in the fact that these players are coping with Taylor's loss, and even the biggest Redskins haters are sympathetic to the run of bad luck this team has hit. It's official - November 2007 has transformed the Redskins from the obnoxious underachievers to the lovable losers. Uch.


But the Skins have a caught a break - yes, despite everything that's gone wrong, the Skins are somehow only one game out of the playoffs with four games to go. And they have an opportunity to hold the tiebreak on every single team vying against them for that last spot. Of course, after all that has befallen this team in recent days, I'm not saying they'll take advantage of the opportunity. But what I am saying is that for tonight, they're still in it. And if they can pull out a victory, then they'll be in it for another 10 days (that would at least keep us hoping till 12/15 at 8:15 PM). Meaningful games, people - that's all I'm asking for at this point.


Yair sent me along a tidbit from a previous Skins Serv and I thought I'd be a nice way to end the preamble today:


"Parting Shot: Sean Taylor - Sean is finally becoming the player we all dreamed of when the Skins drafted him. He's hitting, he's intercepting, he's covering, he's limiting stupid penalties and he's becoming the leader of the defense. The guy has not let anything behind him yet and when it looks like he does, he breaks to the ball and stops the play. I know he got roused in the media for dropping 3 potential picks, but that kind of thing comes with time - the more opportunities he gets the more relaxed he'll be when the ball's in his hands. ST is in all the right places - he has defenses scared to throw deep and scared to throw over the middle. I wouldn't want to have any other safety in the league playing back there. If the Skins manage to sneak into the playoffs, he'll get major votes for defensive MVP."


Hang in There,





The Skinny (This'll Be Quick)


1) Welcome Back, Welcome Back, Welcome Baaaaack - If there was ever going to be a game where the Skins might have some offensive romance explosion, this would be it. Tonight will be the healthiest this team has looked all year. Randy Thomas, yes Randy Thomas, will be starting at right guard (cause anything else would be uncivilized). Mike Sellars will be back lead blocking for Mr. Portis. And my boy from Indiana, ARE, will be back lining up as the number 2.


2) More on Thomas - I was thinking today that if you broke the offensive playing field down into four quadrants (bare with me) - pass right, pass left, run right, run left - then the defense has a 25% chance of picking what area of the field the offensive play will be going to. Now (this is where it gets good) the Redskins, who are usually averse to throwing the ball at all (see Buffalo second half), give opponents an easier time guessing as they eliminate half the field off the bat. It's either run left or run right -50/50. Now (the kicker), once Randy Thomas went down, the Redskins had only one choice when calling plays - run left! That means defenses never had to guess and could stack all their defenders on the short left side of the field. I know I've simplified things a bit and appear sarcastic, but if you watch games, I couldn't be more right. Buffalo was actually keeping 7-8 men in on every play and pushing all their defensive momentum to the right. Results: CP - 2.0 YPC, Redskins lose. With Thomas back, opposing D's are back to a 50/50 guess, and heck, if they decide to throw the ball than it's back to 25%-  just like everyone else.


3) Stop Hester - I assumed Suisham crappy kicks on Sunday were in preparation for Hester. Kick it out of bounds or to the front men and let Sexy Rexy beat you. If Hester touches the ball, look for me to come out of the stands to make a play - somebody has got to stop this guy (like a Hawk and a Chihuahua).


4) Rex Scares Me - When I approach a game, I like to know what I'm getting into. With Brian Griese at the helm, you know you're gonna get a watered down, ball control offense that limits mistakes - he won't beat you but won't let you beat him. With Rexy, although he's prone to make a lot of mistakes, he's also got a rocket arm and the ability to beat you deep on every play. Rexy was a hair off on three or four deep throws to Berrian that could have buried the Giants - they connect on those tonight and we're in trouble.


5) JC: Stop Giving Up the Ball - JC is starting to worry me. On Sunday I noticed a lot of sloppy footwork, happy feet, and of course, a lack of ball protection. We are on the verge of a major turnover crisis here, and it must end tonight! Jason's gotta feel pressure, has to know when to tuck the ball and has to make better decisions. The Skins cannot afford to let teams play on short fields - the offense isn't strong enough to recover.


6) My Boy Bro Sweets - CP deserves better than this. The Bills shot every gap on Sunday. There were zero holes, zero push and zero places for 2-6 to run. The guy's still got young legs and he needs something to work with. I hope Thomas and Sellars open some lanes - Dolla Bill needs to go over 100 tonight if they're gonna win.


7) Prediction - Tight game all the way. Defense dominated and ball control oriented. Typical NFC winter stuff. Redskins have the ball at the end with a chance to win the game...lets see what happens this time.