Week 15 NFC East picks

Redskins Browns

Kyle Shanahan has been getting some mentions as a head coaching candidate after what he has done with the Redskins offense this season.  From Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer:

The Redskins are losing yet again, but their offense under the stewardship of Kyle Shanahan has been electric. The 32-year-old has done wonders with rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III and will get interviews for coaching vacancies in the offseason.

Here’s Kyle Shanhan’s resume as an offensive coordinator:

Here are all the offensive coordinators around the league, sorted by the average ranking in terms of total yards per game over their respective careers.  A number of the below coaches have a sample size of just a year or two, so be careful not to make too much of any extraordinarily high or low rankings, but Kyle Shanahan stacks up pretty favorably:

It’s one thing to devise a creative scheme around a player with such rare talents as Robert Griffin III.  It’s a whole different ballgame when you have to adjust on the fly.  I don’t think the Redskins’ offense, as is, can work with Kirk Cousins.  The Redskins run their read option less than 10 times per game on average.  That has led some people to comment that because it isn’t run as frequency as is perceived, the Redskins can keep doing what they normally do, minus the read option.

I don’t buy that.  The option looks that the Redskins run are what opposing defenses fear.  They’re able to draw the linebackers up and hit those little 10 yard slants over the middle with so much efficiency.  Without a QB that’s a serious threat to gash the defense in the run game, the Browns should be less likely to be drawn in by the Redskins’ play action game.

The Shannies of course knew that a possibility existed that Robert Griffin III could miss a game or two along the way.  The general feeling is that the Redskins will continue to run “their offense.”  I’ll be very interested to see if the Kyle Shanahan comes out with an entirely different look today.

On the other side of the ball, the Skins will be facing a rookie QB.  Jim Haslett opted to blitz the crap out of rookie QB Nick Foles a few weeks ago.  The Skins got a very up close and personal look at Foles as well as Brandon Weeden this offseason, when they coached the South Team at the Senior Bowl.  Both QBs were on that roster.  We’ll see if Haslett opts for a similar approach.

If he does, the Browns’ offensive line is better equipped to handle the pressure than the Eagles were.  In fact, the continuity along the Browns’ OL is very impressive. Four of their offensive linemen (LT Joe Thomas, C Alex Mack, RG Shawn Lauvao, and rookie RT Mitchell Schwartz) have not missed a snap this season.  Thomas and Mack didn’t miss any snaps last season, and Lauvao only missed 51.  That kind of continuity is invaluable in term of blitz recognition and communication.  It will be a lot harder for the Skins to get to Weeden than it was for them to get to Foles. If they blitz and can’t get home, the Browns have a legitimate big play threat in WR Josh Gordon.

The Browns are all of a sudden being talked about as a good team because they’ve rattled off three consecutive wins.  Every win in the NFL is tough, but the Browns faced a Charlie Batch led Steelers team, followed by the Raiders and Chiefs, so we’re not exactly talking about a murderer’s row there.  Even without RG3, I think the Redskins are still more talented, and while the Browns certainly haven’t quit on the season, the Skins need it more.  Close game, but the Skins eek it out, 21-17.

Giants Falcons

As usual, the Giants are banged up.  No Ahmad Bradshaw.  No Kenny Phillips.  Blah blah blah.  They’ll be fine.  I thought the Giants would come out and run the ball a ton on the Saints last week, and do so effectively.  Until they they started to pull away, they went pass-heavy, but obviously, David Wilson had a big day on the ground, as he was able to bust a few long runs.

I feel the same way about this game.  The Giants can, and should, pound the Falcons with the run.  The Falcons are giving up 4.9 yards per carry, which is second worst in the NFL behind the Saints.  They have two corners that have no interest in tackling unless a defenseless player is served up to them on a platter.  I think the Giants will try to run to the outside with the speedy Wilson and perhaps mix in the WR screen game to put pressure on the Falcons corners to make tackles.  I broke down the Falcons run defense earlier in the season.  Frankly, it’s insane that this team has won 11 games.  Giants in a fun one, 34-30.

Steelers Cowboys


I really don’t have much of a feel for this game at all.  Ben Roethlisberger came back to play last week, and while his numbers were good, I didn’t think he played particularly well.  I’m not sure if that can be attributed to rust, or if he still isn’t completely healthy, or if he “just had a so-so day.”

The Steelers’ defense is overrated.  They’re #1 in terms of yards allowed, but they’re 17th in red zone defense, which is where it counts in the NFL.  Of course, Dallas is 26th in red zone offense, so there’s that.

The Steelers also have a pair of corners that have been flagged for more than their share of penalties this season.  There are 6 defensive backs in the NFL that have accumulated more than 100 yards in penalties.  Two of them play for Pittsburgh:

Steelers penalties

Ike Taylor is out today, but the Cowboys might want to try to take shots down the field and test the over-aggressive Lewis.

Ultimately, the Cowboys remain too banged up on defense for me to trust them.  I also wonder if the emotions of last week’s win in the wake of the death of Jerry Brown will carry over, but this time in a negative, exhausting way.  Give me the Steelers, 26-23.

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  1. […] Jimmy Bama has a couple of posts of interest.  First up he offered some notes on OCs around the league. […]

  2. Roy says:

    “The Redskins are losing yet again…” Um, exactly what does this quote at the top of the post refer to? I believe we all know they are in 1st place as of yesterday.

    1. The author, Jeff McLane, wrote his article November 11th, when that was an accurate statement.

      1. Roy says:

        Funny how quickly things go past their sell date in the NFL.

  3. poolboy87 says:

    So (i’m saying this before the Cowboys play)…let’s say the Cowboys win today. That would put the standings, currently, as:

    1) Redskins
    2) Cowboys
    3) Giants
    4) Eagles

    Correct? Who had THAT at the beginning of the year.

    Also, it would be poetic justice if the Cowboys and Redskins both made the playoffs this year and the Giants didn’t, in my mind.

  4. DerfDiggy says:

    Every time you pick against the Cowboys they win….or at least that’s what I’ll believe for now.

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