Postseason success isn’t rocket science
The blueprint exists and surely the Redskins have noticed. All they need to do is follow what the teams who won their first-round playoff games have done, in some cases, for years.
Of course, they also could follow Seattle and win their division with a losing record only to earn a home playoff game. But considering four teams in the NFC East have won at least 10 games in the past two years, that's not going to happen.
But here's what the Redskins can learn from this past weekend:
Green Bay is alive despite having 15 players on injured reserve. Why? Depth. The Redskins suffer injuries and lose 10 games; the Packers reach the second round, with a real chance of advancing. Credit quarterback Aaron Rodgers, one of the NFL's best, but also quality draft picks that have turned their defense into one of the best as well.
The Packers, who drafted 51 players the past five years, start 15 former draft picks and another player signed as an undrafted free agent.
The Jets, incidentally have 15 such players, as does Baltimore.
Meanwhile, the Redskins picked 33 players the past five years; 17 remain in the organization (on the roster, practice squad or injured reserve) and only six were considered full-time starters. Yes, it's a different regime save for last year's draft. Coach Mike Shanahan's first draft in Washington produced one starter, but six of the seven picks came in the fourth round or later so it can't be accurately judged for a couple years.
New York survived a shaky outing by quarterback Mark Sanchez because it ran the ball well and relied on an elite defense. Baltimore won thanks to its defense and a quarterback in Joe Flacco able to make plays because of his mobility. Green Bay has Rodgers, but its defense and a surprising rushing attack fueled its win. One area struggles; other areas compensate.
Each team has a strong side of the ball to rely upon; the Redskins do not. Their defense remains in transition to a 3-4; the offense is unsettled at quarterback and running back. Washington is several players away on both sides of the ball from finding such balance.
Five of the last eight teams remaining use a 3-4 defense, including all four in the AFC. The Ravens clearly won because of defensive pressure, forcing three third-quarter turnovers. By the end, Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel looked skittish even when there wasn't any pressure, a result of getting hit often.
And seven of the eight remaining teams are top 10 in points allowed. Washington was 21st.
Two plays stood out this weekend: a touchdown pass in the back of the end zone to 6-foot-1 Anquan Boldin, in which Flacco only needed to throw it high and let his athletic big guy make a play; and Sanchez's late pass to 6-foot-3 Braylon Edwards vs. 5-foot-10 Jacob Lacey.
Roydell Williams is Washington's big target, but caught just 12 passes for 173 yards. He doesn't threaten any defense. The Redskins have speed at receiver but they need size.