No two snowflakes are alike. Same goes for NFL seasons, basically. With the Thanksgiving day loss to the Dallas Cowboys, it is unlikely that the Washington Redskins will repeat as NFC East division champions. Bummer, but Washington would still earn a playoff berth as a Wild Card entry based on current standings. With that notable difference aside, we decided to look for other comparisons between the 2016 edition and 2015 version via four important statistics.
Washington enters Week 12 second in the NFL in yards per game perspective but ninth in scoring. A big factor in that discrepancy is the lack of execution in the Red-Zone. Last season when the Redskins won the division, they converted on 61.2 percent of their Red-Zone opportunities. So far in 2016, Washington has converted on just 20 of 46 or 43.5 percent of Red-Zone chances. In the Redskins six wins, the team is 12 of 24 or 50 percent in the money area of the field, while they are 8 of 22 or 36.7 percent in their non-wins. There is a clear correlation between efficiency in the red zone and victory so Jay Gruden and company need to manufacture a fix to their woes immediately if they want to sneak into the postseason.
Third down defense
When Kendall Fuller gave up a third-and-14 conversion to Cole Beasley on Thanksgiving, it was a recurring theme of how the defense was unable to get off the field despite putting the opposing offense in a situation with low probability for success. Last season, Washington only allowed third down conversions on 78 of 207 occasions or 37.7 percent. In 2016, the Redskins have allowed 61 conversions of 122 third down plays or 50 percent. Again, one can see an improvement in the category in games Washington has won, 41.9 percent, when compared to non-victories, 62.5 percent. Kirk Cousins leads a high powered offense but he still needs help from the defense to win football games. That starts with their ability to give the ball back to the offense instead of letting the opposition continue drives with a chance for points.
In 2015, the Redskins had a +5 turnover margin as the backbone of a bend but don't break defense. That margin was not surprisingly a higher +10 in their nine wins. Washington is currently +1 in turnover margin this season, but the difference is not larger because of the defense's lack of forced turnovers. Compared to last season when the Redskins forced 26 turnovers, this year's defense is only on track to cause 19 turnovers if one extrapolates the teams 13 turnovers forced over the first 11 games. The loss of a ball hawk defensive back like DeAngelo Hall, who always seems to have a nose for the football, may be part of the reason for fewer turnovers forced as well as missed opportunities like last Thursday with Duke Ihenacho unable to make a play on a tipped ball over the middle of the field.
The one saving grace for the 2016 Redskins over the 2015 variety comes from their improved aerial assault with the second straight season of Cousins starting at quarterback. Two statistics that help characterize the explosiveness of the air attack includes number of big plays, which we define as gains of 20 or more yards, and yards gained per pass attempt. Last season, Washington had 52 passing plays of 20 yards or more and averaged 7.74 yards per attempt through the air. The Redskins have already had 48 big passing plays this season, on track for nearly 70 by the end of the year, and are netting 8.15 yards per pass attempt. A 0.416 yard difference per pass attempt may not seem like much, but when you consider Cousins is throwing the ball about 40 times a game, a 17 yard differential can be the difference between winning and losing.
Every NFL season is going to differences, but the Redskins downfall in red zone offense and third down defense is partially made up by the increased potency of the team's passing game.
Follow Neil on Twitter @NeilDalal96.
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