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Redskins' loss Sunday another missed opportunity

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

By Ryan Decker of Now On Deck.

When the Washington Redskins (6-5-1) record for this season was announced, it looked incredibly tough, and there’s no better example of its toughness than the final six weeks.

Washington was to play in Dallas on Thanksgiving on a short week, then go to Arizona, to Philadelphia, and over the course of the final three weeks host Carolina and the New York Giants with a road trip to Chicago in between.

Based on last season’s standings (Carolina and Arizona winning their divisions) and this April’s draft (Dallas, Philadelphia, and NYG getting better) it was a gauntlet for the 2015 NFC East champs. But based on this season, most would say that the Skins trip to Jerry World was the only for-sure loss.

Two games into that stretch and Washington is 0-2. The Redskins' 31-23 loss Sunday was just another missed opportunity; possibly one missed opportunity too many.

After starting the regular season with a pair of losses, Washington won four straight contests before losing late to Detroit, tying with the Bengals in London, and then defeating a pair of NFC North opponents, Minnesota and Green Bay, at FedEx Field.

Sitting at 6-3-1 heading into the home stretch of the year, Jay Gruden’s team looked like the second-best team in the NFC East, and quarterback Kirk Cousins looked like he was indeed the franchise QB the organization has been searching  for some time. Cousins even played fantastic against the Cowboys on “Turkey Day” and certainly was not to blame for the loss.

It’s the defense that was to blame, and you can argue has been to blame all season for this team. Sure the running game has left a lot to be desired, the receivers at times have had troubles catching passes, and Cousins himself hasn’t played spotless but he’s done just about everything you ask of a quarterback – giving the team a chance to win.

The defense though has been the constant shortcoming in DC.

Nothing new for Redskins fans but disappointing nonetheless.

Prior to Sunday’s game the final five games remain on Washington’s schedule all seemed winnable.

Arizona has been one of the biggest disappointments in the league this year, Philadelphia has surely regressed since the teams’ Week 6 meeting, Carolina has been a shell of what it was a year ago, Chicago is just plain bad and the Redskins has already beaten the Giants once this year.

Adding in the loss to Dallas, most would agree Cousins and company should at worse go 4-2 in that stretch, needing to keep pace in the playoff race, as well as Cousins needing to continue to play well in another contract season.

Well just two games into final six-game stretch, and the team already has two losses.

Washington can’t afford to lose any more games. It’s already out of the final Wild Card spot, trailing Tampa Bay, which has a favorable schedule coming up.

The tie to the Bengals and the loss to the Lions both hurt. Both were games in which Washington either lead late or had multiple chances to win.

Each game goes down in the books as a missed opportunity, as does Sunday’s loss in Arizona.

This may be football, America’s favorite sport, but in America’s Pastime (baseball) the rule is three strikes and you’re out.

Washington may not be out yet, but another strike – or in its case loss – will surely end playoff hopes early in what was a very promising season just a few short weeks ago.

Gruden mentioned as much after the game yesterday.

“There’s no talk about playoffs over here. We’re trying to win the next game. We’re not even close to thinking about the playoffs right now. A lot’s going to happen these last four games. If we get an opportunity to play in (the playoffs), great. If not we’re going to do the best we can against Philadelphia.” — Jay Gruden to reporters.

Washington may have the second-best passing attack and a top 10 scoring offense, but its defense which ranks towards the bottom of the league in most major categories is what will potentially hold the Redskins out of the playoffs.

Even if Gruden and company won’t talk about the playoffs, the media will do the talking for them. It’s simple the rest of the way.

Win and get it; lose and you’re out.

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Should the Orioles sign Angel Pagan?

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

By Ryan Decker of Now On Deck.

Wednesday it was reported that the Baltimore Orioles are specifically interested in two players it would like to bring to the Charm City.

Career-long Orioles catcher Matt Wieters is one of the two players that were named to be drawing interest from the team. The other was Giants outfielder Angel Pagan.

Signing the former of the two is the bad idea; the latter being the good one.

Starting with Wieters, it’s obvious why the O’s are interested in bringing him back.

The four-time all-star has spent the entirety of his eight-year career with the Orioles, and has had success both at and behind the plate. He’s a lifetime .256 hitter, and is regarded as one of the best defensive catchers in the league.

Pagan, a better hitter than Wieters with a career .280 average in his 11 years in the major leagues, has had some of his best seasons over the past five years with the San Francisco Giants. And even though he’s battled some injuries over the past few years, Pagan is still an above-average defensive player.

He, not Wieters, also fits and fixes more needs.

Pagan can fix a need Baltimore has for a leadoff hitter, hitting a combined .292 from the leadoff spot during his time in San Fran.

And despite him being a natural fit in center field, he has experience playing both of the corner outfield spots and is better defensively than any corner outfielder currently on Baltimore’s roster.

Leadoff hitter – check. Defense in either left and right field – check. Playoff experience and veteran leadership – check. Cheap? Yes.

There’s the biggest difference.

Wieters, due to the fact that even despite the inability to truly live up to expectations – especially with the bat – he’s still the second-best catcher on the open market this offseason, won’t be a cheap buy.

Sure he’s an Under Armor athlete (the company is based in Baltimore), but don’t expect him to take the hometown discount. He didn’t even allow himself to hit open waters last offseason, becoming just the second player in MLB history to accept the qualifying offer.

The outfielder won’t command a high salary, which is perfect for a team like Baltimore that has a few big-money purchases to make.

The catcher won’t be cheap, his hitting has decreased each of the last two years and he has never hit for higher than a .262 in a season in which he played more than 100 games, nor at this point in his career is his defense that much better than where Caleb Joseph’s game is currently.

Wieters has been a good player for the Orioles during his career, and who knows, maybe if he didn’t have to have Tommy John surgery two years ago he would be the better player to sign.

At this point, though, signing Pagan simply solves more problems than re-signing Wieters does.

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Is Penn State Overrated?

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Penn State Nittany Lions find themselves in a situation that they probably thought was impossible. Penn State, not Ohio State or Michigan, will be the team from the Big Ten East fighting to win a Big Ten Championship Game.

Before this season started, the Nittany Lions were not even considered to have a shot at winning the Big Ten. In the Big Ten East alone, Penn State were fourth in preseason odds. Penn State was behind Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State. Then to win the entire Big Ten, Penn State was also behind Iowa, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. It is now December 3rd and the only thing between the Nittany Lions are a Big Ten Championship are the Wisconsin Badgers.

Penn State has certainly surprised many people this year. The Nittany Lions finished the regular season 10-2, with losses coming only to Pittsburgh and Michigan. They reason they are advancing over Ohio State is because both have only one conference loss and Ohio State’s only conference loss came from Penn State. Do they deserve to be playing in the Big Ten Championship Game?

On one hand, there was not anything out of the ordinary that has put the Nittany Lions in this scenario. There were no massive injuries to another top team nor anything like disqualifications. Penn State played their games and beat Ohio State. So yes, Penn State does deserve to be playing in the Big Ten Championship Game. Ohio State could have made it if the Buckeyes beat Penn State, but they did not.

However, that does not mean that Penn State is the best team in the Big Ten East. Yes, Penn State beat Ohio State, but weird things like that happen sometimes. Any reasonable person understands that Ohio State is the better team. Michigan is likely better as well. Apart from beating Ohio State, Penn State does not have any big wins on their schedule. The only other ranked team on Penn State’s schedule was Michigan and the Nittany Lions lost 49-10. Then looking at the College Football Playoff Poll, Penn State is ranked No. 7 which in terms of talent may be a little high. The Nittany Lions are a very good football team no doubt, but playing head to head 10 times, they lose the majority of those games against probably Colorado, Oklahoma, and USC. Other teams may also be slightly better, like Louisville, despite its recent struggles.

In the end, all the matters is that Penn State is in the Big Ten Championship Game. Not only does Penn State have a chance to win the Big Ten, but to reach the College Football Playoff. If they win, the Nittany Lions have a shot to make the Playoff. Alabama is in for sure and so should Ohio State. Some will argue that if Penn State wins, it should go in over Ohio State since the Nittany Lions defeated Ohio State and won the Big Ten. Maybe that is true, but it is unlikely to happen and frankly, Ohio State is better and more deserving. As a result, Penn State will need help. If either Washington or Clemson loses and Penn State wins, then the Nittany Lions should be in the Playoff.

If the Nittany Lions lose, then the argument that they are overrated might ramp up, even if they lose to likely a better team in Wisconsin. What bowl game should Penn State deserve if it loses on Saturday? It depends on how the other conference championship games go, but Penn State should not play in one of the four major bowl games, assuming no major upsets. Penn State would be a three loss team with not a very impressive schedule. In the scenario Penn State loses and the favorites win this weekend, Ohio State will be in the playoff, Wisconsin and Michigan will be in the Rose Bowl and Orange bowl likely. Since the Sugar Bowl is the Big 12 vs SEC, that leaves only the Cotton Bowl left which are at-large bids. There are gonna be other teams more deserving.

It’s safe to say that this weekend is massive for Penn State. Win and get some help and the Nittany Lions are in the College Football Playoff for the first time. Lose and it’s very possible, if not likely, they Penn State will have to settle for something such as the Outback Bowl.

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