Can Redskins duplicate last year’s second-half success?

ASHBURN, Va. — The Washington Redskins enter the second half of the season still in a good position to make a run at a playoff spot. Right now at 4-3-1, they would be the sixth seed in the NFC Playoffs if the season ended today. With eight games remaining, beginning with the Vikings on Sunday, the Redskins hope to duplicate last year’s second-half success.

Over the final eight games a year ago, Cousins was the big key in the 6-2 finish and NFC East title. He threw 19 touchdowns and only two interceptions over that time.

“We certainly did some good things last year in the second half of the season,” Cousins said on Wednesday. “And would love to go on a run like we did last year. But, boy, every game and every season is its own entity, and you never want to rest on past success or expect that just because it happened in the past.”

This season, Cousins started slow, but picked up his play recently. He’s thrown 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions so far. He’s had two pretty good games the last two times out — combining for over 750 yards and three touchdowns — but doesn’t have a win to show for it.

While every game is important, safety Will Blackmon knows his team has a good opportunity the next two weeks with two big home games against the Vikings and Packers.

“It’s a very huge stretch for us,” he said. “Especially if we want to try and keep playing in January. It’s going to be a great opportunity against some really, really good teams and tough opponents.”

The second half begins against a Vikings team on Sunday that has lost three straight after starting the season 5-0. Their offensive coordinator, Norv Turner, resigned a week ago and the team seems to be reeling. The bright spot has been the defense for Minnesota, ranked third overall, so far allowing only 15.8 points a game and 298 yards a game. The Redskins begin life without Pro Bowl tackle Trent Williams Sunday as he serves his four-game suspension and Ty Neseke steps into his role for the next month.

If the Redskins can manage to improve on their red zone efficiency, it could be a long day for Minnesota. Washington has scored a touchdown on only 40 percent of its trips inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. That is the one big thing this team has to improve on in the second half of the season.

The Vikings’ offense ranks dead last in the league, averaging less than 300 yards a game and scoring 19 points a game. Sam Bradford’s numbers have quietly dropped off after a decent start. While his raw yardage totals look similar to earlier in the season, he’s down from nearly 8 yards-per-pass-attempt in the first four games to just over six in his past three contests, over which he’s been sacked 13 times.

After a playoff rematch with the Packers next Sunday night, it’s off to Dallas on Turkey Day. If the Redskins can put together a couple of wins the next two weeks, Thanksgiving could be a lot of fun.

George Wallace

George Wallace is the WTOP sports director. He began at WTOP on Christmas Day of 2000.

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