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The Redzone: RGIII gives the Redskins a new cult hero

Five years on from the tragic death of Sean Taylor, the Washington Redskins could make the postseason again thanks to a rookie QB comfortable in his role as the new fan favourite.

THE TRUTH IS we just don’t know how good Sean Taylor could have become. Like James Dean or Elliott Smith, Taylor died before his time and, as with the aforementioned pair, has achieved cult status post mortem.

There are many reasons to suggest Taylor could have been the best. In high school in Florida, he played running back, linebacker and defensive back and, in his senior year, ran for 1,300 yards and 44 touchdowns as well as recording over 100 tackles on defence.

In three seasons playing safety with the University of Miami, Taylor recorded 188 tackles, 14 interceptions, a sack and two blocked punts. In his final season, Taylor was nominated for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to college football’s best defensive back, before picking up the Big East Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year prize.

The NFL took notice and, in 2004, the Washington Redskins used their fifth overall pick to select Taylor as the number one defensive back in that year’s draft; ahead of future Pro-Bowlers like DeAngelo Hall and Bob Sanders.

In his first season with the Redskins, Taylor started 13 games in which he recorded 76 tackles, four interceptions and a sack. He was slightly less effective in his sophomore year but shone brightly in 2006 when he recorded 111 tackles, three forced fumbles and an interception to earn an invitation to that year’s Pro Bowl.

Halfway through the 2007 season, Taylor was struggling with a knee injury and not included in the Redskins squad to face Tampa Bay. With no game to worry about, he returned to his home in Miami, Florida. It was a decision that proved fatal as, on 26 November 2007, Taylor was shot in the leg during an attempted break-in. The following day he died from the gunshot wound, aged just 24.

Despite Taylor’s death, or perhaps emboldened by it, the Redskins made the playoffs in 2007. It is the last time Washington has graced the postseason and, according to Washington Post columnist Mike Wise, there hasn’t been a Redskin since to earn Taylor’s “cult-like following”. Until now.

New York Giants @ Washington Redskins

There are still those who doubt Robert Griffin III’s longevity in the NFL. Having a coach who sends him out on receiving routes doesn’t bode well for a future clear of injury and concussion. However, right now, RGIII is making an incredibly difficult task look easy.

He is helped, of course, by the league’s second best rushing attack (162.9 yards per game). However, RGIII is not afraid to call his own number and contributes 58.4 ypg himself, 18 yards more than the next best QB, Cam Newton. He’s no slouch when it comes to throwing the ball either with a passer rating of 104.6 and completion rate of 67.5%, both fourth ranked in the NFL.

At 5-6, the Redskins remain in the hunt for an NFC wildcard spot and, with a win this weekend, would find themselves just one game behind the Giants in the race for the NFC East. The Giants (7-4) surprised everyone with their dominance of the Green Bay Packers last weekend. A win on Monday night would go a long way towards their postseason berth.

Verdict: The Giants needed a 77-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Victor Cruz with just over a minute to go to beat the Redskins in October and I expect this game to be just as close. Washington by 3.

Seattle Seahawks @ Chicago Bears

There has been serious talk this week of the Chicago Bears’ Jay Culter being in contention for the league’s Most Valuable Player award. The argument made by most writers and broadcasters is that Cutler is the Bears offence. With the precocious QB under centre, Chicago is 13-2 over the last two seasons. Without Cutler, the team has won just one of seven.

Add to that the fact the Bears sit atop the hotly contested NFC North and you can see their point. However, when you compare his on-field numbers to someone like Peyton Manning this year, it just doesn’t stack up. Manning has 1,200 more yards, 13 more touchdowns and three less interceptions than Cutler.

The Seahawks’ playoff hopes for 2012 look all but over after last week’s devastating loss to the Miami Dolphins, especially with the 49ers and Cardinals on their schedule in the coming weeks. The potential loss of Richard Sherman, in contention for the league’s defensive MVP award himself, and Brandon Browner to drug suspensions certainly won’t help their cause.

Verdict: The Seahawks are 1-5 on the road this year while the Bears are 5-1 at home. That should tell you everything you need to know. Bears by 5.

Tampa Bay @ Denver Broncos

Speaking of Peyton Manning, his Broncos can clinch the awful AFC West and a playoff spot with a win at home to the Buccaneers on Sunday after overcoming some first half nerves against the Chiefs last weekend to pull out a comfortable win.

The Buccaneers will know, despite last week’s one-point loss to the 10-1 Atlanta Falcons, a win on the road will put them (assuming the Seahawks lose) back into a wildcard spot. To do so, Josh Freeman will have to do a better job finding open targets in the endzone than he did last Sunday.

Verdict: The Bucs’ remaining schedule means this will be one they’ve slated down as ‘must win’ if they’re to make the postseason. Wanting to win and actually doing so are two totally different things though. Broncos by 7.

Week 13 fixtures and predictions

  • New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons – Saints by 3
  • Jacksonville Jaguars @ Buffalo Bills – Bills by 7
  • Indianapolis Colts @ Detroit Lions – Lions by 5
  • Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers – Packers by 10
  • Carolina Panthers @ Kansas City Chiefs – Panthers by 3+
  • New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins – Patriots by 7
  • Arizona Cardinals @ New York Jets – Jets by 3+
  • San Francisco 49ers @ St Louis Rams – 49ers by 6
  • Houston Texans @ Tennessee Titans – Texans by 5+
  • Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens – Ravens by 3
  • Cleveland Browns @ Oakland Raiders – Raiders by 2
  • Cincinnati Bengals @ San Diego Chargers – Bengals by 3
  • Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys – Cowboys by 10

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