Robert Griffin III joking with head coach Mike Shanahan during pre-game warm ups prior to playing against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome Sept. 16. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
On Friday, we wrote about the Redskins' slim-to-none playoff chances, a situation exacerbated by the Week 9 home loss to the Panthers and some pretty awful football over the weekend by division rivals New York and Philadelphia.
But hope is alive thanks to some time off and good fortune.
The 'Skins will host the Eagles Sunday and they'll face rookie quarterback Nick Foles, who will be making his first NFL start. Foles, a third-round pick out of Arizona, was impressive in the preseason but that was against third- and fourth-teamers, many of whom are now out of the league. He saw two quarters of work in last week's loss to the Cowboys, and it went about how you might expect: Some good (a 44-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin) and more bad (a pick-six and a strip sack recovered by the Cowboys in Philly's end zone).
At 3-6 and without starter Michael Vick, the Eagles are reeling (to be fair, they've been reeling for a season-and-a-half but now they're really in a bad way). They define dysfunction, and even though they share the same record as the Redskins, Washington is a young team with a young franchise quarterback. Mike Shanahan's silly comments aside, the Redskins' offensive issues can be traced to inexperience. (The defensive ineptitude, meanwhile, is a combination of injuries, DeAngelo Hall and Jim Haslett.)
Put another way: Things are going to get better. You can't say that about the Eagles because in all likelihood, things are going to get much, much worse -- and people will lose their jobs as a result -- before we see a turnaround.
The players know that, and it helps explain their optimism. Not just this week but for the rest of the season.
“You see everybody is really rejuvenated and now talking about how the way chips are falling in the division, we still can control our destiny,” defensive lineman Stephen Bowen said according to the Washington Times. “If we win these next three, we’re right back in the top of the division. It’s crazy these games are happening like this, but it’s giving us an opportunity.”
The 'Skins have three division match-ups in a row -- Philly, Dallas and New York -- and revisit the Eagles and Cowboys in Weeks 16 and 17. But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. First things first: Washington absolutely has to win this weekend.
“What we have to focus on is Philly, man,” linebacker London Fletcher said. “You can’t get caught up in it. If you start looking too far down the road, it takes away your focus from what you need to do.”
Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander added, "We really just want to come back for ourselves and just start putting some games together and winning. Obviously for personal pride, and everybody in here is a competitor. It’s good we play a lot of division opponents because we know them, we’re familiar with them. It gives us a great chance to be able to achieve some of our goals.”
We keep coming back to one thought: If only the 'Skins had beaten the Panthers. Because you know that's coming back to haunt them.