ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 22: Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins looks for an open receiver against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day at Cowboys Stadium on November 22, 2012 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
It is, as they say, "go time." The Redskins are on a six-game winning streak and if they beat the Cowboys in Week 17, they'll win the division, make the playoffs for the first time since 2007 and have a home playoff game next week.
It's unfamiliar territory for an organization that managed just 11 wins in Mike Shanahan's first two seasons in D.C., but it just reinforces the biggest difference between this year and the ones that have preceded it recently: The 'Skins have their franchise quarterback.
In a league that's dependent on quarterbacks and pass rushers, Washington has both. But they lost linebacker Brian Orakpo earlier this season, the team limped to a 3-6 record at the midway point, and then something happened. Robert Griffin III returned from the team's bye week with renewed focus and the defense, which had struggled for the first two months, did the same. And now, with just the Cowboys standing between Washington and the NFC East title, RGIII is back to his RGIII-tastic form after a knee injury slowed him in recent weeks.
“He’s fine. No problem with his knee,” Shanahan said Monday via the Washington Times. “There’s no limited performance out of him. The doctors OK’d him, he’s cleared and full speed, ready to go.”
And while Griffin had just two carries in last week's win over the Eagles, that wasn't indicative of anything other than the game plan going into last Sunday.
“Sometimes there’s more run action than you saw or play-action passes or sometimes we’ll run more,” Shanahan explained. “In that game, we decided not to go in that direction. Not as much; we did a few times. We did a little bit more quarterback keeps than we did running the football, but that was by design.”
Worth pointing out: The last time RGIII met the Cowboys he ran just six times for 29 yards, but he also completed 20 of 28 for 311 yards, including four touchdowns.
Even if Washington loses to Dallas, there's still a chance for the postseason: a wild-card berth would be theirs if the Vikings lose to the Packers and the Bears lose to the Lions.
Ideally, it won't come to that. And for now, Shanahan thinks the must-win atmosphere the last month and a half will be good for the 'Skins not only against Cowboys, but for down the road too.
“I think it’s good," he said via the Washington Post. "I think it’s really good. They get used to the pressure over the last six weeks, knowing every game is do or die. They’re used to that scenario right now. They know we have to play our best football, and everything we’re working for comes back to this weekend: taking advantage of what we’ve done the last six weeks. It really doesn’t mean anything unless we take advantage of our game against Dallas.”