PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 01: Head coach Mike Shanahan of the Washington Redskins watches from the sidelines against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on January 1, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
The 3-6 Bills considered their Thursday night matchup against the Dolphins "must-win." It sounds silly -- if you've managed just three wins in nine games and you share a division with the Patriots, your season ended somewhere around Halloween. But Buffalo isn't mathematically out of the postseason conversation, especially with the race for the two wild-card spots wide open. So their 19-14 victory over Miami was critical.
The Redskins find themselves in a similar predicament. And like the Bills, they're a flawed team with enough talent to get on a hot streak. Washington's first test comes Sunday against another 3-6 outfit seemingly headed in a different direction: the Eagles.
But while the 'Skins have reason for optimism over the final two months of the season, it's not all unicorns and rainbows.
For starters, Washington hasn't won coming off their bye week since 2007, Robert Griffin III's senior year in high school. Somehow more inexplicable: The 'Skins are awful against rookie quarterbacks, and there's a good chance they'll be facing one when Philly comes to town; Michael Vick suffered a concussion last week and if he can't go he'll be replaced by Nick Foles.
Then there's the status of high-priced offseason acquisition, wideout Pierre Garcon. He finally returned to practice this week after being hobbled by a torn ligament in his toe, but he's not close to a 100 percent.
“It’s gotten a little bit better,” Garcon said, according to the Washington Post's Mark Maske. “But when you go back to running on it, you can feel pain.”
Garcon's absence leaves Washington without a legit playmaker in the passing game, especially since tight end Fred Davis was lost for the season after suffering an Achilles injury in Week 7.
There's also cornerback DeAngelo Hall. The former Falcons first-round pick has often been targeted by opposing offenses, which is not what you want from your cover corner. He struggled against the Steelers in Week 8 -- even before he was ejected for going off on an official -- and ProFootballFocus.com has this fun stat about Hall's season to date: "There were six games in 2011 where DeAngelo Hall gave up 70 or more receiving yards in a game. He has allowed that many receiving yards in six of the last seven games."
Earlier this week, Hall was fined $30,000 for his aforementioned run-in with the official, and he offered up the most DeAngelo Hall response ever when asked about it Thursday: "Back up off me, bro."
Sure thing, slick.
Finally, Coach Mike Shanahan really did lose his passport in Pittsburgh. Why he needed it to travel 250 miles west of the District is anyone's guess.
All this is to help put in perspective just where the Redskins are as they head into Week 11. Yes, technically, the playoffs are still a possibility. But realistically, this team will have to overcome a lot to get there. Luckily, postseason games haven't been moved to London yet so if the 'Skins get there Shanahan will be able to go too.