Redskins vs. Giants: Five story lines to follow Sunday

December 27, 2013

Dan Snyder’s decision on Mike Shanahan’s future will come down some time in the hours or days after the game. (Nick Wass/Associated Press)

At last, the Washington Redskins’ nightmare of a season will draw to a close. The team will take on another down-and-out squad in the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium at 1 p.m. on Fox.

The 6-9 Giants enter the game as 3 1/2-point favorites and owners of a 3-4 record at home. Washington, meanwhile, is 1-6 on the road this season and hasn’t won a game since Nov. 3.

Here are five story lines to follow in this game.

1. Historically bad ending? – The Redskins have lost seven straight games, the first time since 1994 the team has endured such a losing streak. Since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, the Redskins haven’t lost eight straight. They did lose eight consecutive games during their 1-9-2 season in 1960. A year later, they lost their first nine and finished 1-12-1. It might be too late to avoid comparison to those teams, but a victory over a division rival to close would take some of the sting out of this disastrous season.

2. Cousins’s final showing – Quarterback Kirk Cousins has done a decent job in his two starts in place of Robert Griffin III, but he hasn’t really done anything to raise or lower his value. This week will represent his final audition for the future. Will he do enough to convince outsiders that he’s worthy of an early- to mid-round draft pick?

3. Farewell performances? – London Fletcher has already said that he expects this season to be his last in Washington. He’ll most likely retire, although he left open the small possibility that he would sign with a contender for one more run. Other long-time Redskins also could depart. Santana Moss, Brian Orakpo, DeAngelo Hall, Reed Doughty and Fred Davis all rank among a group of 18 roster members with expiring deals. How will they play in what could represent their final games as Redskins?

4. Young prospects – Coach Mike Shanahan has avoided playing young players just for the sake of playing them. Although guys like offensive linemen Josh LeRibeus, Adam Gettis and Tom Compton, safety Bacarri Rambo, linebacker Brandon Jenkins and others could all benefit from some snaps, they haven’t gotten a chance thus far. Will any of these young players see playing time this week? Orakpo is nursing a groin injury, so Jenkins could possibly see action as a pass-rusher. Do any of these players figure into the team’s future? Hard to say because they either rarely play, or never play.

5. Shanahan’s future – What happens following the game is the story line that carries the most intrigue. It appears as if Shanahan is on his way out. His team has struggled mightily on numerous fronts, and in the last month he has found himself at the center of one media-leaked controversy after another. (Team officials believe he or his camp was the source and that he wants out as well.) Will Redskins owner Dan Snyder fire Shanahan following the game? The day after? Or will they haggle over the $7 million owed to the coach and engage in a stare-down that could last several days? Or is there any chance at all that Snyder keeps Shanahan and demands drastic changes to his staff?

More from The Post:

Fletcher: Drama makes it tough to win | Could play again

Haslett, K. Shanahan try to focus | Orakpo misses practice

What could Redskins get by trading Cousins?

Outsider: How Garcon piled up catches | Reid: Time to break the pattern

The Early Lead: NFL playoff scenarios in Week 17 More

Follow: @MikeJonesWaPo | @MarkMaske | @Insider | Insider on Facebook

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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Mark Maske · December 27, 2013