Sunday night, however, we finally get the real deal. The nation — or at least the portion of it that loves pro football and the subset that has power — will be watching the Redskins and Cowboys in the final game of the regular season. Not the final game for the Cowboys and Redskins, but the final game of the NFL regular season, period, with the NFC East title to the winner. The Redskins are no longer a 1 p.m. team in late December, no longer an opening act. They’re Justin Bieber, not . . . whoever opens for Justin Bieber. I shudder to think.
Moving the game to prime time provides both the agony and the ecstasy to Redskins fans. On the one hand, it’s great exposure for the franchise, the players, the fans at FedEx. On the other hand, it may mean up to an additional eight hours of waiting to find out if Washington is going to make the playoffs. (The Redskins can of course back into the postseason as a wild card if both the Vikings and Bears lose earlier in the day. But if that doesn’t happen, there will be no consolation prize to the loser Sunday night.)
The playoffs? (Insert your own Jim Mora “playoffs?” impression here.) When the Redskins went into the bye week at 3-6, did you think they’d be where they are now? You did if you were Robert Griffin III. (And if he didn’t think it, he was smart enough to know the faithful needed to hear it after Mike Shanahan fumbled that news conference. “We’ve been playing for all the marbles over the last six weeks, and we knew it,” he said earlier this Dallas week, and if he’d only said that going into the bye, none of the ensuing folderol would have been folderolled.
Every game the Redskins have played since was a must-win game. Six opponents met, six opponents defeated. They don’t seem to be worried about the pressure of prime time because the last six weeks have been nothing but pressure. If you scripted this, Hollywood would reject it because 1) it’s too unbelievable and 2) there are no zombies.
(Hmmmmm. London Fletcher? That would explain a lot. There are people in this town who are now officially too old to watch Fletcher. Oh, and Jerry Jones. Definitely a zombie.)
The Redskins have announced that they’ve decided to leave the FedEx roof open Sunday night, a good call in that there is no roof. Why did the Cowboys build that thing and then not use it? That is so Dallas. (Is it? I don’t know. I’m not good at the trash-talk thing.)
Then again, neither are the young Redskins, who have even less experience with Dallas week than I do. This is where the Fletchers and Cooleys come in.
“For guys like myself, Alfred [Morris], Kai [Forbath], the other rookies, we’re fresh into this rivalry, but we can definitely sense how the fans feel, how some of the guys that have been here for many years feel about the Cowboys, and that’s the mind-set we have to take on because we’re not just doing it for ourselves, we’re doing it for them,” said Griffin, who knows how to say the right thing without trash-talking. Now I feel bad about the crack about the roof. “We’re doing it for the fans. I know the fans will make sure that the stadium is electric. It’s really exciting and we’ll definitely have a home-field advantage.”
A playoff berth this season would be just shy of miraculous. Earning a playoff berth by defeating their once and future rivals would be amazing. Doing it on national TV, in prime time, would be the icing on the cake. And it would ensure that Dallas week will regain its former glory. Now that I want to see.
For previous columns by Tracee Hamilton, visit washingtonpost.com/