The first-place New York Giants are the only team with a winning record in the division. And even the Giants have dropped the ball recently: The defending Super Bowl champs have been shaky in consecutive losses.
Although the last-place Redskins have been horrifyingly bad at times (the secondary is a recurring nightmare), they only have to be better than their struggling neighbors to reach the playoffs. That’s where the Redskins’ schedule could help.
Five of Washington’s remaining seven games are against divisional opponents. The Redskins play host to the reeling Philadelphia Eagles, losers of five straight, on Sunday and face the stumbling Giants again. The Redskins actually could climb out of the hole they’ve dug.
The Redskins’ schedule won’t be an asset, however, unless Coach Mike Shanahan’s team still is interested in trying to win. The Redskins didn’t seem to have much fight left while limping into their bye week on a three-game losing streak. So it’s pretty clear how this will go: Either the Redskins will show heart and finish strong or continue to slide under Shanahan.
It won’t take long to see which way they’re headed. Here’s how to tell whether they’re on the right path.
It starts with professionalism. The team has shown little so far.
The Redskins are the league’s most-penalized team and have experienced three on-field meltdowns (offensive play-caller Kyle Shanahan actually pursued an official into a tunnel to continue berating him). Emotional outbursts and sloppy play were key elements in the Redskins’ 3-6 formula before their bye.
The Redskins have to keep their heads in the game. That means staying cool during the tensest moments. The Redskins have repeatedly vowed to do better, but it’s all just lip service until they actually choose wisely.
If the Redskins finally quit yapping about perceived missed calls, we’ll know they’re making progress in their mental approach. Complaining is for losers. Winners let their play do the talking.
It would be encouraging if the Redskins acted as if they’re aware holding is against the rules, and that it’s best to wait for the ball to be snapped before crossing the line of scrimmage. It’s about the Redskins finally acknowledging one of their toughest opponent is the guy in the mirror.
“Don’t matter how much talent you have, you can’t keep hurting yourself and think you gonna win in this league,” veteran wide receiver Santana Moss said. “It would be one thing if we don’t know better. We do. We just runnin’ out of time to prove it.”
It’s also getting late for Mike Shanahan to show he still has a winning touch. More than halfway through his third season in Washington, the two-time Super Bowl winner is 14-27. The home field definitely hasn’t been an advantage for Shanahan: He’s 5-15 at FedEx.
Shanahan backpedalled faster than Darrell Green in his prime after making comments that seemed as if he was throwing in the towel on the season. Now, it remains to be seen whether players are interested in anything else he has to say.