Tailback Stephen Davis said yesterday he's "pretty confident" that his injured right knee will be healthy enough this week for him to return to the Washington Redskins' lineup for Sunday's road game against the New York Giants.

Coach Steve Spurrier said he also was hopeful that Davis would make his return after missing the team's past two games. The Redskins could use a boost on offense after throwing 51 passes in a 26-7 loss Sunday to Jacksonville that ended a two-game winning streak and dropped them to 4-5. Spurrier reiterated yesterday that he had abandoned the running game too quickly against the Jaguars, and said it may be time for him to "temper my confidence" in the struggling passing game.

"If we're running successfully, heck, we can run more than we pass if that's what's necessary to win the game," Spurrier said. "But obviously maybe sometimes I have more confidence in our passing attack than I should have. I've seen our guys throw and catch in practice pretty well. We sort of see the coverages they're running and we think we've got some pretty good plays on, but we're just not quite hitting. We're not quite hitting the way I think we're capable. Maybe I need to temper my confidence in the way we can throw and catch at times, but it wasn't as if we were sort of romping up the field running it, either."

The Redskins rushed 16 times for 68 yards Sunday against the NFL's 26th-ranked defense against the run, with Kenny Watson filling in for Davis for a second game in a row. But yesterday, for the first time since he reinjured his knee Oct. 27, Davis seemed to be feeling good about his chances of playing.

"I'm pretty confident that I'll be playing Sunday," Davis said.

Davis did not participate in any practices the last two weeks but said he gradually could increase his workload in practice beginning Wednesday. A three-time 1,000-yard rusher, Davis has been playing with a sprained medial collateral ligament since hurting his knee Oct. 6 in a victory at Tennessee. During a 26-21 win over Indianapolis, he apparently damaged his hamstring where it attaches to the knee.

"I think it's better," Davis said. "I think it'll get a lot better during the week."

Spurrier said: "I think Stephen Davis is going to start jogging a little bit this week, and hopefully be ready. . . . There's a good chance. He's got a chance to play this weekend. I think he's going to do everything he can to get back ready to play."

Watson rushed for 110 yards in a 14-3 victory over Seattle in his first NFL start but ran for only 52 on 14 carries against the Jaguars. Davis said it was "hard to say" whether the outcome would have been different Sunday if he had played.

"I think it was a game we should have won if we would have done this and that," Davis said. "But who's to say we would have run the ball as much if I was in there? Kenny has been doing a great job. The thing we have to do now is get everybody ready and get this loss behind us and get prepared for the New York Giants."

Spurrier said his homecoming had nothing to do with his play-calling Sunday. Spurrier's first regular season game in Florida as an NFL head coach came about 75 miles from Gainesville, where he had 122 victories in 12 seasons at the University of Florida. But he acknowledged that he had wanted to take advantage of the warm, windless day to get his team's passing game going.

It didn't work. Quarterback Shane Matthews completed 27 of 50 throws, ending a string of four straight games in which the Redskins had connected on fewer than 50 percent of their passes. But Matthews had a relatively modest 256 passing yards and threw two interceptions. Rookie quarterback Patrick Ramsey also was intercepted on a desperation heave downfield in the final moments of the first half.

Spurrier pointed out that the Redskins opened the second half with four straight running plays that totaled only five yards, but said: "Obviously we threw the ball too much. Every time you lose and you throw the ball more than you run, you threw too much. We didn't really plan on it going that way but for some reason, that's the way it worked out."

He reiterated that Matthews remains the club's starting quarterback, and declined to delve into the reasons why he thinks the passing game isn't working. Scouts and executives around the league say they believe Spurrier's offensive players simply aren't good enough, but Spurrier said: "Let's just say it's not working as well as we had hoped. That's all I can say at this point. . . . Our players, I think, are capable of doing a little bit better than we've done."

The Redskins remained two games behind the NFC East-leading Philadelphia Eagles, and trail the Giants (5-4) by a game for second place.

They are 11/2 games behind the Atlanta Falcons (5-3-1), who currently would own the final wild-card playoff berth in the NFC.

"It's pretty close to a must-win situation if we have any hopes of making the playoffs, which we do," Spurrier said. "We feel like we can play with everybody."

Said Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington: "I think we can go into New York and be competitive. . . . We gave one up, and New York pulled ahead of us one game. [But] we're still right in the thick of things. We can't get discouraged. . . . There were a lot of things where, if they were done differently, I could see us really having our way with Jacksonville. . . . We have our ups and we have our downs. But I really think we're going to be okay."

Stephen Davis could face Giants after missing the past two games with a sprained knee.