Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III will start Sunday vs. the Chargers after leaving last week’s game with a knee injury. (Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

At the midpoint of the season, the Washington Redskins find themselves in a familiar position: in dire need of an extended winning streak to get them back into the playoff picture.

The failure of the NFC East as a whole this season means the situation isn’t as daunting as it was last year, when Washington needed seven straight wins to steal the division. But it’s going to take a string of victories to get to a 8-8 or 7-9 record.

Sunday’s home contest with San Diego kicks off a stretch during which the Redskins (2-5) can make a move. After the Chargers, three of the following four games are against teams with a losing record — the Vikings, the Eagles and the Giants.

“I don’t think you’ve got to be a math major to figure it out — the Giants [have] six losses, Philly’s got five, we’ve got five, Dallas has got four,” coach Mike Shanahan said. “We’ve got a bunch of games left. Whoever finishes the season has a chance to take the NFC East.”

The nagging question, however, remains: Are the Redskins consistent enough on either side of the ball to gain traction? Washington’s offense has labored to find a rhythm despite a top 10 ranking in both rushing and passing yards per game.

“At the end of the day, you have to find a way to come out on top,” fullback Darrel Young said. “That’s what we did last year. Finishing is the emphasis we need to have on the rest of the season.”

On defense, Washington has played better, but with Philip Rivers, Adrian Peterson and the fast-paced Philly offense on the horizon, the Redskins have to avoid the ups and downs that have plagued them this season.

“We’re growing as a secondary as a whole and as a defense as a whole,” corner E.J. Biggers said.

But the fact remains: The Redskins have painted themselves into a corner, and incremental adjustments aren’t going to be enough. Still, Washington’s players aren’t looking ahead to this stretch as a season-defining one.

“It’s really just one week at a time,” running back Roy Helu said. “If you overlook anything, you might end up with a loss. You just lose focus, in most things and in any type of job, if you are looking at a bulk of things instead of one piece at a time.”


Three questions with Redskins QB Kirk Cousins

1. What’s it like being a backup after years of starting?

“My job is to be a big support to Robert and to make sure that I’m prepared so that if my number gets called, there isn’t a decrease in performance from Robert to me. I’ve gotta stay ready and stay prepared and hopefully can use those opportunities to develop myself as a quarterback.”

2. How do you handle coming in cold to a game?

“You expect it, in a sense, because that’s what your job is, so it doesn’t catch you off guard. I’ve found that every time I’ve gone in, the other 10 guys in the huddle have done a great job of helping me and elevating my game.”

3. What’s up with Michigan State’s offense?

“They’ve kinda been up and down. Early in the year, they looked pretty anemic and last week they looked awfully good. The one consistent thing has been the defense.”