The Washington Redskins have spent more than a month playing their way to the brink of the playoffs. Much of that good work in their surprising turnaround could be undone in a blink if they misstep Sunday in Philadelphia and lose to a downtrodden Eagles team that has been reduced to playing for its dignity and a slightly more graceful exit for Coach Andy Reid.
The Redskins aren’t taking the Eagles lightly.
“I don’t think you have to worry about us being overconfident,” veteran linebacker London Fletcher said. “We’re not in a position to be like that. We understand what type of talent Philly has on their football team. It’s a really good team with talent. For some reason or another, they just haven’t won as often as you’d have thought coming into the season. We know we have to come out and play our best game.”
The Redskins began repairing their season by overwhelming the Eagles, 31-6, on Nov. 18 at FedEx Field. That was the start of a five-game winning streak that has raised the Redskins’ record to 8-6 and forged a three-way tie for first place in the NFC East with the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys. The Redskins hold the tiebreaker advantage and can secure the division crown by winning their final two games, including next Sunday’s regular season finale at home against the Cowboys.
“We’re on the same mission we’ve been on, get to the playoffs and go out here and keep this streak alive,” cornerback Josh Wilson said. “That’s what we’ve been on since the bye week. We’re taking the same approach, preparing the same way to make sure that we can take this all the way to February.”
“Our mentality doesn’t change from the time we were 3-6, even though we’re 8-6,” Fletcher said. “If you really think about it, we still need to win the next ballgame. From that standpoint, Coach [Mike] Shanahan has done a great job of emphasizing that to us. Guys understand that. They know we have to keep winning ballgames. So that’s just the mentality we have to have.”
The Eagles (4-10) have lost nine of their past 10 games. Reid almost certainly is coaching his final home game, given the widespread belief that he will be dismissed by owner Jeffrey Lurie. The Eagles will close the season on the road against the Giants.
Reid has coached the Eagles since 1999 and directed them to five NFC title games and one Super Bowl appearance. But the biggest prize of all, a Super Bowl triumph, has eluded him, and this season has produced a mixture of on-field disappointment and off-field anguish. Reid’s oldest son, Garrett, died of an accidental heroin overdose Aug. 5 at the team’s training camp. A prosecutor announced Monday there were steroids in Garrett Reid’s dorm room the day he died.
“None of us want to lose football games, that’s for sure,” Reid said in a midweek conference call with D.C. area reporters. “The family situation, that’s separate. You don’t want that to happen, either. I’m surrounded by a bunch of good people and that’s made it better, or as good as it could be.”
Reid said he didn’t know what to expect in terms of fan reaction Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
“I’m so focused on the Redskins that I haven’t really gone there with that,” Reid said. “I know the fans have been great. As far as my situation goes with family and that, they’ve been phenomenal. But they want to win football games, just like we all do. I understand that part, too.”
Eagles rookie quarterback Nick Foles is to make his second start against the Redskins. Foles struggled in the November game, throwing two interceptions and getting sacked four times in his first NFL start. Tailback LeSean McCoy is to return to the lineup Sunday after missing four games because of a concussion suffered against the Redskins.
“At no point are we overlooking the Eagles, regardless of record or what they’re dealing with internally,” Redskins linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. “We know that they can play some pretty good football at any given chance, and we don’t want to make them feel like they can beat us.”
Said wide receiver Santana Moss: “They have us marked as to beat us. So we have to go out there with our mind-set to try to do what we need to do to come out on top.”
The Redskins seem wary of the Eagles’ pass rush, especially with center Will Montgomery planning to play with a partially torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee and right tackle Tyler Polumbus having missed practice time during the week because of a concussion.
“You never take anyone for granted,” Redskins left tackle Trent Williams said. “You don’t expect any grown men to lay down. They’re going to give us all they’ve got, obviously, and we’re expecting a dogfight.”
Quarterback Robert Griffin III is to return to the Redskins’ lineup after missing one game because of a sprained ligament in his right knee. Rookie backup Kirk Cousins engineered last Sunday’s victory at Cleveland.
“We can’t have overconfidence,” Wilson said. “Ever since we started this thing, the bye week, we’ve been on a mission: We can’t lose. It’s not about who we’re playing. It’s about the fact that we can’t lose until February. It’s not a choice that we have available to us. And we’ve got to put everything on the line because we’ve got to win every game from now on.”
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