In front of the Redskins now is the long and short of it. Following Sunday’s gut-punch in New Orleans, Washington’s playoff odds moved from steep to probably not. Their coming week is brief, delivering a game just three days after returning to Ashburn. That will arrive Thursday against the hapless New York Giants, providing what should be a Thanksgiving Day reprieve following the toughest-to-swallow afternoon of the season.
Washington is 4-6 after 10 games in a tension-filled season in a league predicated on tight outcomes. The Redskins have won three games by a single score. They have lost three by less than 10 points. Among those, of course, is Sunday’s 34-31 overtime flop against the Saints. That result — and the other failed almosts — moved the Redskins out of “in the hunt” to in trouble.
It’s not the gap between their 4-6 record and that of the teams ahead, some of which are 5-5. It’s the number of teams involved. Washington would have to leapfrog four teams — Detroit, Atlanta, Dallas and Green Bay — in the remaining six games just to move to the edge of the playoffs. Monday night’s result will not provide much clarity. Seattle, at 6-3, has the second wild-card spot. Atlanta is 5-4 and just outside of playoff eligibility. A Seahawks win moves Seattle atop its division. A Falcons win sends the Seahawks down to eighth. No matter the outcome, Washington will still be behind both looking at a coming six games where one more loss could mean the end.
“It’s no pressure,” safety D.J. Swearinger said Sunday. “There’s never pressure if you prepare. [If] everybody prepares, you can win the game. We’ve got a team and got the talent and the coaches. We’ve got everything to win. You’ve gotta prepare. Perfect preparation prevents poor performance. If we don’t prepare right we’re going to lose. Fair and simple.”
Starting to become organized for this week happens well before it arrives. Most teams set up their protocols for a short week prior to the start of the season. Portions of the staff stay behind the weekend before to prep for a crammed three-day window that is filled with cold tub and physical therapy visits as much as it is with game film and meetings.
Players despise Thursday games. Their bodies are not ready for a fresh batch of collisions so quickly after the prior Sunday’s repeated run-ins. After Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman suffered a season-ending injury Nov. 9 during a Thursday night game, his teammate Doug Baldwin told reporters the game was “Exhibit A, Exhibit B, Exhibit C, Exhibit D, Exhibit Z,” for why the games should not be played. “Thursday night football should be illegal,” Baldwin added.
The Thanksgiving Day tradition of playing has a different vibe to it. It can be traced to 1876 when Yale and Princeton faced each other when everyone was off from work. The NFL picked up the idea and has been rolling with it for more than 50 years. That doesn’t make the turnaround any less stressful.
“You got to dig down,” linebacker Junior Galette said. “You got to see what are we really about. Are we really a team that wants to be in the Wild Card race right now or nothing? It is what it is. I am actually happy to have a quick turnaround because [Sunday’s loss] hurts. It is going to sting for a while, but if we can get a good win Thursday, get this divisional game. It feels like one and a half games, divisional opponent so.”
The New York Giants have waded through a different type of pain this season. It’s not the shock of a sudden, tight result that keeps striking the Redskins. For the Giants, it’s the dull ache of a lost season.
New York won a field-goal buffet Sunday, 12-9, in overtime against the Kansas City Chiefs, marking its second victory of the season. The Giants are the team that provided San Francisco with its lone win of the year. They have won two and lost eight. Their season opened with a five-game losing streak which took a one-week break, before a three-game losing streak kicked off. The Giants are 24th in total offense. They are 31st in total defense.
The Giants are also the team that ended the Redskins’ playoff chances last season. Washington needed to win at home in the final week of the season against New York, which was going to, and did, rest key players. Washington lost, 19-10, eliminating it from the playoffs. Redskins cornerback Josh Norman called the outcome “disgusting” and “despicable.”
Thursday night gives the Giants a chance to hammer the Redskins’ playoff chances yet again. Washington came into Monday with a two percent chance to make the postseason, according to The Upshot’s playoff simulator.
“Short week you just have switch gears, switch gears quick,” Redskins tight end Vernon Davis said. “It is tough. It is tough when you look at it. Here it [was] Sunday and we play on Thursday, so by the time we get back, we go back in, bada-bing, bada-boom, it’s time to play.”
Again the Redskins will be doing so with a sewn-together offensive line and revamped backfield. Starting left guard Shawn Lauvao left the game against New Orleans because of a stinger. Center Spencer Long missed Sunday’s game and may not play Thursday. Running back Chris Thompson — who led the Redskins in rushing and receiving yards for most of the season — broke his leg. Thompson will have surgery, “soon,” according to Redskins coach Jay Gruden. Wide receiver Terrelle Pryor (foot) will have surgery and be placed on injured reserve, ending one of the offseason’s grand experiments.
The epic list of injuries a day after the loss in New Orleans left the often bubbly Gruden straight-faced during his Monday press conference. Washington has just three days to heal, plan and change that vibe, and all that only would allow them to hang on to their dismal playoff chances.
Matthew Paras contributed to this report.
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