Thus far, the success of the 2018 Washington Redskins season has been part “Redskins coming up with gutty, clutch performances” and part “stars aligning in their favor.”
The end result is a 4-2 record that puts Washington two games up in the loss column over everyone else in the NFC East. What’s more, the previously formidable schedule suddenly looks rather favorable.
A couple of weeks ago, observers highlighted the fact that the Redskins had no winning teams left to play. That’s changed slightly, thanks to the surging Houston Texans, but the truth remains that a whole bunch of middling teams populate the remainder of the Redskins’ slate.
In fact, it’s not totally out of the question to say that the Redskins have already played most of the best teams they’ll see all year. Washington has squared off against three others teams who would make the NFC playoffs if the season ended today—and the Redskins beat two of them.
Of course, a lot of that manageable-looking schedule owes to the fact that the six current NFC playoff teams are the only teams in the conference with winning records, but I digress.
That brings us to this weekend’s game against the downtrodden New York Giants. Not only are the Giants struggling mightily, but they appear to have bailed on 2018. Just in the past few days, they’ve dealt cornerback Eli Apple to the Saints and former All-Pro run-stopper Damon “Snacks” Harrison to the Lions. Janoris Jenkins may be next.
New York is already in full rebuilding mode, and it’s only October.
Add to the mix a disgruntled Odell Beckham, Jr., and it’s clear that the Giants are reeling—and the timing of their collapse works decidedly in the Redskins’ favor.
When people talk about “must-win” games, they usually mean games that, if lost, effectively (or literally) eliminate a team from contention. In this case, the Giants game is a “must-win” because it’s a 24-karat-golden opportunity.
Why? So many reasons! New York may have the worst offensive line in the NFL. They have a quarterback in Eli Manning who is clearly in the last phase of a very good career. New York’s defense was ranked 25th in points allowed before it dumped Apple and Snacks, which, incidentally, sounds like it should be the name of the #2 morning radio team in Phoenix circa 1989. In short, this is a team in disarray.
Admittedly, the Giants do have two elite skill players in OBJ and rookie Saquon Barkley. Both are true gamebreakers. But Washington’s pass-rush and run defense have been so good of late that it’s going to require an otherworldly effort from one or both of them for the Giants to win.
Granted, there are concerns about the development of the Redskins’ passing game with Alex Smith at the controls. So far this year, he’s provided excellent ball security but only modest productivity (sort of the anti-Kirk Cousins, oddly enough). He’s missing several weapons, though, so I’m not ready to pass any final judgments.
Regardless, with a huge amount of help from Adrian Peterson, Washington’s offense has been good enough to get them to this point, and there’s no reason to think they won’t have a big game against a Giants team that just voluntarily parted ways with two defensive starters.
Yet, Redskins fans are understandably guarded in their optimism. They’ve seen this movie before. And, in recent seasons, it hasn’t ended well.
Last week, I said that the Cowboys game represented a chance for Washington to take a real step forward: “If (and it always seems to come back to “if” for this team) Washington can prevail at home against their biggest rival in a featured, late-afternoon throwback game, we’ll know the Redskins are in this race for the long haul.”
They did it. And they are.
Now comes the other half of the equation. In the parity-driven NFL, the gap between good teams and bad teams isn’t all that large. This isn’t the ACC or the PAC-12, after all.
Yet, by all accounts, the 1-6 Giants are a team the Redskins should beat. Even on the road.
And that presents this week’s particular test for Washington: Yes, good teams often beat their rivals. And good teams also necessarily sometimes beat other good teams. But what really separates good teams from mediocre teams in the NFL is the fact that good teams almost always beat bad teams.
Are the Redskins ready to be a good team? I think they are.
I thought they would beat Dallas last week. I thought they would win the NFC East this year. I think they’ll make a statement with a decisive win against the Giants on Sunday.
Do that, and Washington will be 5-2, and the front-running can begin in earnest.
How do you feel about the Giants game on Sunday?
This poll is closed
Great! The Giants stink, and the Redskins are ready to put distance between themselves and the field in the NFC East.
Good! This is one the Redskins should win, but you can never count out a divisional rival at home.
So-so! It makes sense that the Redskins are favored, but I still don’t totally trust them.
Bad! This seems like a classic trap game, and the Redskins are going to have to play very well to win.
Terrible! I hope I’m wrong, but Washington will probably blow this. Let’s not forget the egg the Redskins laid against the Colts - at home!