Here comes the Washington Football Team.
Those words have rarely struck fear into NFL teams. But there is some precedent to heed them, at least in December.
Since 2000, Washington has made five playoff appearances. In each of those seasons, the team entered December with a losing record before going a combined 21-4 the rest of the way.
Is Washington (6-6) destined to repeat the script this year? If so, it will have to survive NFC East-leading Dallas (8-4). The teams meet two of the next three Sundays, starting this weekend in Landover, Maryland.
A month ago at 2-6 and facing a game against the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, the team appeared on the road to nowhere. But Washington clipped Tampa Bay to trigger a four-game winning streak and rekindle its playoff hopes.
“At this point now we control our own destiny,” coach Ron Rivera said. “You gotta go out and do it yourself. I’ve been in this situation a few times so I kind of know what it feels like. I know what it’s going to take from our players.”
Quarterback Taylor Heinicke has keyed the surge with a passer rating of 110 over the last four games. The previous four games, all losses, his rating was just was 68.
The defense also has risen, yielding an average of 286.7 yards during the winning streak, compared with 361.3 during the four-game skid. The success has come despite the absence of defensive ends Montez Sweat (broken jaw) and Chase Young (torn ACL).
“You’re seeing that middle push have some success,” Rivera said. “You’re seeing those guys on the edge getting a little more pressure. Why? Because they’re getting single (blocked) now. That’s been to our benefit.”
Sweat was due to return this week but the team placed him on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Tight end Logan Thomas, who made a sensational one-handed touchdown catch in Sunday’s 17-15 win at Las Vegas, is back on the reserve/injured list for the second time this year. Washington also picked up running back Jonathan Williams from the Giants’ practice squad.
The Cowboys can take a giant step toward clinching the division with a win on Sunday, as it would open up a three-game lead on Washington and idle Philadelphia (6-7) with four games left.
The Cowboys are looking forward to potentially getting their three pass-rushing standouts on the field together. DeMarcus Lawrence returned from the IR last week after missing 10 games and Randy Gregory was back at practice this week off his IR stint and could be activated Sunday. They could combine with rookie linebacker Micah Parsons to form an intimidating trio.
“Three-headed monster,” Parsons said. “It’s going to be exciting to play all together but I think that’s the great part about having a good practice week. You’ve got an opportunity to learn how to all play with each other.”
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