Washington Redskins players have been saying all week they feel strongly that they still have a chance to beat the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday and keep winning en route to their first division crown since, like, 1976.
Or something like that.
Do the 'Skins have a chance? Sure. Everyone does in this division, and a win Sunday at home against the Eagles would move Washington just two games back of first-place New York with a head-to-head matchup with the Giants looming.
But before the Redskins can worry about that, they've got to take care of Philly. And to accomplish that feat, I'm hoping that when they made adjustments during the bye week they realized that becoming more aggressive on both sides of the ball was the only solution. They have to compensate for their weaknesses.
All that considered, here's my suggested game plan for Mike Shanahan's team Sunday.
Let Robert Griffin Loose
The Eagles defense is a train wreck right now. They've been dismantled by opposing quarterbacks in three straight games, aren't applying as much pressure as usual, can't get consistent coverage out of their corners and are missing tackles like it's 2011.
With that in mind, a well-rested RG3 has a chance to establish some chemistry with Pierre Garcon, if indeed Garcon is able to return to the Redskins' lineup for the first time since the opening week of the season. Griffin doesn't have an overly reliable receiving corps right now, but Garcon adds a new dimension to the offense and Logan Paulsen has been a solid replacement for Fred Davis.
The 'Skins should be slightly better off in pass protection against this defense than they were against Carolina, and I'm hoping Kyle Shanahan will give Tyler Polumbus some much-needed help based on some bye-week adjustments. If that's the case, Griffin should have a chance to unleash some deep balls.
Despite that missile attached to his right shoulder, the No. 2 overall pick out of Baylor has attempted only 18 passes of 20 yards or more this season, which ranks 30th in the NFL and is below Blaine Gabbert, Alex Smith and Christian Ponder. Among quarterbacks who have taken at least 25 percent of their teams' snaps, only Christian Ponder has attempted fewer deep passes per dropback, according to Pro Football Focus.
Only five teams have given up more 40-plus-yard completions this season than the Eagles. Griffin can exploit that, finally showing us his ability to hit on deep balls.
Become More Aggressive on Defense, Too
The Redskins have to take more chances on the defensive side of the ball as well. They have to do everything in their power to mask the deficiencies on the back end, and they have to accept that only big plays from the defense will keep them alive.
Against a rookie quarterback making his first career start, the blitz will be key. The Cowboys got to Nick Foles on two of their seven blitzes last week, and Washington's 3-4 front has to follow that blueprint and then multiply by two or three. They have to make Foles' day miserable, forcing Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg to do something they hate with a passion—run the football.
It's not as though LeSean McCoy isn't a huge threat, but if the 'Skins can keep it in his hands and out of the hands of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, it bodes better for their D, which has been average against the run this year.
In a game like this one, average is good.