Rich Tandler CSNwashington.com After the Redskins lost their opener to the Eagles, some members of the media asked the players if their next game against the Packers was a “must-win”. No, the players said. It was too early.
The same line of questions came up after they lost in Green Bay and prepared to play the Lions. No, they said. Even though 0-3 was not a place where the defending division champs wanted to be, their season wasn’t over if they lost to Detroit.
And so on. Before virtually every game this season someone asked the “must-win” question. And the answer was usually no.
This week, the question wasn’t asked much if at all because the answer is obvious.
Tonight’s game against the Vikings is a must-win game.
For one thing, the Redskins are running out of games. Yes, they were 3-6 last year before embarking on their season-ending run to the division title and they would again be 3-6 if they lose this game. But they can’t keep digging a hole every year and then rely on being able to climb out of it. There is a reason that just four of the 110 teams that started 3-6 since 1990 have made the playoffs—it’s hard to do. The odds of pulling it off for the second year in a row are extremely daunting.
But the main reason they have to win tonight is because if they can’t beat the Vikings you have wonder who they can beat. Their season is in a free fall at 1-7. They have had a revolving door at quarterback; they have tried two different players to replace Christian Ponder but neither Matt Cassel nor Josh Freeman could play well enough to keep Ponder on the bench. They have running back Adrian Peterson and not much else on offense.
On the other side of ball then do have Jared Allen who once was a feared pass rusher. But this year he has given his team 4.5 sacks in exchange for a cap figure in excess of $17 million. Their defense is ranked 29th.
Their talent level is further depleted by injuries. Five Vikings have been ruled out of tonight’s game including a starting cornerback and safety on defense and their starting tight end and right tackle on offense. Meanwhile, the Redskins could dress and play all 53 players if the rules permitted.
In short, even though the Redskins are not exactly world beaters at 3-5, this game is a mismatch. Given the Vikings’ injuries the only position on the field where they have an advantage over the Redskins is at running back. And even there isn’t not a huge advantage; Peterson has just 25 more yards rushing this season than does Alfred Morris (711-686) and Morris has a considerably better average yards per carry (Morris 5.2, Peterson 4.6).
All that said, it’s an NFL game and anything can happen. If things don’t happen the right way for the Redskins tonight they will be 3-6 and a week of talking about another lost season will ensue. If they win they will move to 4-5 and will be able to sit back and see if they can get some help from the Saints (hosting the Cowboys) and the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers (hosting the Eagles). If those games turn out well for the Redskins they will be in second place just a half game out of the division lead.
But it all starts with tonight’s must-win game.