What a Difference a Bye Week Makes

Robert Griffin III against the Philadelphia Eagles (11/18/2012)

Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Two weeks ago, all seemed lost in Redskin Land. Their so-called Homecoming game, termed a must-win by head coach Mike Shanahan, was their worst effort of the year: a 21-13 drubbing at the hands of then 1-6 Carolina. In two weeks, the Redskins had gone from a seeming last-minute win against the division-leading Giants to a loss on 77 yard TD, an ugly game against the ugly looking—but not playing—Pittsburgh Steelers, and a third loss in a row against a team that should have been an easy win. A team that hasn’t won again since.

From 3-3 and on the verge of pulling into a tie for first place to 3-6 and seemingly out of it. The season looked done.

What a difference a bye week makes.

The Redskins returned from the bye healthier than they’ve been since the second week of the season and faced the reeling Philadelphia Eagles at home. This was a game they were supposed to win.

And they did—easily—in a 31-6 blowout.

And though they are 4-6, the Redskins are back in the race. On Thanksgiving, they travel to Dallas (well really Arlington, Texas, but close enough) to face the hated Cowboys. A tough call given how unbeatable the ‘boys are on Turkey day, but the Redskins broke their three-game losing streak on Sunday and they broke their two-game losing streak coming off the bye at home against Philadelphia. They also won by the biggest margin since the start of the Shanahan era.

And after Thursday’s game, they get a week and a half layoff—practically another bye week—before hosting the Giants at home on Monday, December 3rd.

Win those two games and they’re at 6-6 and at most one game out of first. And if the Packers can beat the Giants in Jersey this Sunday, the division standings might look like this:

Washington 6-6 (3-1)
Dallas 6-6 (3-2)
New York Giants 6-6 (2-3)
Philadelphia 3-9 (1-3)

The bracketed records are division records—the tiebreak after head-to-head—and the Redskins are in first place and back in control of their destiny.

Win out and they take the division with a 10-6 record. Is it likely? Given that they haven’t won even two in a row yet, probably not, but given the mess that is the NFC East this year and the proven ability of Robert Griffin III to turn any close loss into a potential win, who knows? Even 9-7 might be good enough for the title, especially if the loss comes against Baltimore instead of against Philly or Dallas.

But first comes the Cowboys, and if the Redskins can break their long-standing Thanksgiving-in-Dallas losing streak anything is possible.

And wouldn’t that be a “Happy-Birthday-to-me”? Even  happier that this one.

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