The Washington Football Team reaches the first season's crossroad, this time on the border of Gotham City in the former swamplands where many of its seasons have died. Their old nemesis New York Giants await.
The winner has a chance to win the lackluster NFC East. The loser can start plotting a top-three pick that for Washington means the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes. Last year, New York beat Washington in overtime in the season's penultimate game that essentially was for defensive end Chase Young. Now, New York is 0-5, Washington 1-4 with new coaches running each, so not much has changed.
But, Washington coach Ron Rivera suddenly realized the NFC East is awful. Dallas is atop the division at 2-3 with Philadelphia 1-3-1, so Washington is only a game off the lead. Maybe the division champion is 7-9, but it's still a ticket to the playoffs, so Rivera benched quarterback Dwayne Haskins for Kyle Allen in hopes of a quick burst that Allen gave Rivera last season when both were in Carolina. That Allen went from 4-0 to 1-7 is why both are now in Washington, but Rivera's totally into short-term thinking. Allen was injured early in his debut last week in a loss to Los Angeles, though, so last year's initial success didn't carry over.
If Washington can go 3-2 in its remaining NFC East games after already beating Philadelphia, it can possibly make the postseason.
"My old [Chicago Bears] coach, Mike Ditka, . . . used to say, ‘You want to be champions in the division, you’ve got to control the division. You've got to win inside the division,'" Rivera said. "That’s what it is. That’s what the objective is, obviously, is to win all 16 games. But, the truth of the matter is if you start going through them, you've got to win the one you're about to play.
"There are five games that are very impactful, and that we have an opportunity and a chance. We're going to see what happens and we're going to go for it. That's all that's happened right now is I've changed my approach to this. A big part of it is looking at the schedule from the beginning and saying: 'These [first] four games are going to be very interesting, but we're developing.' These next four based on where we are – we have a chance. We'll see what happens."
The season's softest stretch gives Washington a chance entering December. It plays New York and Dallas each twice, along with Detroit (1-3) and Cincinnati (1-3-1). If 4-2 during this stretch, Washington is still only 5-6 with road games at Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Philadelphia and home games versus Seattle and Carolina. Washington would need dramatic improvement to go 2-3 and finish 7-9.
But, 7-9 can win the NFC East this season, especially if holding critical tie-breaking edges of head-to-head and division record.
A win enables fans to dream in a nightmare of a year on and off the football field. A loss means another 3-13 season for Washington no matter who's quarterbacking until Lawrence arrives.
Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks