WASHINGTON — The Redskins’ season depends on a victory Sunday against the Giants.
Giants head coach Ben McAdoo has somewhat clearly stated his starters will play, though he stopped short of admitting how long they’ll play, which led one star of the team, wide receiver Victor Cruz, to halfheartedly say, “I think we’re buying in.”
Translation: Who knows?
5 Storylines: Redskins-Giants Season Finale
What we know is the Giants don’t have any incentive to win the game beyond beating a divisional opponent, or costing a divisional opponent a spot in the playoffs. Does that outweigh their desire to remain healthy heading into the playoffs as the fifth seed?
John Feinstein scoffed at the notion that Sunday’s matchup could prove to be a “really competitive, dogfight-type of game.”
“I’d be surprised by that,” he told The Sports Junkies on Friday. “Because when a team knows that their coach has basically said ‘I don’t care if we win this game, I’m worried about next week,’ which is understandable in the Giants’ case — they’re going to have to go on the road in the first round of the playoffs, they might be playing as soon as Saturday afternoon — I think that permeates the locker room.”
“I remember when I was doing “Next Man Up” in ’04,” he said. “The Ravens had to win their game Sunday and then hope that the Broncos lost to the Colts. Peyton Manning started the game and I think the Colts might have even been up 7-0 early.
“And then Manning came out and [then-Ravens head coach] Brian Billick saw all the starters coming out and he just looked and he said, ‘We’re dead. We’re dead. There’s no way the Broncos aren’t winning this game. And it wasn’t a rout or anything, as I recall, I think it might have been 23-16.”
Indeed, Feinstein’s memory serves correct. The 2004 Ravens won their final game against the Dolphins, 30-23, only to look on as the Colts dropped their regular season finale to the Broncos, 33-14.
“When a team makes a conscious decision — ‘we’re not going to give 100 percent’ — because the margin for error in the NFL most of the time is pretty thin,” Feinstein said, “I think at 100 percent these teams are pretty evenly matched. The 29-27 score the first time around was probably indicative of both of them, so when one team says, ‘Ah, we don’t care’ when the other team is playing life-or-death, I tend to favor the team that’s playing life-or-death.”