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Ron Rivera “optimistic about the opportunity” to have Alex Smith back in Week 17

Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth look ahead to the Week 17 Sunday Night Football matchup between the Washington Football Team and the Philadelphia Eagles. If Washington wins, the team will secure a playoff spot.

The Washington Football Team will win the NFC East if it defeats the Eagles on Sunday Night Football in Week 17.

That result is much more likely if Washington has its starting quarterback.

Head coach Ron Rivera said Smith was “very close” to playing in Sunday’s game against Carolina, but there’s a better chance for the regular-season finale.

“I thought he had an exceptional day on Friday, but it’s always about how that person feels the next day and he felt it was still grabbing him a little bit,” Rivera said Monday, via Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post. “This week, I’m optimistic about the opportunity.”

Washington started Dwayne Haskins on Sunday, but he’s now apparently in the dog house after throwing two picks and losing a fumble in the 20-13 loss. Rivera said he thought Haskins would be able to carry over his performance from the second half of Washington’s Week 15 loss to Seattle, but that was not the case.

Rivera pulled Haskins in the fourth quarter in favor of Taylor Heinicke, who finished 12-of-19 passing with a touchdown.

“I thought there are a lot of positives to [Heinicke’s play],” Rivera said. “I think he showed what I was hoping to see when he got his opportunity, that it wasn’t too big.”

Because of that, Rivera has moved Heinicke to backup quarterback — making Haskins Washington’s third-string QB. If Smith can’t play against the Eagles, Heinicke will start.

“Sometimes you have to go through some hard knocks,” Rivera said of Haskins, via JP Finlay of “Sometimes you have to reach rock bottom.”