Insider

Washington's next 4 games present make or break scenario

Insider

When Ron Rivera talks about "interesting circumstances" for his Washington Football Team, here's what the head coach means: The combined record of his next four opponents is 4-12.

That means Washington has a real opportunity to chop some wood and compete in the NFC East, especially because three of the next four games are division games.

"Right now we are in certain situations that have got interesting circumstances, and we have to evaluate those. We really have to dig deep into those things," Rivera said Monday of the team's division status. 

Through a quarter of the season the NFC East is the worst division in football, and even at 1-3 Washington sits just a half game back of the 1-2-1 Eagles for first place. And Washington has a head's up win over Philadelphia too. 

At 1-3 Dallas has a million injuries and a terrible defense and the Giants are 0-4 with a -49 point differential, the worst in the NFC. Washington plays New York twice in their next four games, and seem likely to be favorites at least in the home matchup. 

In their first four games Washington's opponents combined for a 9-6-1 record, not to mention Rivera's squad facing two of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the NFL in Kyler Murray and Lamar Jackson. 

As good as the Cowboys' Dak Prescott can be, none of the QBs in the next four game stretch are anything like Murray or Jackson, and that should allow Washington's defensive line to control the line of scrimmage. 

 

The Rams are the best team Washington will face in the next quarter stretch, and that game comes this Sunday. Ironically, even though Sean McVay's team sits at 3-1, Los Angeles has only beaten NFC East teams. 

Here's the thing - Washington might not be any good either in the broader scale of the NFL, but in an awful division, the team could really compete.

That's why the head coach has wavered on his commitment to quarterback Dwayne Haskins. If the second-year passer can't move the offense at a more efficient pace, maybe Rivera owes it to the rest of the team to make a change to fight for the division title. It could also significantly bolster this defense to get No. 2 overall pick Chase Young back from injury. 

Rivera knows this sort of battle of attrition well. In 2014 his Panthers team won the NFC South with a 7-8-1 record and then won a Wild Card playoff game. That was a big stepping stone, as his 2015 Panthers team went 15-1 and advanced to the Super Bowl. 

In about a month, Rivera will know much more about this Washington team. Win two or three of the next four and the conversation around a division title gets real. Lose two or three of the next four, and the conversation turns to a Top 5 draft pick.