Dallas Cowboys

Playing badly has been good enough for first-place Redskins

Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins has 10 interceptions this season but only two have been at home and both of those came in the season opener.
Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins has 10 interceptions this season but only two have been at home and both of those came in the season opener. AP

The Washington Redskins have the 22nd-ranked defense in the league. Their offense is even worse, ranking 25th. They have more giveaways than takeaways. In other words, it’s no surprise they’re a sub-.500 team.

But they’re also a playoff team. For now.

Yes, the Redskins might be among the worst teams on paper, but are fortunate to be playing in the worst division in football. With a 20-14 victory over the New York Giants last Sunday, the Redskins improved to 5-6 and would be the NFC East champion, based on tiebreakers, if the season ended today.

No other division leader has a losing record, and no other division has as many as three teams with losing records.

It’s quite a story considering Washington has finished last in the division six of the past seven years. Now it controls its own destiny with five games left.

“We’re on Cloud Nine right now, but we can’t stop here,” running back Alfred Morris told reporters after Sunday’s game. “We’ve got to keep climbing because we have another division game coming up against the Cowboys. So we just need to build off this.”

The Redskins face the Cowboys for the first time this season on Monday Night Football. And it’s a rivalry that seems to always have at least one close game.

In fact, at least one of the two games every season since 1999 has been decided by one possession. So it’s hard not to foresee another tight, dramatic game unfolding between the rivals.

But the Redskins are riding higher than the Cowboys. Washington has won three of its past five games and is 5-1 at home, while Dallas is reeling after losing eight of its past nine.

And the Redskins seem to have found their stride offensively.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins has thrown 10 touchdowns and two interceptions over the past five games, they have shown improvement in the running game, and a finally healthy DeSean Jackson gives Washington a versatile downfield threat.

Defensively, they’ve forced eight turnovers in the past five games, including three against the Giants.

It adds up to the Redskins somehow being in the driver’s seat and in position for their first playoff run under second-year coach Jay Gruden.

“Obviously fired up to be in the position we’re in,” Gruden said Monday, a day after beating the Giants.

“Now it’s just a matter of maintaining our focus and work and just continuing to take it one game at a time, like I say, cliché-wise. But I’m proud of the team to be in this position.”

Briefly

▪ This is the first time the Redskins have entered the month of December with the division lead since 1999.

▪ The Redskins have given up 17 sacks through 11 games, their fewest since 2007.

▪ If the Redskins win, they’ll have a six-game winning streak at home for the first time since their Super Bowl-winning team in 1991.

Telling number

65 Previous appearances on Monday Night Football for the Redskins. They are 9-8 on MNF versus the Cowboys, including last season’s overtime win in Dallas.

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