Washington — Weekly cliches have always been a part of football.
From old standbys like “We just try to go 1-0 every week” to the more modern Belichickian lingo of “On to insert name of next opponent here,” the NFL’s best and brightest have always viewed each week as another chance to prove themselves.
In Washington, a city that holds its football team to higher standards than its government, it can be difficult to stay positive about a team that is 8-18 since Jay Gruden took the helm.
On Sunday, Gruden suffered his 18th loss when Cam Newton threw for a career-high five touchdowns and the Carolina Panthers beat Washington 44-16. It was Washington’s second loss to an undefeated team in the past three weeks.
However, even after being mauled by the Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, Gruden remained surprisingly upbeat.
“There’s a lot to look forward to in this season,” Gruden said in a press conference on Monday. “We’ve shown that we can be pretty good, we’ve shown that we can be pretty bad…we know the capabilities that this team has.”
For Washington, another football cliche seems to apply: its season begins again this week.
On Sunday, FedEx Field will host the NFC-East leading New York Giants, who have a one-game lead over both Washington and Philadelphia. If Washington can get the job done, the team will be tied for the division lead, a fact that is not lost on the coaching staff.
“We have a six-game stretch where we have everything that we want to accomplish still available to us — something that hasn’t happened around here for some time.” Gruden said.
In that six-game stretch, Washington will play four divisional opponents, including New York this weekend and Dallas the following weekend.
All four NFC East teams are within two games of the division lead, and all four have .500 divisional records, the second tiebreaker after head-to-head record.
According to a recent New York Times interactive, of the 79 octillion different scenarios that could play out through the rest of the season, Washington makes the playoffs about 19 percent of the time.
Www.fivethirtyeight.com’s playoff projections are similar, giving Washington a 17 percent chance to win the NFC East, all the while rating the burgundy and gold as the fifth-worst team in the NFL.
If Cousins & Co. were to beat New York on Sunday , Washington’s playoff odds would increase to about 31 percent, pulling them into a virtual tie with both the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles.
No matter what cliches are used throughout the days leading up to the contest, this weekend means more than “just another game.”
Sunday’s kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. and the game will be televised on FOX.