Sometimes a coach will shout a message to his team from the rooftops. Sometimes he will take a subtler approach.
Jay Gruden took the former approach last year after his team fell to 2-4 with a loss to the Jets. He said that the team’s game against the Bucs the following week was a “Code Red”. The Redskins apparently got the message as they responded by rallying from a 24-0 deficit to shock Tampa Bay. That started a 7-3 run to end the season and the Redskins won the NFC East.
This week Gruden is being a bit more restrained in talking about the elevated importance of the team’s upcoming home game against the Vikings and the following game against the Packers, also being played at FedEx Field. But the message is clear.
“You hate to make one game more important than the other but these next two games in general are going to be important,” said Gruden. “They’re two home games that are very, very big for us. We’re 4-3-1. We’re right now currently I guess the No. 7 or 8 seed, whatever it is and we’re in a position that we’re in a good position but we’re in a position where we don’t have a lot of room for error. We really have to take advantage of our home games and the advantage that the home field gives us. We have to take advantage of those, so they are important.”
Actually, they are the No. 6 seed in the NFC, positioned for the second wild card spot. They are 0-1-1 in their last two games so if they are going to stay in playoff position they are going to have to start winning some games.
The games against the Vikings (5-3) and Packers (4-4) carry elevated performance because, as Gruden pointed out they are home games. The Redskins are 2-2 at home this year. They will need to do better than break even at FedEx Field to make the playoffs.
In addition, the next two games are against teams that will be in the wild card mix along with the Redskins. It is unlikely that the tiebreaker that comes with winning a head-to-head matchup will come into play since the Redskins’ tie against the Bengals means that barring a tie by one of those teams they won’t end up the same record as either the Packers or Vikings. But adding wins to your ledger while adding losses to your rivals’ records certainly helps your situation.