Despite bad loss, Redskins remain threat in NFC East

ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins have to forget the officials, the 28-point defeat and anything else for that matter. All they need to remember is this: With six games left, they still have a shot at the NFC East title.

Part of the reason for that, of course, is the play of their division brethren. Still, the Redskins enter this week with a chance to be in first place at this time after Sunday. They host the first-place New York Giants (5-5) on Sunday. And they’re tied with the Eagles for second place at 4-6, but the Redskins already have defeated them so if they win they’d be in first place via tiebreakers.

The Redskins still have plenty to prove before anyone will buy into them as legitimate division title contenders over the next six weeks. Their 0-5 road record naturally leads to skepticism. But they are 4-1 at home and their final three games include division matchups vs. the Giants and Dallas. They also play at Philadelphia and at the Cowboys to close the season. The Eagles appear to be coming undone; the Cowboys are 3-7 but just returned quarterback Tony Romo. The Giants could be the toughest to beat out.

Still, with four division games in the last six, the Redskins are in good position to control their fate. Of course, now they just have to win.

But it’s why they’re still in OK shape despite the 44-16 loss at Carolina.

“There’s a lot to look forward to in the season,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said.

First, though, Gruden and the players know they must become more consistent. They went from a 33-point win one week to a 28-point loss the next. Granted, they also went from playing a 4-5 Saints team at home to a 9-0 Carolina team on the road. But a 61-point swing is rather large.

“We have to look at ourselves very closely X’s- and O’s-wise,” Gruden said, “and do what we can do to get better and protect our team and eliminate the self-inflicted wounds. If we can do that, we’ve shown that we can be pretty good. We’ve shown we can be pretty bad. It’s unreal how good we’ve been and how bad we’ve been all in the same season within a week of each other. We know the capabilities this team has.”

The Redskins have a plus-one turnover margin at home; they’re minus-six on the road. That helps explain the inconsistencies, but it’s more than just that: they have yet to become consistent in the run game on either side of the ball. Until that changes, they’ll continue to have these wild swings.

So the Redskins are at an odd spot, a team knowing it has a chance to climb into the division lead but one with serious flaws that must be corrected.

However, what they need now is a short memory -- like they had after the 17-point loss to New England. They followed that with the win over New Orleans.

“Just like when you beat New Orleans, you have to put that game behind you,” Gruden said of Carolina. “You can’t be too high, otherwise you come into a situation like where we’re at. … We’re excited about the opportunity, but we also understand we’ve got to play better, dig down deeper and coach better. We have to understand that we’ve got to do a lot of things better and more consistent.”