The Washington Redskins have been up and down all season. At times, they've been demoralized, and at others, they've been on top of the world. They've weathered tough losses and devastating injuries to key players.
And somehow, they still find themselves with a good shot at the playoffs. The thread that has held the team together has been Robert Griffin III. Without him, they can kiss the postseason goodbye.
Already, Washington's odds are iffy. In order to sneak into Wild Card Weekend, they're going to need to win out, and on top of that, they're going to need the New York Giants to crumble. Winning three of three is definitely a good possibility for the Redskins: They have certainly proven their mettle in the last four weeks with wins over New York and Baltimore. Cleveland, Philadelphia and Dallas are all beatable, to say the least.
The Giants, for their part, face a tough schedule over the last three weeks. With road games at Atlanta and at Baltimore over the next two weeks, followed by a season finale against the Eagles, three straight wins are going to be tough to come by.
The cards could fall in favor of the Redskins. But without RG3, they're going to have a hard time taking advantage.
It's not just about what Griffin has been able to do on the field and in the box score. Make no mistake, his stats are impressive: He currently ranks first in the league in passer rating (104.2), and in a Monday night win over New York a couple of weeks ago, he broke Cam Newton's rookie rushing record. He's taken a Redskins team riddled with injury and futility and put them in prime position to contend for a postseason berth.
But in addition to all that, Griffin brings an energy to this team that it desperately needs. He plays with abandon. He plays like the game isn't over until the whistle blows, no matter what it says on the scoreboard—and that mindset has paid off in big wins over the Cowboys and the Giants.
Kirk Cousins did an admirable job filling in for RG3 when he went down with a sprained knee at the end of last week's game. He rallied the Redskins to a crucial victory. But he's not RG3. He's not as versatile, as fearless or as instrumental to these team's psyche.
When RG3 is on the field, you feel like anything is possible. You feel like any game is winnable. It may be hyperbolic, considering he's a rookie with 13 games under his belt, but that's how it feels. As USA Today's Jarrett Bell writes, "Griffin, with his world-class track speed and accurate arm, is the next great prospect. He can redefine the position." Kirk Cousins is certainly not that.
It's still unknown whether Griffin will be good to go for Sunday's game at Cleveland (though if you take Griffin's dad's word for it, pencil him in), and if he can't go, Cousins may be able to help the team get by. But over the stretch of the final two weeks, the Redskins are going to need their QB back in order to stay afloat.
Washington hasn't gotten this far because of luck or defense or coaching. It has gotten this far because RG3 has propelled them to this point, and no matter who their backup is, to get even further, they're going to need Griffin to lead them.