Five things the Redskins can be thankful for this Thanksgiving

November 22, 2018

It’s a Thanksgiving tradition as old as television. No, not the NFL games themselves, but the yearly habit of asking football players what they’re up to this Turkey Day.

The Washington Redskins will be on a work trip in Dallas this year, so linebacker Mason Foster said he will share a meal with his family the day after and they’ll “grade” each other on the quality of the dishes they’ll bring.

“I’ll do the stuffing and the ham ... it’s hard to mess that up so I try stick with that,” Foster said. “I don’t want to ruin nobody’s Thanksgiving because of my cooking.”

When the Redskins finally do sit down at the dinner table and go around saying what they’re thankful for, here are five football reasons they can list.

Colt McCoy is the best kind of back-up you can have

A lot has been made of McCoy’s familiarity with Jay Gruden’s system in Washington. It’s true that very few second-stringers stay with a team for more than one two- or three-year contract at a time.

McCoy is also a top back-up by virtue of being neither inexperienced nor over the hill. Take the Cowboys if they were in the Redskins’ situation this week, former undrafted free agent Cooper Rush would have to make his first NFL start. The other traditional Thanksgiving team provides a perfect contrast. If something happened to Matthew Stafford, the Detroit Lions would turn to 36-year-old Matt Cassel.

No one else in the league wanted to sign Adrian Peterson

A future Hall of Fame running back had nobody knocking on his door simply because he was the ripe old age of 33 and had an unsteady 2017 campaign with two teams.

Peterson is seventh in the NFL in rushing yards (723) and on pace to hit the 1,000-yard mark. He’s now up to six rushing touchdowns, which matches or exceeds the totals of eight NFL teams. And he’s about to play in his home state of Texas, which is sure to provide even more motivation.

They enter Thursday with a healthy edge in NFC East

There are only four NFL teams undefeated in their division, and at 2-0, the Redskins are one of them. Last Sunday’s loss to Houston combined with Dallas’s latest win tightened things a bit, but Washington’s win in their Week 7 matchup with Dallas was crucial.

Think of the math like this: If Washington wins Thursday, its lead in the NFC East is up to two games on paper, but it would also secure the season sweep for Washington and guarantee an advantage in a tiebreaker, so Dallas would really need to outdo the Redskins by three games in the home stretch to pass them and steal the division.

Meanwhile, if the Cowboys win Thursday, they tie the division, but the series is split 1-1 and that first tiebreaker goes out the window.

They’re awfully familiar with Thanksgiving games

The Redskins are the first team outside the Cowboys and Lions to play on Thanksgiving in three straight years since the Chicago Bears did it in 1979, 1980 and 1981.

Every team has to play a Thursday game at some point or another, and the Redskins already visit ATT Stadium to play Dallas once a year. But if anyone was ever prepared to play on Thanksgiving, it’s these Washington players and coaches who are familiar with both the process of a short week and the atmosphere they should expect.

“Dallas is a beautiful place, beautiful stadium, beautiful venue for a football game, but I think we have to handle the noise offensively without a doubt,” Gruden said. “The only guys that it might have a minor effect on (are) some of the rookies, but (you’re) talking about Daron Payne who played at Alabama, who played in plenty of big games on the road, so I think everybody will be fine.”

At least they’re not the Wizards

The season isn’t going exactly how the Redskins wrote it up. Alex Smith is gone. Several other skill players have been battered and sidelined for much of the year. Players complained about the home fans just 12 days ago.

No matter what happens Thursday, we aren’t hearing about players yelling “F you” at Gruden, fighting in practice or criticizing Bruce Allen. The Redskins have as many wins through 10 games as the Wizards do through 17, and for football fans maybe not basketball fans that’s something to be thankful for.

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