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Redskins hold key to Giants' playoff chances

Antwaan Randle El of the Washington Redskins runs

Antwaan Randle El of the Washington Redskins runs byTerrell Thomas of the New York Giants on September 13, 2009 at Giants Stadium. Credit: Getty Images

As the Giants and the Cowboys spend the next three weeks trying to elbow each other out of the way for the final NFC wild-card spot, the one team that may have the most sway in who goes to the playoffs from the NFC East is the only team in the division that is already out of them.

That would be the Redskins, who host the Giants on Monday night and then host the Cowboys the following Sunday.

Redskins linebacker London Fletcher could only laugh when asked Wednesday which team he thinks will make the playoffs.

"I'm not getting into that," he chuckled. "Whichever one is able to play the best football these next three weeks."

And then he recognized the role his team will play in that equation. "We'll have a big say in that," he said.

Relevance for the Redskins lately has been all about ruining things for other teams. They almost soured a perfect season for the Saints two weeks ago, gave the Raiders a reality check last week, and now face two teams that need wins over them to solidify their resumes. If the Redskins split their next two games, the team that beats them has a much better chance of reaching the playoffs.

"I've never really liked that approach where a team says we're going to try to be a spoiler of somebody's season," Fletcher said. "Our focus is just on winning the football game. This is the New York Giants we're playing, a team in our division, a rival game, so our motivation is that in itself and not about playing a spoiler for the Giants."

Redskins coach Jim Zorn echoed those thoughts. "I don't want to look at it as a spoiler role," he said. "If we can earn a win, I want it to be more for us than for somebody else."

A lot has changed since the Giants last played the Redskins in the season opener. The Redskins have lost several key players to injury, withstood a chaotic shuffling of their offensive chain of command, and have lately bounced back to play some decent football. The Giants sprinted out to a 5-0 start, but have won only twice since then.

Fletcher said he is surprised to see the Giants scrambling for that final playoff spot.

"When you looked at how they started the season they were undefeated, 5-0, the toast of the NFL, and since then some things have happened," Fletcher said. "Now they're 7-6. It is a bit surprising because when you look at the Giants they have been one of the upper echelon teams in the league the last few years."

Zorn said he is not surprised by the Giants' record because of how difficult it is to win in the NFL. He thinks the Giants' inability to stop big plays has undone them.

"You take three or four plays . . . and it could have been just the opposite," Zorn said. "They could have been dominating."

Notes & quotes: Even though the Giants could make the playoffs without winning all three of their remaining games, Justin Tuck said the team is in "must-win" mode. "I think we are because of the fact that we haven't played great ball," Tuck said. "Even if we do make the playoffs, you don't want to go into the playoffs limping. You want to go in with the confidence, knowing that you kind of righted the ship and are playing your best ball at that point in time. I think for us it's important to win these next three." . . . Redskins QB Jason Campbell has not beaten the Giants in five starts. "That's the one team, for whatever reason, they've been a tough nail for us over the last couple years," he said.

New York Sports