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Philly plans to ring out year, Redskins

January 01, 2006|By ROB MAADDI

PHILADELPHIA -

Not long ago, the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles were tied for last place and looking forward to next season.

The teams are heading in completely opposite directions now.

A four-game winning streak has the Redskins (9-6) on the verge of making the playoffs for the first time since 1999. Washington needs a victory over the Eagles (6-9) today to clinch a postseason berth, though the Redskins still would get in with a loss if Dallas also loses to St. Louis.

Meanwhile, the Eagles are eager to finish a miserable year in which the defending NFC champions fell apart because of injuries, discord and poor play.

"Misery loves company," defensive end N.D. Kalu said. "We're not going to the playoffs, so we'd love to knock another team out."

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The Redskins are wary of the depleted Eagles, who are without several key starters, including injured quarterback Donovan McNabb and banished wide receiver Terrell Owens.

Washington is quite familiar with playing the spoiler role itself. Minnesota came in needing a victory over the Redskins to secure a playoff spot in the season finale last year. But Washington pulled off the upset, forcing the Vikings to rely on help to get in.

"Here's how dangerous they are: They took the Giants to overtime at their place," Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs said of Philadelphia's 26-23 loss to New York at home on Dec. 11.

"I think that's all you have to say. It's pride. We know Philadelphia. We have great respect for them. They have great players. They've been drafting high. Just the way they played against the Giants, we have to expect that's the way they'll play against us. If we go in there with anything less than that and lose, we're done. Our situation is critically important."

The Redskins have been in a must-win mode since losing three straight games last month. They fell to 5-6 following an overtime loss to San Diego, but responded by winning the next four games, including lopsided victories over the NFC East-leading Giants and Dallas.

It won't matter if the Redskins don't beat Philadelphia. Nobody wants to sit around and hope the Rams upset the Cowboys on Sunday night.

"Our season is riding on this game," said quarterback Mark Brunell, who should start despite an injured right knee. "The guys have worked real hard all year to get to this place. From where we were at 5-6, it's pretty remarkable. All of that being said and as great as these last four games have been, if we don't get this one, it would be tough to end the season that way. We have to realize how critical this is."

The Redskins have turned their season around by relying heavily on Clinton Portis' running and a strong defense. Wideout Santana Moss also has been a big factor in the team's resurgence.

Portis has run for more than 100 yards in each of the last four games, and has four touchdowns rushing and one passing in that stretch. Moss had 160 yards receiving and three TDs last week against the Giants.

Portis and Moss make the Redskins the only team in the league with a 1,400-yard rusher and a 1,400-yard receiver and one of only eight teams that have a running back and receiver above the 1,000-yard mark.

Both players could break franchise records this week. Moss (1,400) is going after Bobby Mitchell's 42-year-old receiving mark (1,436 yards), and Portis (1,404) can top Stephen Davis' rushing record (1,432).

"I like the way he runs," Pro Bowl linebacker Jeremiah Trotter said of Portis. "I like what he brings to the table. Last year, when he first went in there, he took a pounding. He took a beating. He pretty much had to carry the load because they had a quarterback situation. This year, he put on a few more pounds, which he really had to, especially in that offense. He's done an outstanding job."

While the game has playoff implications for the Redskins, it's more like a preseason matchup for Philadelphia. The Eagles are getting a final chance to evaluate several young players and a few veterans before entering an important offseason.

Mike McMahon makes his sixth start since replacing McNabb, hoping to solidify his job as the backup for next year.

If Brunell can't go for the Redskins, Patrick Ramsey will take his place. Ramsey led Washington to two touchdown drives last week after Brunell went down against New York.

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