While it may only be Week 5, a win against the New Orleans Saints feels like another "must-win" for the Washington Football Team.
After all, the schedule doesn't get any easier from here, with the Kansas City Chiefs, the Green Bay Packers, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to follow.
There are other challenges and moves this weekend, too. Up comes Antonio Gandy-Golden from the practice squad for Sunday's game against the Saints. And down goes another staffer, per ESPN, this one assistant athletic trainer Doug Quon, placed on administrative leave, a move coming on the heels of head trainer Ryan Vermillion being placed on leave pending an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Agency.
Things seem … desperate.
Like, “must-win” desperate?
Washington looks like it may have to rely on the offense more than the defense again, except this time around with much of its depth gone. Offensive tackle Brandon Scherff and wide receivers Dyami Brown and Cam Sims will all be out for Sunday's matchup. It'll be a great chance for "lower-role" players such as receiver Adam Humphries, tight end Ricky Seals-Jones, and returner/receiver DeAndre Carter to step up and help quarterback Taylor Heinicke and receiver Terry McLaurin not have to carry the whole load.
New Orleans' defense this season seems to be the type of unit that will either produce very well or very poorly. In Week 1, it only allowed quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers offense score three points, yet it allowed quarterback Daniel Jones and the New York Giants offense record 485 yards and secure its first win last week.
Washington's offense must continue to get points on the board because the defense has proven it still can't keep up. Heinicke also can't be making those "dangerous" throws that have nearly led to picks. The defense hasn't typically been able to make up for the offense's mistakes
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Washington was unstoppable in November, finishing 3-0. The question is if the "ghost of injury present and future" will haunt the WFT in December and on.
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As defenses prepare to face Washington, can the running trend continue?
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With a four-game winning streak on the line, running the clock and ball may be Washington's answer.
The burgundy-and-gold defense must find a way to stop third downs, complete tackles, and sack the quarterback. Saints quarterback Jameis Winston has the ability to "dot" up secondaries and running back Alvin Kamara and "wild card" quarterback Taysom Hill are difficult to bring down. If the defense can't stop those players, it's in for another embarrassing performance.
ODDS: New Orleans is 2.5-favorites. Total is 44.5.
BETTING TRENDS: Washington is 3-1 against the spread this season.
FUN FACT: Washington cornerback Deshazor Everett will be playing his home-state New Orleans Saints. He is from DeRiddler, Louisiana.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Washington receiver Dyami Brown, offensive tackle Brandon Scherff and receiver Cam Sims are out. Receiver Curtis Samuel, running back Antonio Gibson, linebacker Cole Holcomb and defensive tackle Daron Payne are questionable. Cornerback Benjamin St-Juste will be active.
GAME TIME: 1 p.m. ET, Sunday, Oct. 10
LOCATION: FedEx Field, Landover, Maryland
TV/RADIO: CBS, The Team 980, WMAL 105.9
THE FINAL WORD: "We don't have expectations. We have standards," Washington defensive tackle Johnathan Allen said. "We haven't been achieving our standards, so that's what we've got to do better."
READ MORE: Gameday Info Stacked