Meaningful 'Monday Night Football' game has Redskins fans buzzing

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Sports,NFL,Redskins,Brian McNally

Playoff talk precedes matchup with Giants

Fun seasons have been few and far between for Redskins fans over the last two decades. Now they finally may have a chance to watch meaningful football games late in the NFL season again.

Washington is a modest 5-6 through 11 games. But a two-game winning streak, including a thrilling win over the rival Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day, and faltering contenders ahead of the Redskins in the standings have fueled talk about a postseason appearance.

That excitement will be palpable at FedEx Field when Robert Griffin III makes his "Monday Night Football" debut on national television with a critical NFC East game against the New York Giants. The Redskins have not made the playoffs since 2007 -- and even that late-season drive was an emotional response to the devastating murder of star safety Sean Taylor. Washington has reached the postseason just three times in the last 20 seasons.

"I truly believe that they're going to win," said Todd Nash, an Adams Morgan resident. "For the first time in a long time, I actually have faith in this football team."

That faith is driven in large part by Griffin, the wunderkind who has been brilliant in his rookie season with 16 touchdown passes, four interceptions and too many incredible runs and passes to count. The roster, after all, is not that different from the one that finished 5-11 in 2011. Nash jokingly admitted that he went out over the weekend and bought a pair of Griffin's distinctive striped socks.

Washington has a solid conference record and wins over fellow playoff contenders New Orleans, Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Dallas to help with potential tiebreakers. A victory Monday would pull the Redskins within one game of New York (7-4) in the division with four to play and within one of Seattle (7-5), which holds the No. 6 and final wild-card spot. The current tempered enthusiasm is poised to erupt if that happens.

"I'm a little bit nervous about how the Giants beat the [Green Bay] Packers last week," said Michael Brennan of the District. "It would be a great win. If we win [Monday] night, I'm booking tickets to New Orleans."

The Big Easy, of course, is the location of this year's Super Bowl. That goal is likely a bit optimistic given the holes on the roster and the difficult road the Redskins would face even if they somehow make it to the postseason. But can you blame fans for getting ahead of themselves at this point? It has been so long since the team hosted a truly important game, the dream sometimes eclipses the reality. And the atmosphere for a meaningful Dec. 3 contest will be a far cry from the apathetic, disinterested crowds that have populated FedEx Field at the end of most recent seasons. For now, hope springing eternal is plenty good enough.

"I'm excited. We actually wanted to go to the game," Alexandria resident Ronnie Ruiz said. "I'm thrilled ... we can have a chance to maybe make the playoffs. If we lose, there's no chance. But if we beat the champs?"

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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