While there remains a small chance for the playoffs, the Redskins still have plenty of reasons to finish out the last four games of the season strongly.
Should the Redskins win their final four games, and should the many sturdy dominoes that need to fall do indeed topple, then the playoffs are still mathematically within reach. The sliver of hope gives cornerback Bashaud Breeland all the motivation he needs.
"There's still a one percent chance that we may play in the playoffs, but other people have to work in our favor," Breeland said. "We've still got something that we can play for. It's not all the way out of grasp."
Breeland is one of several Redskins players whose contract in Washington expires at the end of the year, and so the last quarter of the season is an opportunity for them to put out their best tape – for the Redskins and other prospective teams interested.
"Hopefully that's not the only reason they play hard," Gruden said. "They're going to play hard because they want to win and want to do well. That's the reason that they're all here. We try to target guys that love football, are passionate about the game and are going to play hard no matter what. For the most part, I feel like we've got that here. So, whether you are on one year left or five years left, doesn't really matter. You've got to go out and play and compete and try to beat a very good Charger team."
For Breeland, and the rest of his teammates, any thoughts about his free agency status or the team's chances are only part of the effort they're giving to close out the season.
"I love ball, and I'm playing ball," Breeland said. "I've got four games that are guaranteed to me playing in a Washington Redskins uniform. Whatever the case may be after that is up for grabs."
The Redskins, who stand at 5-7, also don't have any plans to shut anyone down for the season, unless an injury absolutely necessitates it, according to head coach Jay Gruden on Monday. While their statuses for Sunday's game in Los Angeles remain unclear, left tackle Trent Williams, right tackle Morgan Moses, tight end Jordan Reed and defensive lineman Terrell McClain are all "trying like heck to get back in the lineup," Gruden said.
Check out these photos of the Redskins' offense preparing for their Week 14 game against the Los Angeles Chargers Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.
For others facing free agency – players such as Zach Brown, leading the league in tackles and someone who may figure into the team's plans to offer an extension – these last four games are an opportunity to show their fight as they consider options in the offseason. For Williams, the effort, therefore, isn't conditional to the standings.
"I mean, there's plenty of motivation factors," Williams said by his locker following the loss to the Cowboys. "A lot of guys are being evaluated. Literally, everybody is being evaluated. Just because you may be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs doesn't mean you can go out there and put trash on tape, because at the end of the year, we're evaluating your production. We don't say 'No, we'll give you a pass because we're mathematically eliminated.' They expect every time you take the field to play a certain way."
Certainly the amount of injuries the Redskins have incurred over three quarters of the season has given many young players the opportunity to play and start when they might not have otherwise. These last four games mean something for those recently called up from the practice squad or signed off the street.
Rather than provide teams tape from training camp, these players realize their opportunity to make a similar impression in live games, facing teams either in the playoff hunt or with players in similar situations. It should also be noted that Washington, if they were to win out, would record winning seasons for three consecutive years, something not accomplished since the team had four winning seasons in a row from 1989 to 1992.
"There's still a lot to play for, it's just not going to be the way we wanted to be ideally, but there's still a lot to play for," tight end Vernon Davis said. "When I say there's a lot to play for, I mean, we play for each other, we play for the organization, we play for the name…We can only do it as one, staying together, being as one and winning games. We can win the rest of these games – when we win the rest of these games – then we can look back and say 'Hey, even though we didn't get to where we wanted to go, we still had a winning season.'"