After Kirk Cousins filled in admirably for Robert Griffin III last week, it doesn't appear he'll need to do so again Sunday.
With their star rookie expected to be back under center, the Washington Redskins continue their playoff push in what is widely expected to be Andy Reid's final home game as Philadelphia Eagles coach.
After spraining his right knee late in regulation during a 31-28 overtime win over Baltimore in Week 14, Griffin didn't play last Sunday at Cleveland. Though the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner wasn't pleased with the decision, he surely felt better after watching Cousins lead the Redskins to a 38-21 win - their fifth in a row - and into a three-way tie atop the NFC East.
Cousins, who also helped Washington finish off its game-tying drive against the Ravens after Griffin went down, completed 26 of 37 passes for 329 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in his first NFL start.
"I've never underestimated the importance of Robert," offensive lineman Kory Lichtensteiger said. "That guy has put the team on his back many times throughout the year, and we'd certainly like to have him back whenever he does come back on the field.
"But it's nice, it's really good, for Kirk to step in and to perform like that. It's good for the offense as a whole to kind of tell the football world that we're not just a one-trick pony of having a triple-threat quarterback that can do everything and that's the only reason we're winning. Robert certainly is the man, but being able to show that you're capable without him is a pretty fulfilling thing for us."
That said, the Redskins certainly won't be disappointed to get Griffin back. He practiced fully for the second straight day Thursday and is expected to start.
"I like what I see," coach Mike Shanahan said. "If there is no setback, he should be ready to go."
Griffin's play is a major reason the Redskins are in such a good position. He ranks second in the NFL in passer rating (104.2), throwing for 18 TDs and four interceptions while adding six rushing touchdowns and 748 yards on the ground.
Looking to win six straight for the first time since a seven-game run in 1996, Washington is tied with Dallas and New York but owns the tiebreaker over both teams. The Redskins host the Cowboys in Week 17.
"It definitely feels good," linebacker Perry Riley told the team's official website. "We're in first place, and it's ours to lose. We're not hoping somebody else has to lose; we control our own destiny. That's what we've been playing all year for, and to be here in this position with two games left, it's a good feeling."
Washington had dropped three straight against Philadelphia (4-10) before cruising to a 31-6 win Nov. 18 as Griffin completed 14 of 15 passes for 200 yards and a season high-tying four TDs.
Eagles running back LeSean McCoy was carted off with a concussion in the final two minutes of that game and went on to miss the next four contests, but will return Sunday. He'll start and rotate with rookie Bryce Brown.
Michael Vick (concussion) is also expected to be available following a five-game absence, but he'll be the No. 3 quarterback behind starter Nick Foles and Trent Edwards.
"I want to be out there, I want to play as a competitor, but it's just not the ideal situation right now, the way things are," said Vick, who went 3-6 as a starter before getting hurt. "So, I have to accept my role, accept it like a man and continue to find positives out of it."
After beating Tampa Bay 23-21 in Week 14 to snap an eight-game skid, Philadelphia saw its struggles resume last Thursday in a 34-13 loss to Cincinnati. The Eagles were limited to 42 rushing yards on 19 carries and matched a season high with five turnovers, losing four fumbles.
"I thought the effort was there and guys played hard," Reid said, "but you just can't have those turnovers. That's a problem."
It's unclear what kind of reaction Reid will get from the Philadelphia fans in this home finale with his Eagles tenure seemingly nearing its end. He has led the team to the playoffs nine times since taking over in 1999, but the franchise remains without a Super Bowl victory and it fell far short of lofty expectations the last two years.
The Eagles are at least hoping to finish up strong against a pair of division foes. Philadelphia concludes its season next week on the road against the Giants.
"A lot of people ask, 'What do you have left to play for?'," defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins told the Eagles' official website. "Playing against the Redskins and the Giants in the last two, there's plenty to play for there."
Washington will be without tackle Jordan Black, who received a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances - the team's sixth drug-related suspension in two seasons.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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