The Washington Redskins know they will probably need to post a winning streak at some point if they are to capture the mediocre NFC East.
Not only must the Buffalo Bills post their first three-game win streak to close the season to make the playoffs, they'll also need plenty of help.
The Redskins seek to win consecutive games for the first time when they meet Buffalo in their home finale in Sunday's matchup of 6-7 teams with differing moods.
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Washington notched its first road win, 24-21 over Chicago last Sunday, and is tied for first with Philadelphia and New York.
“We have yet to put back-to-back wins together this year and I think that'll be a focal point – how we rebound from a victory,'' said coach Jay Gruden, whose team is 5-2 at home. ''I've said that before six times, and it hasn't worked out very well.''
The Bills are close to elimination after last Sunday's 23-20 road loss to the Eagles.
“The given thing for us is we know we have to win all three for us to have any chance, a snowball's chance, a snowflake's chance, whatever you want,” coach Rex Ryan said.
Ryan has come under fire for a defense that has produced 19 sacks for the league's third-lowest total after the unit led the NFL with 54 last year when he was with the Jets.
“Literally I can count, this will be my first (time) that I've ever been considered maybe the weakness of the team the way I coach defense,” Ryan said. “But we haven't been up to what we anticipated, any of us, fan base, myself, players, everybody.”
The Redskins' Kirk Cousins has a 111.5 passer rating at home, where he has thrown 11 touchdowns with no interceptions in his last six games. That's in contrast to his figures of six TDs and nine picks on the road.
He isn't buying the idea that the Bills' defense is a liability.
“From a defensive standpoint, great pass rushers and also very good stopping the run,” Cousins said. “A talented secondary, very athletic, a lot of guys who are very fast, and obviously the scheme itself can be very complex.”
DeSean Jackson, whose streak of three straight games with a touchdown catch ended last weekend, missed practice Wednesday with a bruised kneecap although the Redskins expect him to play.
The Bills' secondary is depleted since cornerback Stephon Gilmore has been placed on injured reserve due to a dislocated shoulder.
Cousins may be wary of the other starting cornerback, Ronald Darby, a rookie who grew up in nearby Oxon Hill, Maryland.
“(I'm) excited to go to Washington this week and play in front of a lot of family and friends,” said Darby, who is tied for the NFL lead with 21 passes defensed.
Cousins will target Jordan Reed, who is seventh among tight ends with 694 receiving yards after he had a season-high 120 with a touchdown on nine catches last week.
The Bills' Tyrod Taylor is fifth in the NFL with a 100.9 passer rating and was picked off for the first time in seven games last Sunday. The issue is that he hasn't been able to guide Buffalo to a fourth-quarter touchdown in each of its last three defeats that have come by a combined 18 points.
''You'll never be considered a great quarterback until you bring your team back and win in those situations,'' Ryan said. ''So yeah, I would say that's the next stage.''
LeSean McCoy is 134 rushing yards shy of 1,000, and is averaging 97.2 in five career starts at Washington.
Sammy Watkins has 348 yards receiving with four TDs over the last three games. He and the Bills are aware that they need to cut down on their 124 penalties – the league's second-highest total.
“We know we need to stop the penalties as a whole group and we need to start making that note and stop having penalties that hurt us later in the game,” Watkins said.
The Bills have won all six meetings with the Redskins since falling 37-24 in Super Bowl XXVI.