Washington Redskins' playoff hopes all on Kirk Cousins

  • By Gregg Rosenthal
  • Around The League editor
  • Updated: Dec. 15, 2012 at 11:33 p.m.

Kirk Cousins, a fourth-round rookie quarterback, holds the playoff hopes of the Washington Redskins in his hands.

Cousins will start Sunday in Cleveland, with doctors deciding that Robert Griffin III wasn't medically ready to start. The news raises a lot of questions.

Will Griffin be available to back up Cousins?

The Redskins are keeping that a secret for now. Griffin was able to practice on a limited basis all week, but clearly isn't ready to start. It defies logic to think they will make him the No. 2 if he's not healthy enough to start. Rex Grossman figures to get the call as the backup.

Can the Redskins win with Cousins?

Cousins tried to deflect credit for his two completions and two-point conversion in last week's overtime win. But that poise was indicative of how Cousins has looked since being drafted.

Cousins played very well overall in the preseason, showing accuracy and quick decision making. He impressed coaches throughout training camp. He made a few mistakes in a regular season relief appearance against the Falcons, but also made a couple big throws. He's not afraid.

Washington can absolutely win with Cousins, although it's obviously going to be tougher. Remember: Cleveland is starting a rookie quarterback too.

How good are these Browns?

They are 5-3 since an 0-5 start, including three straight wins. They have home wins over Cincinnati, San Diego, and Pittsburgh. They outplayed the Cowboys in Dallas before blowing a late lead. Defensive coordinator Dick Jauron has his defense playing well, and rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden has showed steady progress.

This was not an automatic win for Washington even if RG3 was healthy. Now we'd give the slight edge to the Browns.

Could Washington survive a loss and still make the playoffs?

It's not as big a long shot as you'd think. A 9-7 team may very well win the NFC East or get the last wild card, and a non-conference loss wouldn't be a killer for Washington. The Redskins are 3-1 in the NFC East and 6-4 in the NFC. That would help immensely with tiebreakers if Washington won its last two games against the Philadelphia Eagles and Cowboys.

Once 3-6, the Redskins did an incredible job to get in this position. It would be a shame if Griffin's injury derails their run, but there is a lot of confidence within the Redskins organization that Cousins can get the job done.