LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins still are under 500.
They still have not won consecutive games in more than a year.
And yet they head into Sunday’s game against the visiting Buffalo Bills still in first place in the NFC East.
“If that had been said to us in August — that we’d have a chance in December to play for a division title — we would have taken it, whether we were 6-7 or much better than that,” Cousins said.
“It’s unfortunate that we haven’t been able to win two games in a row, and part of the reason why we’re 6-7 and not better than that is because we haven’t been able to consistently win,” the quarterback added. “I’ll be the first one to tell you that that’s got to change.”
The Bills are also 6-7, yet have a much tinier chance of making the playoffs. Indeed, Buffalo could be eliminated this weekend, which would extend its playoff drought to 16 seasons, the longest active rut in the NFL.
“We got a pulse. We may be barely breathing, but we got one. That is why you never concede anything,” Buffalo coach Rex Ryan said. “The given thing for us is we have to win all three for us to have any chance — snowball’s chance, snowflake’s chance, whatever you want.”
Despite only one road victory, last week at Chicago, and despite alternating wins and losses the past eight weeks, the Redskins enter Week 15 in control of their division.
To put things in context, keep in mind that Washington finished last in six of the past seven seasons.
“In the morning, you’re excited to get up. When that alarm clock goes off, you’re ready. A lot of times you don’t need the alarm clock,” coach Jay Gruden said. “You’re anxious to get in here, get your plan together and get to coaching, because winning the NFC East doesn’t happen all the time, man. It’s a great honor and a great privilege and we’ve got that opportunity this year.”
Here are other things to know about Sunday’s game:
PLENTY OF PENALTIES: Buffalo had 15 penalties in last week’s loss to Philadelphia; its total of 124 this season trails only Tampa Bay’s NFL-worst 125. “Penalties aren’t coaching. … There’s a lot of factors in penalties,” guard Richie Incognito said. “There’s sloppy technique. Sometimes it’s selfish. Sometimes it’s times you just have holding calls and stuff like that. And sometimes it’s, honestly, how the zebras are feeling that day, if they’re letting you play or if they’re calling it tight.”
LACK OF SACKS: Neither team sacks opposing QBs often — the Bills rank 30th with 19; the Redskins are tied for 27th with 24. “We haven’t been the dominant unit that any of us anticipated,” Ryan said. Last season, the Bills had 54 sacks, better than three per game; this season, they haven’t had more than two in any. “We just don’t want to be that team where they get the outbreak and get five or six sacks,” Redskins left tackle Trent Williams said. “Because they’re well capable of doing it.”
RAMBO’S RETURN: Bills safety Bacarri Rambo was cut after two games last season by the Redskins, who drafted him in 2013, made him a starter right away, then soon benched him. He started six games this season for Buffalo. “Being released — it just made me go harder,” Rambo said. “It made me just prepare and take the game a lot more serious.”
RUNNING THE BALL: The Bills are third in the NFL in rushing offense, averaging more than 140 yards. The Redskins have trouble stopping the run, giving up more than 120 yards per game; only eight teams are worse. LeSean McCoy is Buffalo’s top running back, but QB Tyrod Taylor is a serious running threat, too. “The challenge it to make sure when we pass rush, not to have any open lanes just for him to run through. Keep him contained,” Washington cornerback Will Blackmon said. “And for us in coverage just to truly plaster our guys and wait until the ball hits the ground.”
WATCH REED: TE Jordan Reed leads the Redskins in catches, yards receiving and TDs; he’s second among NFL tight ends in catches. Last week, he had nine receptions for 120 yards and a TD. “Without Jordan,” Williams said, “we don’t win a few of those games.”
AP Sports Writer John Wawrow in Orchard Park, N.Y., contributed to this report.