Nasty little word.
Brings to mind items rotted or ruined or some ugly attachment to a purple Pontiac GTO.
Spoilers. Defined by Dictionary.com as "a team out of final contention that defeats a potential or favored contender and thereby thwarts its chances of winning a championship."
Spoilers. Well, it sounds better than thwarters.
It's a role the Redskins find themselves in, like it or not, accept it or not, as they complete the season on Sunday against the New York Giants. At 6-9, the Redskins long ago fell from playoff contention. At 9-6, the Giants can still qualify for the postseason if they defeat the Redskins and the Chicago Bears knock off the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.
The Giants need to win to continue on, if the Bears cooperate. The Redskins? A victory provides some solace and cheer but won't extend the season.
Not every player buys the spoiler idea or embraces it. Some do so gleefully as they anticipate this meeting with the Giants, losers of their last two.
"Misery loves company," wide receiver Anthony Armstrong said. "If I don't get to go to the playoffs, then you don't get to go either. So I'm going to do my best to make sure they get to stay home."
This is the game within the game. Players seek a little extra motivation. Armstrong found his here.
"Playing spoiler makes it even much more fun. We don't have too much to play for right now other than pride and just putting together a good ballgame and having our rival start the new year off bad," he said. "I'm not getting a playoff check. Why should they?"
Armstrong, a first-year player, took the opposite tack of his compatriot, Santana Moss. Armstrong is new to the NFL, Moss a 10-year veteran with his fourth 1,000-yard season about to be behind him. Six years with the Redskins, two playoff berths, the last in 2007. The spoiler concept means little to him.
"Some guys in here might have different reasons why they play the game. My whole purpose is to go out there and win, regardless," he said. "We didn't have anything to play for for awhile now and the only thing we can play for is knowing that we want to win games. You play to win. If you don't play to win, you're playing for nothing."
Linebacker London Fletcher just wants the W. Should that put a little hurt on the Giants, so be it.
"Our goal is to win a football game. If it spoils their season, that's what happens. Our mentality is to win a football game. That's the only thing we're focused on," Fletcher said.
Quarterback Rex Grossman took the balanced approach. Maybe beating the Giants would spoil their season but why make this about them?
"I think all the motivation we have on this team is to just go get a victory and beat an NFC East team and finish this season on a high note," he said. "We're playing for a lot of pride ourselves. We're not too worried about what goes on for the Giants after this game. We would love to just end this season on a positive note and establish an identity for this offense and defense and get ready for the off-season, whatever happens."
QUOTABLE: "I'm caught a little in-between. If you say it doesn't matter to you, that's a lie because you do care about these guys and some goals that they have but at the same time, that's not the focus. The focus is winning the game." – Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey. Bills running back Fred Jackson needs 108 rushing yards in the season finale against the New York Jets to secure his second consecutive 1,000-yard season. ... "I would say that I don't make the rules, so that's how it is. It doesn't matter what the record is. We're just trying to get our foot in the door." – Seattle Seahawks cornerback Marcus Trufant. The Seahawks (6-9) host the St. Louis Rams (7-8) on Sunday night, with the victor claiming the NFC West title amid widespread beefing about .500 or sub-.500 teams earning playoff berths. ... "I keep my spoon in my soup." – San Francisco 49ers interim coach Jim Tomsula. Formerly the defensive line coach, he chose not to answer questions about the team's offensive struggles. ... "I hope he is locked on me. I hope they match him up against me." – Giants receiver Mario Manningham, talking about Redskins Pro Bowl cornerback DeAngelo Hall.
AROUND THE NFL: After 16 weeks (and 15 games), the Philadelphia Eagles have taken home the NFC Offensive Player of the Week award five times. Quarterback Kevin Kolb was the first to win it. Then his replacement, Michael Vick, snared it three times (twice in a row) and DeSean Jackson won it once. Two Redskins won Defensive Player of the Week – safety LaRon Landry and Hall. Kicker Graham Gano was this week's NFC Special Teams Player of the Week, the first Redskins kicker so honored since Shaun Suisham in 2007. ... Hard to believe the scoring discrepancy between these two rivals but the Miami Dolphins take their total of 25 touchdowns to Foxborough, Mass., and play the New England Patriots, who have scored a league-high 60. The Patriots could break the NFL record for fewest turnovers in a season. That mark is 13 and they've got only nine. ... NFC East teams rank poorly in pass defense. The Giants are the best of the lot at eighth, followed by the Philadelphia Eagles (16th), Dallas Cowboys (27th) and Redskins (31st). ... How does a team know it is really and truly bad? Its opponents never need to try to convert fourth downs. The Carolina Panthers (2-13) have seen only seven fourth-down attempts against them this season, with four conversions. The San Diego Chargers, by contrast, faced 25 fourth-down tries and stopped 14. ... Injuries to the Indianapolis Colts' receivers and backs have been well-documented but here's what that has caused. Peyton Manning has thrown 638 passes and put them in the hands of 15 different people. The Colts throw on about 65 percent of their offensive plays. ... The Jets lost three of their last four games and somehow clinched a playoff berth while falling on their faces. They've suffered the agony of de-feet.
Larry Weisman, an award-winning journalist during 25 years with USA TODAY, writes for Redskins.com and appears nightly on Redskins Nation on Comcast SportsNet. Read his Redskinsblitz blog at Redskinsrule.com and follow him on Twitter.com/LarryWeisman.