Rivera: Heinicke to start out for Washington if Smith cannot

© Reuters. NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Washington Football Team

Washington Football Team coach Ron Rivera expressed optimism that quarterback Alex Smith will be under center next week against the Eagles in Philadelphia in a game that will decide the NFC East champion.

However if Smith misses his third straight game with a right calf injury, Rivera said Monday that he’d turn to Taylor Heinicke with the season on the line.

“I thought (Smith) had an exceptional day on Friday, but it’s always about how that person feels the next day and he felt it was still grabbing him a little bit,” Rivera said, via The Washington Post. “This week, I’m optimistic about the opportunity.”

Smith, 36, is 4-1 since taking over as the starter in Week 10. After missing all of 2019 recovering from a leg injury and a life-threatening infection, he has completed 66.4 percent of his passes for 1,420 yards with four touchdowns and six picks in seven appearances this season.

On Sunday, Heinicke replaced an ineffective Dwayne Haskins in the fourth quarter and completed 12 of 19 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown in a 20-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

“I thought there are a lot of positives to (Heinicke’s play),” Rivera said. “I think he showed what I was hoping to see when he got his opportunity, that it wasn’t too big.”

Washington (6-9) can win the NFC East by beating Philadelphia.

Dallas (6-9) would need to defeat the New York Giants and have the Eagles emerge victorious to advance.

If both Washington and Dallas lose, they will be tied with the Giants at 6-10. In that case, the Giants would win the NFC East because of tiebreakers.

–Field Level Media

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