"I think guys just have to make a decision right now," said Joyner. ''Either you want to play or you're going to lay down and that's going to be the end of the season. If we drop another game, I just think the confidence level and the attitude is just going to be so damaged that there really is not going to be much left to play for. We'll be completely out of the playoff picture and a lot of guys are just going to go south."
Walker said it's gut-check time.
"This game is very important," said Walker, who leads the Eagles in rushing with 106 carries for 474 yards and receiving with 36 catches for 257 yards. "It's been important every week, but this game is more important,
because it's the only game we've got right now facing us. We've got to get out of what we're doing. The thing that is killing us is we're making too many mental mistakes and as a professional ball club, you don't want to make mental mistakes. You should be over that."
At 4-6, the Eagles will face another team that has been ravaged by injuries and a lack of punch on offense. Washington has failed to score a touchdown in two games. Rich Gannon will take Mark Rypien's place for another week at quarterback. The Washington front office is already planning for 1994.
Sounds a lot like the Eagles. And who would have thought that these two perennial playoff contenders would be playing each other for pride instead of the postseason on the last Sunday in November?
"I don't think I would ever have believed it," said Joyner, who leads the Eagles in tackles with 82, including a team-high 59 solo tackles. "Our situation is really similar to theirs, to see that team at 2-8 after all the years that they've been right there in the playoff hunt every season. Injury problems or coaching problems or whatever it is, it's just unbelievable."
After opening the season with a win over the Cowboys, Washington has lost eight of its last nine. The Eagles have lost six in a row. Both teams are desperate for a win. But Joyner believes that the Eagles have more incentive - and more to prove.
"All the games are important when you lose six in a row," said Joyner, ''but I think that this one right here is going to be the telltale game of whether we're going to really start playing and try to finish the season out on a good note or guys are just going to lay down and wait until next year."
Eagles coach Rich Kotite has taken control of the offense from his handpicked offensive coordinator, Zeke Bratkowski. And he has anointed Bubby Brister the starting quarterback.
Ken O'Brien was pulled in the first half last week after the offense sputtered for the fourth straight game. Brister - who is 40 for 73 for 426 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions - has not been much better. But he has spark and did lead the comeback against the Jets after Randall Cunningham was injured on Oct. 3.
Brister said he is not giving up on the season, and he does not expect anyone around him to, either.
"We have a long ways to go," said Brister. "We have six games left and everybody is writing us off and down on us. I think it's a little premature to do that right now."
NOTES. Defensive tackle Gerald Nichols, cut by the Eagles last week, signed with the Redskins on Tuesday. . . . Through 10 regular-season games in 1993, 18 Eagles have missed a total of 89 games. In addition, 12 starters have missed a combined 48 starts. This week Wes Hopkins (finger), Derrick Oden (hamstring), Heath Sherman (finger) and Ben Smith (back) are listed as questionable. Mike Schad (knee) and Broderick Thompson (calf) are listed as doubtful.