It has been four years since the Redskins played a truly meaningful game in December. That finally changes Monday night at FedEx Field against the NFC East-leading New York Giants.

But with such anticipated games come great expectations. After 11 games of the 2012 season, players are hurt. Pain, something they must manage throughout the year, is an everyday fact of life now. But with the postseason a realistic possibility this late in the season for the first time since 2008, there is no option but to play through it.

Washington left tackle Trent Williams has taken his game to a new level this season and put himself in contention for a Pro Bowl spot. But Williams suffered a deep thigh bruise during the Thanksgiving Day game at Dallas. He will play against New York -- but it won't be easy.

» Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said Robert Griffin III's 68-yard touchdown pass to receiver Aldrick Robinson vs. Dallas was his best throw of the season. "Just because he threw it with so much anticipation," Shanahan said. "He took one hitch, and he let it go 60 yards down the field, and when you do that in rhythm like that -- guys are scared to overthrow people, so they usually pull the strings, and then it's underthrown and it ends up looking like a punt return and everybody's jumping for it. But he let it go, and I think he was a little nervous he overthrew it, but when he's got a guy who can run like Aldrick -- it was the perfect throw. He hit him right in stride, and that's why you get a walk-in touchdown."
» Giants receiver Victor Cruz was complimentary toward the Redskins with the New York media Wednesday, but he did say they were a couple pieces away from being a contender. Considering the Redskins are 5-6 and had won 11 games the previous two years, it's tough to disagree. "In this league you've got to prove it. We haven't proved it," Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. "Even though we beat them two out of the last three times ... we haven't matched up well against other teams in this league. I can't argue with him right now. They won the last one, and they got two Super Bowl rings over the last four years. We'll see what he says after the game."
» Linebacker Bryan Kehl, claimed off waivers Wednesday, said he worked with all the starting special teams units except punt return Thursday. The Redskins cut Kehl after the final preseason game. Kehl played three games with Kansas City but was released this week. "That's one of the biggest reliefs is not having to learn another defense," Kehl said. "Being out there [Thursday] it was just clicking. Other than the stuff they added since I moved on, it's all in there."

"It's just hard. Because when your body feels pain, you automatically want to shut down, and it's not an easy thing to play through," Williams said. "Especially when you're playing against people who get paid millions to beat you and when you're less than 100 percent it makes it that much harder. I just feel like for me to be a huge asset to this team I have to play hurt and I have to be able to finish games."

That's a mentality that filters over from the defensive side of the ball, where linebacker London Fletcher has played in 235 consecutive games but left two this month with nagging injuries -- a hamstring strain combined with balance issues and later a serious ankle injury.

"See, I can't even touch London," Williams said. "He started every game for what, 15 years? That's unbelievable."

That's something wide receiver Pierre Garcon, the team's top free agent pickup during the offseason, also has been fighting all season. He tore the plantar plate in his right foot on a touchdown pass in the season opener against New Orleans. He took a few weeks off, returned in late September and then had a setback.

More rest helped, and Garcon had seven receptions and a touchdown in games against Philadelphia and Dallas upon his second attempted return. But the pain lingers, and Garcon has decided to deal with it the best he can. Even at less than his best, he poses problems for the opposition and gives the Redskins' offense a balance it needs. At this time of year, there is no reason to give in to the pain. The stakes are too high.

"You never know because [Garcon is] not 100 percent healthy," offensive coordinator Kyle Shan?ahan said. "But when he does feel good -- you guys can see it. I think everyone can see it. He's a big-time player, and that's what we hope to get. When he's not fully going, I still think him out there helps us."