If the Redskins hadn't overslept last week, and failed to realize they were in an NFL game until it was too late, previewing today's tilt against the Philadelphia Eagles would have been a different exercise.
We would have been discussing two hot, 2-1 teams vying for undisputed hold over first place in the NFC East.
We would have been solemnly parsing the million-and-one angles surrounding the quarterback matchup between returning prodigal (if adopted) son Donovan McNabb and the dogged reincarnation-in-progress that is Michael Vick.
We might have spent time pondering the possible passing of the title of Unofficial Best Head Coach in the division from incumbent heavyweight Andy Reid to legendary old welterweight Mike Shanahan.
As it stands however, with the Redskins' suddenly staggering defense set to face the hottest quarterback since Alexander exploited the Persians' too-deep zone in the 4th Century B.C., the focus of today's game is far simpler.
All the other angles are still out there of course. But as far as the Redskins are concerned, today is—or at least should be—simply about proving that last week against the supposedly hapless Rams was an anomaly. That it was a single unfortunate pothole along the road back to respectability. That it was one of those simultaneous hiccup/burp/fart deals.
Don't laugh—we all have 'em.
Win or lose, Washington needs to come out swinging this afternoon and play a respectable NFL game, forcing the Eagles to beat them rather than giving another game away with self-inflicted wounds and mistakes.
If they do that, those of us who care so damn much about the burgundy and gold can go back to projecting a strong(er) finish to the 2010 season and bright(er) future. If they mail it in however, or look disinterested, disorganized or just plain bad...well...if you thought things were bad this week, next week Redskins Nation will all but self-immolate.
The Eagles are hot right now, playing at home, and have no reason to be anything other than confident. All things being equal, they probably should win.
The Redskins, on the other hand, regardless of any public expressions of confidence, have to be questioning themselves. The long offseason of steadily building karma and getting their collective feet under them took a serious hit the last five quarters of football.
The fourth quarter of the Texans game, which saw a 27-10 lead disappear as much due to their own folly as the Texans' resolve, was a body blow. Following that up the next week not with anger and intensity and professionalism but a relatively listless, sloppy performance against the Rams, could, if they don't snap back today, be a solid right cross to the jaw.
So what happens today? The Redskins tend to play the Eagles tough. Division opponents, no intimidation, no secrets. But if ever two division opponents have come into a game seemingly further apart in terms of confidence and momentum, the Redskins and Eagles look like those teams today.
I do think Mike Shanahan will have the Redskins ready to play. I think the gameplans he, son and offensive coordinator Kyle and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett have crafted on both sides of the ball will be sound.
And I do think the game will ultimately be decided in the final five minutes. If things break right, it will be right there for the taking for Washington.
The Redskins will play respectably, and rational observers will take solace that the transition to the new regime is back on course after last week's wrong turn.
But I'm not predicting a win. Heart yes, mind no.
Eagles 24, Redskins 19
Season Prediction Record: 1-2
I'm generally not a big self-promoter (no really), but please consider swinging by TBD before, during and/or after the game to check out the LIVE CHAT I will be participating in today along with a star-studded crowd of other assorted Redskins blognuts.
A good time will be had by all. Promise.
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