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Carpe Dre-am

Uttering the descriptor 'must win’ to describe an NFL game before the frost is even on the pumpkin just seems inherently wrong.

Nevertheless, Sunday’s game against the 1-4 Philadelphia Eagles is a 'must win’.

Sure…the Eagles, hapless to date despite a bevy full of hired gun talent, are desperate to save their season. The Iggles done gone Redskins on us, and so far it ain’t working out so well. The list of teams who’ve made the playoffs from their current basement-dwelling position is a scanty one, but turning an NFL season around from 1-5? Not going to happen. So 'must win’ it is.

But I’m not talking about Philadelphia.

It’s our Washington Redskins who must win this game.

No, I haven’t been hitting the chronic (did you have some?). I’m straight-faced, speak-the-truth-to-your-momma serious. The 2011 Washington Redskins are on what we like to call in these romantic parts 'a journey’ – not from Milan to Minsk – but from perennial mediocrity to something far more promising. The Redskins are Steve Austin, and Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen have made them better than before. Better. Stronger. Faster. They’ve replaced half the roster in less than a year, kept draft picks and traded down for still more, using them to boost talent at key positions.

But there are skeptics among my burgundy and gold brethren – and who can blame them? We’ve seen this strip-tease before, and it always ends with a bikini-clad beauty scampering off the stage well before the money shot. Bummer.

In fact, the Redskins have played this ruse on their fans several times in the past 7 seasons. Steve Spurrier’s Fun and Gunners went 3-1 (an OT loss shy of undefeated) to open the 2003 season. Old flappy lips would lead the Redskins to just 2 more wins all season long. Psyche! And more recently, Jim Zorn pulled the rug out from under hopeful Skins fans yet again, starting 4-1 in 2008 before surrendering to tradition and losing 6 of the last 8 games. Gosh golly!

When things look most promising, Redskins fans have been effectively conditioned to expect the worst. It’s a defense mechanism we’ve spent years perfecting. Like a childhood security blanket, we instinctively clutch cynicism to our breast.

Sunday, the Redskins have the opportunity to truly begin the journey to 'someplace better’, to welcome a hated and wounded rival onto the turf at Fed Ex Field, shake their hands, and then mercilessly defeat them.

Victorious and the Redskins are 4-1, and with Dallas on the road at juggernaut New England, and the Giants at home against the resurgent and dangerous Bills, the Redskins could well find themselves in control of the NFC East. Lose – and they fuel the skepticism and doubt earned over decades of systemic disappointment.

If these Redskins are a different team, there will be no better opportunity to emphatically declare it.

I’ve heard it all week long. The Eagles are desperate. Their season is 'on the line’. Chock full of talent and coaching genius, they 'must win’. Nonsense. They must not.

These Eagles are imposters, a 'Dream Team’ that wasn’t. Michael Vick is a dog-killer, but I’ll throw him a bone – he can run, and occasionally throw. But Sunday, he won’t be able to hide.

The recipe for a convincing Redskins win isn’t complicated:
Pound the ball.
Sustain drives.
Victimize the Eagles over the middle, stay away from their all-star cornerbacks, and throw no interceptions.
Make Vick the juicy filling in an Orakpo-Kerrigan sandwich.
Force turnovers.
Limit Le Sean McCoy to under 100 yards.

And do it in front of a raucous, deafening Fed Ex Field stadium full of true believers.

It hasn’t been easy being a Philly fan in 2011. Sunday, we’ll prove Kermit right.

It won’t be easy being green.

Sunday, the Redskins are going to win their 'must win’ game.
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