The hill the 2013 Washington Redskins are walking up is gettin’ good and steep.
Staring a cellar-dwelling 3-6 record in the face, the vast majority of Redskins fans have, along with their short-sleeved shirts and tank tops, packed up hope and optimism for the season. Whether or not the Redskins themselves have packed it in remains to be seen. It’s not 2012. This year’s rendition of the burgundy and gold doesn’t at a glance appear to have the requisite resiliency and opportunism to overcome the gauntlet of challenges they face and reach last season’s heights. Or so says conventional wisdom and most rational Redskins fans anyway.
Still, hope springs eternal in the heart of a true Redskins fan. After all, the more homeristic among us argue, weren’t we wallowing in the same nihilistic doom and gloom prognostications just a season ago? Weren’t the 2012 Redskins just as miserably mired in mediocrity? Weren’t playoff hopes, let alone an NFC East championship, laughably out of reach this time last year? And yet, didn’t we see with our own eyes, the hapless, hopeless, and harmless 2012 Redskins win out and seize the division crown in improbably glorious fashion?
Could it happen again? Just how steep is the climb ahead? Are the 2013 Redskins capable of more awe-inspiring magic?
Last season, following a much needed bye week, the Redskins legendary 7 game run began at home against Philadelphia. The Redskins dominated the Eagles on that November Sunday, with RG3 throwing 4 touchdown passes to 4 different targets (Young, Robinson, Moss, and Paulsen) and Kai Forbath adding a field goal to cap off a 31-6 thrashing. The Redskins forced the Nick Foles-lead Eagles offense to play catch up all afternoon to the tune of 46 passing attempts. Sacking Foles 4 times, intercepting him twice, allowing only 21 completions, and forcing 4 fumbles, the Redskins defense wrought havoc throughout. The huge week 11 win in 2012 was just the beginning as the never-say-die Redskins reeled off 6 more consecutive wins (5 division wins, and victories over the eventual Super Bowl champion Ravens, and the Browns).
If the 2013 Redskins are to rise Phoenix-like from the ashes, the climb from irrelevancy must again start with a win over Philadelphia, although this time on the road in the City of Not-So-Brotherly Love. The Eagles come into the game with the #1 rushing attack and league-leading rusher LeSean McCoy, himself averaging nearly 100 yards/game. The Redskins come into Philadelphia almost as effective on the ground, currently ranked 3rd in the league in rushing yards/game. In week 1, the Eagles and coaching wunderkind Chip Kelly ambushed and annihilated the Redskins with a powerful, fast-paced attack. Michael Vick moved the ball at will that day and the Redskins were never able to recover. The good news? The Redskins won’t have to face Vick next weekend, with Nick Foles back under center for the Eagles. The bad news? Foles has played like a quarterback possessed of late. Foles may seem uniquely ill-suited for Chip Kelly’s high octane offense, but he’s somehow thriving in it. The Redskins have some offensive mojo going themselves – 4th in the league in 3rd down conversions, possessing a powerful running game, and with a steadily improving Robert Griffin looking more like the old RG3 every Sunday – the Skins are no slouches on offense. This game will be decided by defense and special teams. That may not bode well for our Redskins. The wildcard in this one? The revenge factor. The Eagles dominated and embarrassed Washington at home in the season opener. The Redskins have to have had this game circled on their calendar, hoping to return the favor, since then. If ever there was a pride game looming, this one is it.
Incredibly, stupefyingly, astoundingly, with a win embattled Mike Shanahan and his 4-6 Redskins would be right back in the thick of things in the NFC East. With 3 of their final 6 games against division opponents (including both games against the Giants, the only team that’s performed worse than the Redskins in 2013), the Redskins could still make some hay in the division. Logic would say that the Redskins would almost certainly have to win out to capture the NFC East again. But there’s been nothing logical about the NFC East this year. The Eagles are Jekyll and Hyde, Dallas can’t stop vomiting on itself long enough to embrace winning, and the Giants have improved from horribly awful to only being moderately awful. Outside the division, the Redskins will face an up and down 49er’s team and the juggernaut Chiefs in the friendly confines of Fed Ex Field, while the road game against the Falcons is nowhere near as daunting as we’d have predicted prior to season’s start.
I know, I know…
There’s nothing, not a single piece of evidence, not a single rational argument to support the belief that the 2013 Washington Redskins can turn this season around and prevail again. Angst? Turmoil? Misery? Doubt? Redskins fans eat them for breakfast. The 'promise’ of the 2013 season feels long broken.
Let’s face it, the hill this year has gotten good and steep.
And it won’t surprise me one bit if the Redskins, mired in the muck and morass of a crushingly disappointing 2013 season, defy all logic and climb to the top of that NFC East hill once again.