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I’m going to say something that is entirely illogical and counter-intuitive.

Sunday’s road clash against the St. Louis Rams is a crucial game for the Washington Redskins.

Crucial, you say? Are you kidding? It’s Week 2 of the NFL season – there’s no such thing as a 'crucial’ game this early in the season. And what might an early road win against St. Louis really mean anyway, given just how hapless, hopeless, and just plain bad these Rams have been? We’re talking about a St. Louis team that’s gone 15-65 over the previous 5 seasons, eeking out a 2-14 record in 2011. In their 2012 home opener, the Rams will be trying desperately to avoid their 9th straight regular season loss. This is a game even a still-rebuilding Redskins team should win.

But Redskins fans are already busy making mental preparations for the alternative. Like Pavlov’s dog, we’ve been conditioned to expect that bell to ring, and see our Redskins underperform and lose just when the rational part of our mind tells us they should be turning the corner. We’ve got a ready-made list of excuses that rise with ease to our lips:

RG3 is our future, but he’s still a rookie quarterback who’s going to make rookie mistakes.
We don’t have an offensive line.
Our secondary sucks.
It’s Jim Haslett’s fault. Unless it’s Danny Smith’s fault.
Cundiff sucks – Gano would’ve made that kick.

You know what I mean. If we lose tomorrow, we’ll generally chalk it up to 'business as usual’ for a team that occasionally shows promise but still isn’t ready for prime time.

But that’s why the Redskins really need to win tomorrow against an inferior Rams team. At some point, if you’re ever, ever going to be relevant again, you have to shed your inner demons and start winning the games you should win again. And for the Washington Redskins, this is the season to start doing that. The harsh reality is, in today’s NFL, there just aren’t many patsies out there. 'Easy’ wins are hard to come by. Just look at the worst teams the Redskins have played over the past couple of seasons, teams like the Panthers, Dolphins, Vikings, Rams, and Bucs. More often than not – these are out-of-division teams we’ve lost to. With general parity across the league, and steadily tougher competition in the NFC East, beating weaker teams you should beat isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.

Many Redskins fans have staked their position and set a lower bar for these 2012 Redskins. We’re rebuilding, and anything close to a .500 record this year equals progress. Coming off a brutal 5-11 record last year, it’s hard to argue the point. But it’s also true that any Redskins fan with a pulse watching last weekend’s impressive performance, no matter how hard they tried not to, had a tiny whisper of a thought creep into their consciousness…

'What if….?’

What if the Redskins are that team this year? What if they are the team that, inexplicably and shockingly, moves to the next level? Sea changes don’t happen often, but they eventually happen for every franchise. It wasn’t long ago that San Francisco was just awful. Then suddenly, they weren’t. Ditto Detroit. Every year, some NFL team redefines the landscape and pecking order of their division. Is it likely that this year’s Redskins team is that kind of team and that this season will be that moment for them?

Whether or not 'the time is now’ or John Madden’s RG3-related gushings represent truth or a couple too many Miller Lites, anyone who watched last week’s surprising Redskins win over a supposedly superior Saints team came away with one conclusion.

This Redskins team is different.

Whether it’s Shanahan and Allen magic finally taking hold in year 3, the impact of a youth movement nearly across the board, or RG3's tide lifting all boats, there’s something happening in DC.

That’s why Sunday’s game, against a bad St. Louis team in Week 2, matters. It’s a chance to reinforce the notion that there’s not just a new sheriff in town, but a new tradition building in DC.

And they call it 'winning’.
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