It goes without saying that the Redskins loss against Carolina last Sunday was easily their worst loss of this 2011 season. Not only was it their first loss by double-digit points (their previous biggest margin of defeat was seven points, courtesy of Philadelphia the week before), but they trailed by double-digit points for the entire fourth quarter to a team with a quarterback making his sixth NFL start, and had one a grand total of one game all season.
Now, the Redskins are sitting at 3-3, having dropped three of their last four games overall, with the one win coming against one of the three worst teams in the NFL. Those 3-1 NFC East-leading Redskins are nothing more than a quickly-fading memory, so lets not talk about them anymore. That team was just there to give us just enough false hope, like the way-out-of-his-league hot girl at the bar who talks to the guy with no game for just enough time until the drink he bought her arrives, and she promptly disappears.
Over a third of the way through the NFL season, it’s time the face the facts. Dallas is better than us, even if they’re tied with us in the division standings. Philadelphia is better than us, despite what their record says; that should’ve been painfully apparent if you watched the couple of weeks ago. You could easily make the argument that the Giants are better than us, because that’s exactly what their NFC East-leading 4-2 record says (they’re 4-1 since the Redskins beat them opening week).
And the Redskins? We’re now playing without our opening day quarterback, top wide receiver, starting running back, and first team tight end. We’re playing with second string guys at 60% of the positions on the offensive line (if you count Will Montgomery as a backup guard). We spent a majority of this week signing guys off the street to fill roster spots of key players that keep dropping like flies hitting one of those backyard bug zappers.
Yes, it would be a bit dramatic to say “the season is over” when you’re not even at the midway point yet, except for when you take into account our continually growing injury list, our overall lack of blue-chip talent to begin with, and our remaining brutal schedule. In six of our last seven games, we play all three NFC East rivals remaining (two of those games are on the road), New England (i’m already fearing how ugly this could get), the New York Jets (always plays better in the 2nd half of the season), and Minnesota (we’re now 0-7 against teams starting rookie quarterbacks, and Adrian Peterson is one bad mother-shut-yo’-mouth).
So let’s see what this team really has left in the tank; Sunday’s game will be a great barometer for that. After Grossman’s benching, we had a slate of four games which you could really argue the outcome for either way, before we began the aforementioned brutal stretch run of 2011. As mention, we got bitch-slapped last week, so that’s one down.
Now, we head north of the border, to take on the Buffalo Bills in Toronto. The Bills are like a Canadian pseudo-cousin of ours (Buffalo might as well be in Canada, it’s basically to Toronto what Barstow is to Las Vegas: a place on the way to stop off to eat something and use the bathroom). Like us, since their glory days of the early 90’s, they’ve been a revolving door of coaches, coordinators, missed high draft picks, and seasons filled with promising starts and disastrous finishes.
Except now, they’ve put together a scrappy, over-achieving, and highly-likeable squad that’s not afraid to play with anyone (like what we thought the Redskins had in late September). They gave the New England Patriots everything they could handle, and then some, including the Patriots only loss of the season. They absolutely took it to the Eagles, pounding Michael Vick and forcing Philadelphia into six turnovers. And even their two losses – against Cincinnati and the Giants – were classic “hangover” games after two huge wins (Philadelphia and New England), and were just as much of them beating themselves as it was the other team really defeating them.
Their quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, came out of that mighty football factory known as Harvard. He’s smart (duh), accurate, and gets the ball out in a hurry, one of the reasons that the Bills have allowed the least sacks in the NFL despite having one of the least talented offensive lines in the league.
Their running back, Fred Jackson, is the best running back that almost nobody, outside of fantasy football circles, had heard of prior to this season. He has the second highest yards rushing per game average in the NFL (over 100), the second highest yards per carry average among all NFL running backs (5.7), second most runs of 20 or more yards (eight), third most rushing touchdowns (six, which is more than all the Redskins running backs combined).
Steve Johnson, their top receiver, essentially came out of nowhere (12 career receptions prior to this thousand yard campaign in 2010), and has turned into their consistently dangerous big play threat. And that’s not even mentioning how Buffalo loves to use four or five receivers on offense, using guys like Jackson (tied 5th in the NFL for most receptions by a running back), CJ Spiller (the 9th overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft, whom they’re trying to convert to receiver) and tight end Scott Chandler (tied for 4th in the NFL for most touchdown receptions by a tight end) in pass routes.
The NFL season is like a microcosm of the seasons during the calendar year. The team you have in September is often different than the team you see in October & November, or the team you see after Thanksgiving and into December. Like going from the warmth of Summer to the chill of Fall, so too have the presumed hopes and fortunes of this Redskins team seem to have turned.
But on Sunday, we find out for sure about what this team still has moving forward, given everything its already lost.