- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 25, 2000

The Washington Redskins reach midseason with fans thinking of the postseason not that fans haven't been thinking playoffs since the preseason. At least now, after five straight wins, it would be an act of treason to say the Redskins won't make the playoffs.

Things get a little giddy when there's a five-game winning streak through the toughest part of the schedule. With the team 6-2, Redskins fans are already counting the wins and wondering whether there will be enough to earn a first-round bye in the playoffs.

The Monday Morning Quarterback makes a Wednesday showing with a midseason review and grades.

Q: OK, let's hear the number of wins. Can they run the table for 14? 13 … 12 … 11?

A: Yeah, yeah, keep counting until you have blastoff. No way the Redskins close the season with a 13-game winning streak. You must have been in the apple cider again. However, the Redskins have a reasonable shot at 12-4. The schedule is still tough with Monday nighters against Tennessee and St. Louis plus usual NFC East rivals Philadelphia, New York Giants and Dallas and a road trip to Pittsburgh for the final game at Three Rivers Stadium that will bring tears to Steel Curtain faithful.

Q: OK, let's say we settle for 12-4. How will it break down weekly, and what does it mean for playoff home-field advantage?

A: Washington will beat Tennessee on Monday for its third straight AFC Central victory. No truth to reports the Redskins would then be named AFC Central champion and receive an alternate playoff seed. Washington then wins at Arizona, loses at St. Louis, beats Philadelphia and New York, falls at Dallas and beats Pittsburgh and Arizona again.

Q: Aaah. You're picking Washington to lose to Dallas again and to St. Louis?

A: The preseason prediction of a Dallas sweep still holds. After all, the Cowboys already did the hardest part, winning on the road. With six straight wins, they just have some hex over the Redskins. The Rams game will be a shootout, but St. Louis has the big edge playing inside the dome that is the NFL's loudest venue.

Q: Will 12-4 earn a first-round bye or just be another stinkin' first-round game?

A: Stinkin'? Getting a little spoiled after one year back in the playoffs, huh? Unfortunately, 12-4 would probably still mean a first-round game because Minnesota is obviously drinking some water-enhancement formula from their polar ice caps. And St. Louis won't lose four games because, no matter how bad its defense gets, the Rams schedule continues to get easier.

Q: But what if the Redskins beat the Rams? Would that make the difference?

A: Bingo you're catching on now. The two meet Nov. 20, and Rams quarterback Kurt Warner still may be out with a broken finger. Not that former Redskins quarterback Trent Green can't move that offense, too, but this game will be decided by the defenses. The Redskins will have a tougher time staying with the Rams on artificial turf, where the hosts have a game built for speed. Washington's defense is good, but St. Louis will still score 28 points or more. However, the Redskins offense might muster about the same against the Rams defense. It should be a close game that keeps you up late waiting for the outcome and a good joke by Dennis Miller. The winner gets the first-round bye should each win its division with the same record.

Q: But didn't you say that about beating Tampa Bay? They faded like gray in the October sky.

A: That really turned out to be a less-meaningful win because Tampa Bay will be lucky to get a wild card, much less the division title. Who knew? It looked like the Bucs might have been the first host team to reach the Super Bowl, and they've lost four straight. That's why it's hard to get excited until December.

Q: Which players have to step up in the second half? Will the offense stay in sync after it awakened against Jacksonville on Sunday?

A: It largely comes down to the receivers. James Thrash has to do a good job of returning kicks and punts as well as being a decent receiving option. Irving Fryar must remain a productive third-down receiver, and Albert Connell can't roller-coaster his way through the schedule. If the receivers play well, the offense will regularly score in the 20s. Meanwhile, the secondary needs solid efforts from cornerbacks Deion Sanders and Darrell Green.

Q: Wait a minute. You're hitting on Sanders and Green? They're both first-ballot Hall of Famers.

A: Who are nearing the end of their careers. They've both done their jobs over the season's first half. However, they can't suddenly grow old in the final weeks, or the Redskins' pass coverage will get shredded.

Q: Have the Redskins really decided on a kicker? Can Kris Heppner buy green bananas?

A: There's no such thing as job security at Redskin Park, where painters once were fired for working too slowly. Heppner keeps his job as long as he doesn't blow easy field goals.

Q: Can we really start looking at Tampa airfares for the Super Bowl before the rates skyrocket?

A: Tell you what, if the Redskins beat the Rams, book the tickets. Otherwise, wait like everyone else.

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