- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 3, 2008

No one can take away the 2008 season from the Redskins just yet, although plenty of their opponents are formidable enough to consign them to last place in the NFC East.

The Redskins have a new coach, a new system, an injured Jason Taylor and a demoted Jon Jansen. That gives the faithful a number of reasons to believe in the power and glory of the Redskins going into the season opener against the Super Bowl champions Thursday night.

Are you ready for the region’s obsession with the Redskins?

Perhaps the team’s rookie punter is now in negotiations to have a radio or television show after making the final cut. He undoubtedly is taking it one hang time at a time and has shown great presence of mind.

With 16 games to go, the Redskins’ mathematical chances of making the playoffs are fairly complex. Yet it is never too early to consider the team’s playoff possibilities in a city that embraces only three sports: football, minicamp and the NFL Draft.

The Redskins are hoping to catch the Giants in the throes of a post-Super Bowl hangover. It also would help if quarterback Eli Manning reverts to his previous self.

Manning usually appears to have just fallen off the hay wagon, replete with the quizzical look and mouth agape, the blank slate left muttering one-syllable words as he heads to the sidelines.

The Redskins also are hoping David Tyree has made the last helmet catch of his career.

The first was delivered from the football gods seeking atonement from the rule-breakers of New England, if you believe in football gods.

The Redskins are in a geographically tough position, being in the NFC East with the Giants, Jessica Simpson’s team and the Eagles. They may be no better than the fourth-best team, assuming the Eagles stay in better health this season.

The Redskins play only five teams that had losing records last season. Two of those teams - the Lions and Bengals - forged a 7-9 record and will have homefield advantage against the Redskins.

If the Redskins are unable to split their division games - and that is no easy assignment - they will be hard-pressed to go 9-7.

All this preseason calculating assumes Jason Campbell is able to assimilate the new system in relatively painless fashion, the offensive line stays relatively healthy and Jim Zorn is as competent as the early reviews suggest.

Nothing should be gleaned from the team’s last two preseason losses, even if the combined score of 71-6 caused a few supporters to consider the benefits of jumping off Chain Bridge.

It should be recalled that Steve Spurrier won the Osaka, Japan, Super Bowl in his preseason debut in 2002. It was a rousing 38-7 beating of the 49ers that put the team’s adherents in a blissful state. Alas, it was so much fluff, as we soon learned.

The quarterback position drives the success of most NFL teams. In that respect, the Redskins still do not know whether Campbell is the long-term solution or merely a temporary antidote until the next quarterback of the future comes into view.

His development reflects the state of the franchise in the division. Campbell is lumped behind Manning, Jessica’s boyfriend and Donovan McNabb.

In a best-case scenario, this is how the season breaks down for the Redskins: They somehow manage to split the six games with their division rivals. They defeat the Saints, Cardinals and Rams at home. They lose to the Browns at home, defeat the Lions on the road, lose to the Steelers at home, lose on the road to the Seahawks, defeat the Ravens on the road and lose on the road to the Bengals before closing the season with a road victory over the 49ers.

Or maybe they lose one they shouldn’t and win one they shouldn’t. But theirs is a 9-7 record at best. At worst? It would not be nice to the team’s rabid fan base to contemplate those circumstances.

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