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HARRIS: Redskins can absorb opening loss, but Packers game looms large
Many of the Redskins’ faithful likely woke up Tuesday morning, perhaps with a slight headache, and rushed to their favorite news outlet to see if maybe it was all some awful dream.
Nope. It is there in the record books. The Eagles, led by coaching genius of the moment Chip Kelly, came into FedEx Field and raced by the Redskins 33-27 on Monday night. Philadelphia gained 322 yards. In the first half. The Eagles’ offense made the Redskins’ defense look lost, and Skins wunderkind RG3 looked like he hadn’t played all preseason.
What is perhaps more disturbing for the Skins after a restless night’s sleep is not the 0-1 record that hangs by their name. Heck, half the NFL is 0-1 right now and a good portion of the 12 teams that will eventually make the playoffs are in that half.
What has to be a bit scary now is the Redskins face the very real prospect of opening the season 0-2. Their next game is Sunday at Green Bay, which is also 0-1 after losing to San Francisco. Green Bay, with quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Angry Green Bay. A very good Green Bay team that has no interest is going to 0-2, just as the Redskins don’t. In Green Bay.
One of the great things about the NFL is the angst that every week brings. It’s not a 162-game season like baseball or even 82 like the NBA and NHL. It’s 16 games and the sun rises and sets with each one.
You figure six games is the most you can lose and still be relatively safe for a playoff spot (though it isn’t guaranteed, as the 11-5 Patriots found out in 2008). You can also get in with more losses, as the 9-7 Giants did two years ago when they won the Super Bowl. Still, 10-6 is a fairly safe number.
The Redskins got to six losses after nine games last season and didn’t lose again in the regular season en route to the NFC East title. Not an envelope you really want to push more than once.
And starting 0-2 is not a death sentence. The 2007 Giants — there they are again — started 0-2 and won the Super Bowl over the Patriots.
But your odds of a prosperous season do decrease, significantly, if a second loss comes before a first victory.
The New York Times did a thorough look at this subject about a year ago, after six teams got off to 0-2 starts. The Saints, who lost their opener to the Redskins, were the only 0-2 NFC team and probably the only surprise on the list. The AFC teams at 0-2 were Jacksonville, Tennessee, Cleveland, Oakland and Kansas City.
None of those six teams made the playoffs. Since 1990, a total of 190 teams have had 0-2 starts. Of those, 22 went on and qualified for the playoffs. That’s only 11.5 percent over almost a quarter century.
Now, a lot of those 190 teams got to 0-2 for a pretty good reason. They weren’t very good. They pretty much had a zero percent chance of getting to the playoffs anyway.
That’s not the case with the Redskins. Despite what was on display for much of Monday night, the team remains a capable one and still should be considered a playoff contender. Going 7-0 to finish a season as the Skins did last year is a rarity, but it happened for a reason. It wasn’t luck.
But an NFL season is enough of an obstacle course, even for the most capable teams. The past three Super Bowl champions had six, seven and six regular-season losses.
Putting yourself in an 0-2 hole is just not a good idea to start that obstacle course. Yet it is the reality the Redskins face. Their schedule isn’t a light one. The future holds another game against the Eagles, two against the Giants, two against the Cowboys. There’s a trip to Denver, a visit from San Francisco, a trip to Atlanta.
They can’t worry about all that yet. They can’t hope they’ll have had a chance to figure out this Kelly-inspired Eagles offense by the time the teams meet again on Nov. 17 (or hope they can copy a team that does). They can’t worry about Peyton Manning and the Broncos or Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers or Matt Ryan and the Falcons — let alone Eli Manning and the Giants twice.
They have to worry about Rodgers, the Packers and figuring out a way to not be 0-2. As rough as Tuesday morning may have been for Redskins fans, Monday will be more than doubly rough if 0-2 becomes a reality.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Washington Times sports editor Mike Harris has more than 30 years experience in the business as a reporter, columnist and manager. He’s covered a wide variety of events including two Olympics, horse racing, auto racing, professional and college sports. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow the section on Twitter @WashTimesSports.
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