The Washington Redskins went into 2013 assuming they would be playing for first place in the division at some point.
They just couldn't have predicted these circumstances.
The NFC East is typically one of the NFL's powerhouse divisions, but has been mired in a division-wide rut to start the season that has all four teams sub-.500, with a collective record of 5-14.
Remove division play from consideration and the four NFC East teams have won just two games all season, including the Redskins' Week 4 victory over the Oakland Raiders.
While this slump may be befuddling to fans and experts the NFL over, it plays right into the hands of the Redskins, who were winless just nine days ago.
A victory over the Raiders and a bye week of rest sets up an opportunity for the Redskins to take control in the East, as the Cowboys and Eagles are currently tied at just 2-3.
This scenario supposes that the Philadelphia Eagles lose to the listless Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but if this bizarre streak continues, anything can happen.
"It's really crazy. In this league you don't get those opportunities," said Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall. "For us to be blessed with this opportunity, not playing good football at all and we are talking about playing for first place or being a half game/game out of first place--we have a lot to play for."
This scenario also supposes that the Redskins find a way to stop a juggernaut Cowboys offense that scored 48 points on 506 passing yards, 9.7 yards per play and more than 20 yards per pass vs. a once-respected Denver Broncos defense.
Hard to believe they lost.
"They played a heckuva game," Hall said of the Cowboys. "[Romo] was in the zone. Sometimes when you play the best, it brings the best out of you. Tony, knowing it was Peyton Manning and knowing the kind of offense they have, gave him a lot of motivation to go out there and perform as best they could.
"Those guys came to play. Dez [Bryant] came to play."
In what is shaping up to be a must-see matchup, Hall is frequently charged with defending Bryant.
While Bryant has gotten his licks on this Redskins' secondary, Hall said the Cowboys' willingness to turn one-dimensional didn't backfire until the end.
"I thought the running game was going good but they got away from it because they were having so much success in the air," he explained. "I didn't think they had an offense that could keep up with those guys but they definitely proved me wrong and they were running and gunning."
Bryant ended the day with 141 of Romo's 506 passing yards, and two of his five touchdowns. Hall said he relishes the chance to shut No. 88 down.
"When we are on the field, he hates me, I hate him," Hall said, candidly. "In between the lines it's me against him. He's trying to rip my head off I'm trying to rip his off.
"[Bryant]'s a great football player, he has matured a lot over the last year, year-and-a-half. Any time you get the opportunity to go against one of the best you want to put on a good showing. I'm definitely juiced up about it.
"Any time you got a guy like him in front of you, you want to win the matchup. This game is about matchups and I'm preparing all week to win that matchup."
Whether or not the Redskins can win more of their matchups will likely decide the outcome of the first 2013 installment of one of the NFL's best rivalries.
With an early taste of first place at stake, the Washington Redskins are ready for Sunday Night Football.
"We have a chance to seize opportunities on Sunday night," Hall said. "We need to go out put our best foot forward and play good football."