Really, it takes about 10 games to get an accurate read on any NFL team. With that said, we've learned that the 5-5 Redskins are capable of producing big wins, but only if all three facets--offense, defense, special teams--are operating at a high level.
On Week 11, it was the offense that sputtered in the 16-13 loss to Oakland at FedExField.
Mark Brunell, Santana Moss, Clinton Portis and the Redskins offense were kept out of the end zone by a team that came into FedExField with a 3-6 record and was fresh off a 31-17 home loss to Denver.
With that one in the books, the Redskins dropped to 0-3 against AFC opponents in 2005. Last year, Washington dropped all four of its games to AFC teams. In October and November of 2003, they lost at Buffalo and at Miami.
In fact, the last Redskins win versus an AFC team came on Sept. 28, 2003, when Ifeanyi Ohalete batted down a Tom Brady pass to seal a 20-17 win at FedExField. Following that one, the Patriots went on their Super Bowl run.
Next Sunday at FedExField, the Redskins have a chance to end their nine-game skid against the AFC when San Diego visits. The Chargers routed Buffalo 48-10 yesterday but the win may have been a costly one as one of the league's top offensive threats, tight end Antonio Gates, sustained a foot injury.
"Right now, we're in a situation where we have to put it all on the line," said defensive end Renaldo Wynn. "We have to look at at this as a six-game playoff stretch. We have to make sure that, here at home especially, we finish off games. We have to finish games and stay focused. Next week at home is very important for us."
"I'm going to be frustrated, because it's a loss," added Moss, limited to four catches for 53 yards. "But you can't hold your head down too long. Looking ahead, we have control of things. But if we don't go out there and finish, we won't get anything done."
The Gates situation aside, the Redskins have a pair of key injuries of their own to worry about, those involving Mike Sellers and James Thrash. Sellers, the team's leading TD maker with five, spent the night in the hospital with a rib injury. Thrash, playing a Pro Bowl level on special teams, sustained a hamstring injury.
When you look back at how things have panned out over the first 11 weeks, you see that the Redskins have done some outstanding things. That 3-0 start seems even more impressive when you consider what the Bears, Cowboys and Seahawks have done since. Seattle is 8-2, the Cowboys and Bears 7-3.
Prior to yesterday's game against the Raiders, Redskins guard Randy Thomas implored his team to keep in mind that every game the rest of the way amounted to a playoff contest. He's still right. Even though Washington is limping along in a 2-5 stretch, you can't dismiss a team with wins over Chicago, Dallas and Seattle.
Asked what the loss to Oakland means for the Redskins' season, veteran cornerback Walt Harris said: "It means whatever we allow it to mean. We'll go back to work. It's all about our attitude and work ethic."
Harris continued: "We don't want to get too down on ourselves. We did a pretty good job in goal-line situations and in the red zone. So, we have to be positive about that. The Raiders are a very explosive team, with a lot of talent on the offensive side of the ball."
The Redskins, as things now sit, still are in the hunt and would do themselves a great favor by coming up with a three-pronged effort against their next opponent, which just so happens to be another team from the AFC, their nemesis.
LaVar Arrington had four tackles and a key stop on LaMont Jordan on the Raiders' final drive on Sunday. He wasn't very vocal after the game but did say this: "Look, we just need to find a way to win."
He might have extended that observation to say&against some of these AFC teams.