Redskins Hog Heaven's preseason guess at the Washington Redskins final record was seven or eight wins. As gratifying as is Washington's 3-2 start, neither that record nor the Redskins middle-of-the-pack performance should cause visions of sugarplums this Christmas. The Redskins will be closer to 4-4 by midpoint of the season than to six or seven wins.
But hey, an eight win season is the benchmark of success for new coaches. Check the list of head coaches who finished 8-8 in their first year:
Joe Gibbs, Washington, 1981
Mike Ditka, Chicago, 1983 (First full season)
Marty Schottenheimer, Cleveland (4-4), 1984
Marty Schottenheimer, Cleveland, 1985
Marty Schottenheimer, Kansas City, 1989
Mike Shanahan, Denver, 1995
Marty Schottenheimer, Washington, 2001
Marty Schottenheimer, San Diego, 2002
Jim Zorn, Washington, 2008
The list is not exhaustive, and yes, you could call it the Marty and those other guys list. An eight-win season would be an accomplishment for Mike Shanahan. A win over defending conference champion Indianapolis Colts would cause everybody to rewrite their season projections to nine-plus wins for Shanny and the 'Skins.
The Redskins are 3.5 underdogs to the Colts Sunday night. That's expected. But beating the Eagles in Philadelphia and Washington's eye-opening win over the Packers last Sunday has the smart guys reassessing.
Stat-master Paul Bessire at Predictionmachine.com upped his assessment of the Skins. After accounting for Mike Shanahan's tendencies and the performance of Redskins players, Bessire has the "Skins winning 44 percent of the 50,000 simulated games of the Colts. That would be unremarkable except that Bessire's simulation had Washington winning 30 percent of those simulations.
Look at this. While the Colts have out-performed the Redskins in passing yards (1586 to 1243), Donovan McNabb's passing yards-per-attempt is slightly higher than Peyton Manning's (7.7 to 7.4). For all of Washington's troubles in the passing game, they, like the Colts, rank in the NFL top 10 in net passing yards (Redskins 7th, Colts 4th).
The Redskins out-performed the Colts in rushing yards (443 to 399). Both, however, are in the bottom half of the league in rushing.
The Redskins are seriously scoring-deficient in comparison to the Colts (136 to 89). Washington overcame that in other games by playing close and running enough big plays to pull out a win. That's the point here. We don't want to see any big leads by the Colts.
Two weeks ago, Washington handled Michael Vick (mostly) by controlling his run to force him to pass. We don't want Manning to pass. We want him to run. Manning is too wily to do that, but he might be pressured to throw the ball away more than he wants. Doing that contains WRs Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie.
Do that and Washington can win this game the old fashion way: run the ball; stop the run; knock the snot out of Peyton Manning.