As the old adage goes, if you don't learn from your history, your bound to repeat it. Here's a history lesson for you. Lets flashback 14 years ago. On December 13, 1998 a Mike Shanahan coached team was defeated by the 4-9 New York Giants. The Broncos started that year 13-0, but suffered their first defeat against a team they clearly "should have" beat. Now a Mike Shanahan coached team faces different, but yet somewhat similar circumstances.
When the schedule first came out, I had this chalked up as a game the Redskins will surely lose. Not because the Browns are a better team, but because the Redskins have a history of playing down to "lesser" competition. But yet bringing out their best efforts against superior teams. Lets analyze these several instances.
Five weeks ago the lowly 1-6 Carolina Panthers came to town. Fresh off General Manager Marty Hurney being fired and Jerry Richardson putting the whole coaching staff and front office on notice, the Panthers came into FedEx Field and soundly beat the Redskins in a game that really wasn't that close. Two weeks before that, RGIII and the Skins went blow for blow with Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning and the Giants, before Santana Moss fumbled away any chance of a miracle win.
In 2011, the Redskins played the 1-7 Miami Dolphins, who had lost their first seven games. . Once again, they fell flat on there faces following a 20-9 defeat. After completing the season sweep of the eventual Super Bowl champion Giants, the 2-12 Vikings ran them off the field on Christmas eve. In 2010, it was losses to the rebuilding St. Louis Rams and Detroit Lions, who had a combined record of 3-29 the year before. Yet somehow, the Redskins managed to beat both teams that were in the NFC Championship. (Green Bay and Chicago)
How could we forget Week 3 of 2009. Our beloved Redskins lost to the Detroit Lions! Losers of their past 18 games, and finished the 2008 season 0-16!! During that season was also loses to mediocre to below average teams like the Panthers and Chiefs who finished a combined (12-20)
Then there's the 2008 season. After a four game winning streak, with back to back wins over the Eagles and Cowboys, the Skins laid an egg against the interim coached led Jim Haslet Rams. Their head coach Scott Linehan, was fired four games in the season. By the way, I still have nightmares of Pete Kendall trying to catch that tipped pass in the air. In Week 15 in the midst of another playoff push, the Redskins lost 20-13 to a Cincinnati Bengals team that at the time was 1-11-1, and had nothing left to play for other than pride and a paycheck.
This week the Redskins face another similar situation. Although the Browns have won their past 3 games (albeit against a Charlie Batch led Steelers team that had 8 turnovers, and the Chiefs and Raiders who are a combined 5-21). They could potentially be playing for a lame duck coach in Pat Shurmur.(Rumor has it Nick Saban is a potential replacement). Despite all these negative notions, this is a dangerous game for the Redskins on so many levels.
The Browns were one of the teams in the running to get RGIII, but because of the relationship between Jeff Fisher and Mike Shanahan,they weren't able to. In the offseason the Browns were frustrated about that relationship because it hindered them from getting Robert Griffin III. The same way the Rams came to play against the Redskins in Week 2 (although the replacement refs had little to no control of that game). The Redskins shouldn't expect anything less from the Browns. The Browns are a dangerous team in their own right, their record and statistics wouldn't indicate that. They 17-16 TO the Eagles in Week 1. Had it not been for a pick six by Cary Williams in Week 4 they may have beat the Ravens. They lost a close game to the Colts and gave the Cowboys all they could handle in a overtime loss. Hell, they even gave the defending champs a scare at MetLife Stadium.
It is imperative the Skins don't take the Browns lightly. Especially in the midst of a crucial playoff push. With or without RGIII this is a game that the Redskins could clearly lose. We have all seen this movie too many times. The Redskins constantly laying eggs against inferior teams. However, the Redskins have a big chance at redemption. That's why this week could possibly be the toughest test the Redskins face all year.
Good teams win on the road, especially against inferior talent. Teams like the Patriots consistently do it every year. With four straight wins against division and instate rivals, the Redskins are peaking at the right time. Playoff caliber teams normally play their best ball at the end of the season. Those teams beat teams that they "should" beat. On Sunday, the NFL world finds out if the Redskins are indeed a playoff caliber team.