Are the Redskins currently the worst team in the NFL?
It might seem silly to suggest such a thing. Sure, we know the Redskins are bad. But the worst? They have the top-ranked rushing offense in the NFL, for heaven's sake!
Maybe it's not so crazy, though. Here's a look at the contenders for the crown no one wants:
Buffalo Bills (4-8)
Case For Being the Worst: The Bills have lost four of their last five. Three of those losses are by double-figures. Buffalo is currently in last place in a division that isn't exactly stellar.
Case Against Being the Worst: Buffalo has looked very competitive when E. J. Manuel has been healthy. The Bills lost to the Patriots by two, beat Carolina (a win that looks better all the time), lost to the Jets by seven, beat Baltimore, blew out the Jets in a rematch, and lost to Atlanta in overtime along with 13-point losses to the Steelers and Browns. Not great, but not awful.
Verdict: This is a team headed in the right direction. The Saints made them look bad in New Orleans, but, otherwise, the Bills are almost always "in" games at the end.
Cleveland Browns (4-8)
Case For: Since their bye week, the Browns have lost to the Bengals by 21, the Steelers by 16 at home, and the Jaguars by four at home. They're in last place of the AFC North.
Case Against: After being accused of tanking the season by trading Trent Richardson, Cleveland has gone a semi-respectable 4-6. The recent struggles have partially been the result of having to go back to Brandon Weeden, who has yet to win a game this season.
Verdict: They've been rough of late, but the Browns have probably already exceeded expectations by winning four games. Injuries at quarterback have hurt, but the defense is solid. They may be the worst-managed team in the league, but they're not the worst team on the field.
Jacksonville Jaguars (3-9)
Case For: There was a time this season when I was convinced Jacksonville was the worst NFL team of my lifetime. They were on the bad end of a couple of the largest lines in history. They lost games 28-2, 19-9, 45-17, 37-3, 34-20, 35-19, 24-6, and 42-10 to open the year 0-8.
Case Against: Since their bye, the Jaguars have won three of four, with all three wins coming on the road. The one loss was against the playoff-contending Arizona Cardinals.
Verdict: Incredibly, the Jags most definitely aren't the worst team in the league at this point. They aren't even in last place in their own division! Speaking of which . . .
Houston Texans (2-10)
Case For: What the hell happened to Houston? It's one thing to overperform and fall back to earth the next season, or to lose a quarterback to injury. But the Texans just inexplicably started to look horrible. Remember, these guys were 2-0 before the previously-accomplished Matt Schaub suddenly forgot how to play. They've dropped ten straight, are in last place, and have the worst record in football.
Case Against: Yes, the Texans have lost a bunch in a row. But look at the scores. The last two months, Houston has lost 17-16 at Kansas City, 27-24 to Indianapolis, 27-24 at Arizona, 28-23 to Oakland, 13-6 to Jacksonville, and 34-31 to New England. While it's not exactly a good thing to say that Houston plays up or down to the level of its opponent, the Texans are at least within striking distance of every recent opponent they've played.
Verdict: This is a serious contender for the title. It's very, very difficult to lose ten games in a row in the parity-friendly NFL. What's more, unlike a team such as Cleveland or Jacksonville, the Texans should have been decent this year.
Oakland Raiders (4-8)
Case For: Currently in last place of the AFC West, the Raiders have double-digit losses to the Broncos, Chiefs, Redskins(!), and Eagles. Oakland also may have the least "star power" of any of the teams on this list.
Case Against: The Raiders have four wins, highlighted (so to speak) by victories over the Steelers and the Chargers.
Verdict: Despite their four victories, you can make a fair case for Oakland being the worst team in the NFL. The thing that works in their favor is that they never go too long without winning. In fact, the Raiders' longest losing streak of the season is only two games.
Minnesota Vikings (3-8-1)
Case For: This is another playoff team from 2012 that tanked in 2013. The Vikings began the year at a horrible 1-7. They've lost games by 25, 16, and 21 points, and currently occupy the basement of the NFC North.
Case Against: First off, the Vikings boast arguably the best football player in the world, Adrian Peterson. I know it's a team game, but having AD on your roster puts a finger on the scale in favor of the Vikes not being the NFL's bottom-feeder. Secondly, Minnesota has been frisky of late. They are 2-1-1 in their last four games, losing only to NFC-leading Seattle.
Verdict: Minnesota is a bad, poorly-coached team without a bona fide starting quarterback. I'm not sure they'll win another game this year. But I'm also not sure they're the worst team in the league at this point.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-9)
Case For: The Bucs got off to an 0-8 start this season, seemed to be in a state of mild revolt against head coach Greg Schiano, and looked like they had a legitimate chance to go 0-16. To make matters worse, they parted ways in ugly fashion with former starting quarterback Josh Freeman and dealt with another MRSA flare-up. Yikes.
Case Against: The Bucs have been a different team the past month. They very nearly beat the Seahawks in Seattle, then reeled off three straight wins against the Dolphins, Falcons, and Lions, respectively, before coming back down to earth on the road versus the red-hot Panthers.
Verdict: This may have been the worst team in the league at some point in October when the Freeman saga was festering as much as the team's myriad MRSA infections. Somehow, since then, the Bucs have transformed into a competent team capable of beating bad-to-mediocre squads.
Atlanta Falcons (3-9)
Case For: Another top team from 2012 that imploded, the Falcons lost a bunch of close games early and then went into a downward spiral that had Atlanta 2-9 before this past week's win over Buffalo. A year removed from being 13-3 and the top seed in the NFC playoffs, the Falcons were the very first team eliminated from postseason contention in the entire NFL this year.
Case Against: Atlanta has played a brutal schedule. They've lost to the Saints twice by a combined ten points. They lost to a trio of AFC East teams (Jets, Patriots, Dolphins) by a total of 13 points. They did hit a rough patch in early November, but they're coming off a close loss to New Orleans and that gutsy, overtime win over Buffalo in Toronto.
Verdict: This is probably a bottom-three-or-four team, but they're not the worst. Had they lost this past week, the calculus would be a little different.
Washington Redskins (3-9)
Case For: Look, if you're reading this, you've seen them play. I don't need to say too much. But I will point out a few quick facts. The Redskins have lost four in a row, and the streak would be six in a row if not for some dumbfounding, goal-line play-selection by the Chargers. Washington has suffered embarrassing - albeit very different - losses in prime time over the last two games. Speaking of embarrassing, the Redskins have also been manhandled for large portions of games against the Eagles, Packers, and Broncos. Over and above all that, they lost one against the Vikings that they were a 95% favorite to win at a certain point in the second half. Finally, despite playing in a weak division, the Redskins are winless against their NFC East rivals.
Case Against: The Redskins beat the Raiders by 10 in Oakland. The fact that that's their only road win of the season isn't exactly a feather in the cap, but the Raiders are one of the other teams vying for this unfortunate title. So, I figured I would mention it.
Verdict: With the Bucs and Jags surging, Buffalo and Cleveland having quality wins, Minnesota getting a little better (and beating Washington recently), and Oakland winning with enough frequency to seem not-quite-as-stinky as the rest, I think it comes down to Atlanta, Houston, and Washington. The Falcons won this week, so I'll kick them out.
Thankfully for the Redskins, there's a team that has lost ten in a row, which is very difficult to due in the Parity Era. Yes, the Redskins play in a worse division, but ten in a row is hard to ignore. And let's not forget that the Texans lost to the Raiders and Jaguars in consecutive weeks at home! Checkmate.
So, there it is. Congratulations, Washington. You're not the worst team in the NFL. The Houston Texans are. For now. Remember that the Redskins have to play Kansas City this week, while the Texans get a rematch with Jacksonville.
In other words, it might be fortuitous that I decided to write this column this week instead of next.
Either way, two stunning things jump out at me. One is that Washington has regressed so, so much since last season. Robert Griffin III knee injury or not, the Redskins have underperformed. The second, possibly bigger stunner is that there are three other playoff teams from 2012 who are in the conversation as possibly the league's worst squad.
Things change quickly in the NFL. But that lament will become a rallying cry for Redskins fans in just a few short months. Patience is all we have left.