Say it with me...
"We WANT to be 2-4!!"
The Washington Redskins travel to sunny Glendale to battle the Arizona Cardinals in a test for a Washington roster that is desperately trying to prove it still has a chance this season. On one hand, beating Seattle would have REALLY driven that point home. I am sure the Seahawks would have taken a lot of heat for failing to knock off a floundering team, but the redskins could have used it as a springboard--nay, a catapult. On the other hand, Arizona offers an interesting backdrop to the same kind of opportunity for the Redskins.
The Cardinals were 10-6 last season, yet finished third in their division and missed the playoffs. Their defense in 2014 has been stellar (for the most part), and they have been getting it done on offense without Carson Palmer. They have an excellent head coach and legitimate weapons on both sides of the ball. As evidenced by the latest line, the Cardinals (-6) are favorites in this game and outside of the DMV, you won't find many folks picking the guys in burgundy and gold.
Beating the Arizona Cardinals isn't as sexy as beating the Seattle Seahwaks, nor should it be considered as great a feat, but it would absolutely be a quality win. It is exactly the kind of game that could generate a lot of confidence inside the locker room and on the sideline. In short, it would be about 25 times whatever the win against Jacksonville meant. For a one-win team dealing with the prospects of yet another long and disastrous season, this is the exact kind of chance you want. The Arizona Cardinals are a good team. It's as simple as that. Beating a good team means something. What that is we don't know, because we have not done it yet.
The Cards are struggling with who they will have at quarterback because of injuries to Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton. This means there is a chance that rookie Logan Thomas might get his first start. Arizona also lost two defensive starters last week against Denver--Calais Campbell (DL) and Matt Shaughnessy (LB)--which should benefit the Washington offense. I know what you're thinking, because I'm thinking it too: "We have a rich and firmly established history of building Hall of Fame resumes for unknown players getting their first extended action against us." I have often been sitting in my chair at home, guzzling my sipping whiskey and thinking to myself, "The road to Canton really does goes through Washington."
The Cardinals allow the second-most passing yards in the league at 302.5 yards per game. It says here that Kirk Cousins can do something with that. The lack of Campbell will especially help increase his time in the pocket, and will also benefit the running prowess of Alfred Morris. As for Arizona's unsettled quarterback situation? Whichever player laces them up against us will face a passing defense that sits at #10 overall at 225.4 yards per game. I had to look at that stat twice myself.
I also like the distance we travel this week. Much is made of the cross-country travel in this league, but now is a great time for the Redskins to get away from D.C. After having 11 days to let the shellacking by the Giants marinade, we took a second straight primetime home loss. I can think of no better place than the desert to escape to right now. In fact, I was just there two weeks ago, to take in the Cardinals/49ers game and let me tell you that when you are in Arizona, you are keenly aware that you are not in Washington at all times. This is a very good thing for a team that just lost the only cover they had in the sports pages--the Nationals--and is taking criticism for the manner in which they are dealing with being terrible.
If and when the Redskins beat the Cardinals, nobody in the national media is going to stand up and proclaim that, "The Redskins are back!!" Still, beating a team like Arizona would absolutely signal a change of direction for a team that sorely needs one. It would be an important conference win, but here is the real chance laying in front of the Washington Redskins:
After the game against Arizona, the Redskins come home to face the Tennessee Titans. I don't believe there are any games on our schedule where you can say with a straight face, "We should beat them," but the Titans are a team we should be able to compete against. That leads into a Monday Night Football game against the Dallas Cowboys--NOT AT FEDEX! Sure, Dallas is looking a lot better than us, but we all know how those games go. Following the Dallas game, we get Minnesota and Tampa Bay. Basically what I am getting at is this is a part of our schedule where we could potentially make some hay. If Jay Gruden and his staff can build on those things that we actually do well, and minimize the mistakes we have made and will continue to make, the Redskins have a genuine opportunity to aim to be a 4-5 or 5-4 team after nine games have been played. Sounds crazy, I know.
Based on the prowess of the NFC East so far this season, 4-5 or 5-4 ain't going to cut the cheese, but it would be HUGE for the development of this organization. Achieving respectability is a worthy goal for this team right now in my opinion. It is a step we have to get to, and it is one we can begin to achieve with a win over a team like the Arizona Cardinals. What's more, a healthy Robert Griffin III can work with a .500 record or so with important games still to play. We have seen that before.
Can the Arizona Cardinals beat us on Sunday? Hell yes, but it says here we are getting a quality team at exactly the right time. Look for the Redskins to hang a score in the 30's on Arizona, while keeping them in the low 20's en route to a victory that will have us wondering if we can put our team into position to benefit from the healthy return of the #10 car.
After all, what kind of year would it be if this team didn't do something that completely caused us to eat our words? Better to eat words of disgust than to have to eat playoff predictions (6-2 under Zorn...SERENITY NOW!!!).