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Ten Yard Fight - Redskins Road to 10-6

It won't be the smoothest of rides, but the Redskins will learn enough about themselves in 2014 to emerge as a postseason threat.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

1. The headline kind of sums it up, so let's not hide from my 2014 season prediction. Coming off of a 3-13 campaign, plenty of people will be quick to suggest this is a rather optimistic thought. Fair enough, although much of the dysfunction that plagued this team in 2013 has been removed. Left to focus solely on football, it says here that this team will surprise with a return to the same record that was good enough to capture the division in 2012. Let's go through the schedule and see just how this team is going to carve out a 10-6 season.

2. To me, a LOT hinges on how we start in the first two weeks. I have been perfectly honest and realistic (some real growth for me here) when I have suggested repeatedly that Houston and Jacksonville are more than capable of beating the Redskins. All three teams had terrible seasons in 2013 and it would seem that at least one of these teams has an opportunity to gather some momentum at the expense of the others out of the chute. I think our offense is good enough to move the ball against Houston in the opener, and I feel like we have enough in the tank defensively to stop Ryan Fitzpatrick. Coming home for the season opener at FedEx, I like our chances against a Jacksonville team that looks to be using this season to get ready for next season. They do have talented young players, but they aren't there yet. (Keep in mind, I did name Blake Bortles as the best player out of this draft, so he has a lot of work to do to make me right. Getting drafted third overall when nobody expected it was helpful, but being the quarterback in Jacksonville has not...traditionally...worked out well for many players. Maybe he can save Joe Gibbs' life in a restaurant when he is 37-years old and we can trade a couple high draft picks for him and he can lead us to mediocrity...but I digress.) Record: 2-0

3. After building momentum against two teams that most would agree were on par with the Redskins entering the season, Washington gets an early two-game stretch inside the division. While I do think the NFC East is far from the world-beating division it was in years past, I still don't think that one prepares for the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants by grappling with the AFC South. On the road in Philadelphia early in the season smells like a loss. It will be sold on ESPN as the "real Redskins" showing up after two easy games to open the season, but that is just cheap and easy journalism (generally my strong suit). I give the Eagles credit, and I think they will prove capable of building on last year's effort. They should look sharp...early in the year. I give the Giants no such credit at this point. I think they will be better than the team that went winless out of the gate last year, but something about that team reeks of "downward spiral." A loss in the first quarter of the season to the defending division champions is not something to over-analyze or get overly concerned about, especially considering we will schwack the Giants. Record: 3-1

4. On Monday Night Football, in front of the world, the Redskins get a chance to take on the defending Super Bowl champs in Week Five. I won't beat around the bush. I have this as a loss. You don't ever hear me talking about "good losses" after a defeat, but today isn't technically after this defeat (which technically hasn't even happened anyway), so I feel like I can throw that term around. There will be plenty of chances in this game to build the confidence of players up and down the roster. I would much rather have the win than stroke anyone's ego, but since I do rank the Seahawks ahead of the Redskins, I will take what I can get. We travel to Arizona for a second consecutive NFC West showdown the following week, and I am counting on the Seattle game to give us confidence. The Cardinals are no slouches, but they aren't the Seahawks. Carson Palmer is not getting any younger, and I am pretty sure we can get his feet moving, which is typically a bad thing for 78-year old quarterbacks. I have this down as Trent Murphy's breakout game. I hope that is not because of an injury to you-know-who, but either way, the Skins will be in Victory Formation at the end of this one. Record: 4-2

5. In Week Seven, the Redskins will beat the Titans. That is all. Record: 5-2

6. In Week Eight, we get our first crack at the Dallas Cowboys. On the road, and on national television (Monday Night Football), we will all get to relive one of the greatest memories most of us have from the last decade. You just know they will be replaying the Brunell-to-Moss connection that sent us all dancing into the streets of D.C. back in 2005. I have the Cowboys finishing dead last in the NFC East this year, and that prediction is largely predicated on us whooping up on them twice. But we will get to that later. We will ride high into Minnesota after our thrashing of Dallas. The fact that the University of Minnesota president will be doing everything to minimize the use of our name in their stadium will be a distraction for the Vikings, but not for the Redskins. I have this game down as a win for us, though I do believe this will be one of those games where our opponent has the ball at the end and we all have like, three heart attacks as Teddy Bridgewater (who will be starting by then) almost pulls it out for the home team in the closing seconds. Record: 7-2

7. That's right...we will get to our bye with a whopping 7-2 record. Someone from our team will be in the MVP race (likely Morris or Griffin) and we will all be begging Dan Snyder to start selling playoff tickets. Not so fast. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, led by Lovie Smith and what I think will be a pretty good defense, will quickly rain on our parade. All the bad memories will pour out: the playoff loss where we failed to even get the kick in the air at the buzzer; the Alstott non-touchdown touchdown...ugh. You guys aren't going to like this, but I can see this feeding into a real mid-season slide. The next week, we travel to San Francisco to face the 49ers, and wouldn't you know it: by that time, all their incarcerated Pro Bowlers will be back in action. We will find ourselves smack dab in the middle of an identity crisis. Are we the 7-2 team with honest-to-goodness championship hopes or are we the team that goes into Indianapolis in Week Thirteen on a two-game slide with no sense of self and no legitimate claim to the postseason? A third straight loss will answer that question for the critics, but those of us tough enough to keep the faith will remember that there is one thing the Redskins do: FINISH STRONG!!! (Except for last year, and all the other years when we didn't finish strong.) Record: 7-5

8. At this point, the Redskins will be written off by all the major talking heads. When we host the St. Louis Rams in Week Fourteen, the network will send a pair of interns to announce the game and the league will feel comfortable having the players' dads referee the contest. Winning a game against the Rams and whichever quarterback they find to suit up at that point will mean nothing to everyone but us. Record: 8-5

9. The following week, we travel to New York to put the nail in the coffin for a Giants team that is desperate for the season to be over. For the 12th consecutive season, Tom Coughlin's hold on his head coaching spot will be "tenuous" and Eli Manning will be working on the worst statistical year of his career....again (which of course means they will win the Super Bowl in 2015). The ugliness of the game in New York will keep people from fully understanding that the Redskins have turned a corner in their season, mostly because we will lose this game. I pre-blame the refs by the way. Something magical will happen though, as the team travels back home that night from New York. You see, the Eagles are hosting the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football for a game that will have a ton of significance in the NFC East. The team bus will be passing through the scene in Philly and it will...inspire our team leaders. At 8-6, the veterans will know just how close they are to tasting the playoffs. They know that they will get the Eagles at home the following week, and the entire season will change on that team bus, on that night. I'm talking about a full-scale, "Almost Famous" Elton John singalong y'all. RG3 will be playing the role of Russell, wrapped in a towel in the front seat, coming around by the second verse. From that moment on, everyone will be free of the disaster that just took place at the Meadowlands (stupid refs) and the Eagles will be in serious trouble. They won't see us coming. It will be the opposite of the Monday Night Massacre, with DeSean Jackson torching his former team. Record: 9-6

10. As has been the case for years now, the NFC East will be decided in Week 17, in a game featuring the Dallas Cowboys. I can't say for sure, but I am pretty confident that instead of last names on the backs of Redskins jerseys, they will all simply read, "Debbie." Dallas will be playing the role of...well...Dallas. Jason Hatcher will get to Tony Romo early and often, and FedEx will be absolutely rolling. I think this will be one of those games where league analysts will openly suggest that the Redskins "just might be a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs." People will wonder why the locker room is blasting "Tiny Dancer" after this victory, but we will know why: after 17 weeks of desperately trying to find themselves, our Redskins will enter the postseason as the one thing that opponents genuinely fear in January: a team in every sense of the word. Record: 10-6