We're all excited for the Washington Redskins' game on the road against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football. Why shouldn't we be? It's the 2-0 Redskins against their hated rival on one of the biggest TV stages in football. It's our chance to see whether the Redskins are actually "for real," or however you want to put it.
And yet, as we sit here getting ready for the game, I find myself wondering just how much it actually matters. Obviously, the game matters on some level. It's Dallas, after all, and it's a big divisional game. A win puts the Redskins at 3-0, a feat only matched by three other teams in the NFL. But is this really the kind of game that acts as a referendum on whether the Redskins are "for real?" I'm a little conflicted there.
On the one hand, I think a win would be huge. A win puts the Redskins a game up on the New York Giants in the NFC East, which is more like two games because of the Week 1 win. It gives the Redskins an undefeated record over the NFC East thus far, which will come in handy. The schedule ahead is also pretty tame, with the woeful Rams up next and a Philadelphia Eagles team potentially playing without Michael Vick coming up after the bye week. There are also winnable games against teams like Carolina, San Francisco, Miami, Seattle (though it's in Seattle) and Minnesota on the schedule. If the Redskins win, they realistically need to go .500 to make the playoffs, and with their schedule, it's definitely doable.
On the other hand, how damaging is a loss at this point? That same easy schedule exists, for one. The Redskins will still be in contention for the NFC East at this early stage of the season. They get the Cowboys at home later in the year, so there's still a chance to split with them. The Eagles game still looks winnable, especially if Vick is out. More importantly, the Redskins have the luxury of being able to draw confidence out of many different outcomes. Even if they simply lose in a competitive game, they can feel good knowing they can compete with really good teams on the road, something they haven't proven all year to this point.
Most importantly, this is a year where Redskins fans need to value process over results. When the Redskins put together their game plan for the offseason, they did so with a long-term approach to team-building. Trading down to select 12 players in the 2011 NFL Draft fulfilled that. Acquiring only one player over the age of 27 in free agency fulfilled that. Not trading away much-needed depth to acquire a quarterback fulfilled that. The Redskins want to win, of course, but this offseason's strategy indicated they want to win a lot in the future, not just do the typical Redskins thing where they acquire high-priced veterans for a one-year push.
So far, the "new Redskins" are 2-0. But if the "new Redskins" finish 7-9 or even 6-10 this year while some of the youngsters and newcomers show some skills, I'm sure Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen wouldn't mind. Publicly, they would talk about how disappointed they were that they missed the playoffs and how much it hurts not to win. Privately, they'd feel pretty good about the foundation the team was building. Redskins fans should too if that happens, because it's what so many have hoped the team would do for years.
Now, do you all really think one loss to Dallas in Dallas should significantly alter any of that?
For more on the Redskins vs. Cowboys Monday Night showdown, visit this StoryStream. Visit Hogs Haven for more on the Redskins, and visit Blogging the Boys and SB Nation Dallas for more on the Cowboys.