The Washington Redskins put their improvement on display throughout training camp and the preseason. Still, another 6-10 season -- at best -- lies ahead.
For the second straight year, the Redskins upgraded their roster with increased depth and youth. But this time everything revolves around rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III's success.
That coach Mike Shanahan shielded Griffin from preseason scrutiny and opposing defensive coordinators was perplexing. Either Griffin's so good that Shanahan is waiting to unleash him against New Orleans on Sunday or the coach thinks less is more behind this offensive line.
Still, there will be no hiding against the Saints, even if they're not as good as the team that won the Super Bowl three years ago. New Orleans and its thunderdome fans will show Griffin that the pro game is a little harder than he thinks. Translation: 0-1.
The Redskins should beat St. Louis in Week 2 and Tampa Bay two weeks later. A victory vs. Minnesota on Oct. 14 would give them a 3-3 start before things get rough.
After that, the Redskins' only victory might be at Cleveland on Dec. ?16. But something says Washington will beat either Philadelphia or Dallas in the final two games and maybe Cincinnati on Sept. 23 or Carolina on Nov. 4.
If Griffin delivers quickly and the traditional massive offensive line injuries don't occur, the Redskins could open 3-1 like last year. Washington could win three straight against St. Louis, Cincinnati and Tampa Bay, though the Bengals aren't bad and Washington has a tradition of flopping against bad teams like the Rams and Buccaneers.
The second quarter of the season features Atlanta and Minnesota at home and games at the New York Giants and Pittsburgh. That should result in three losses to playoff-bound teams, though if Washington beats New York, it will come early in the season.
Carolina (followed by the bye), Philadelphia, at Dallas on Thanksgiving and New York on "Monday Night Football" are the next four. The Redskins don't play well in nationally televised games anymore, but wins are possible vs. Carolina or Philadelphia, especially if the Eagles lose quarterback Michael Vick to injury again.
The final four games are Baltimore, then road contests at Cleveland and Philadelphia before the finale against Dallas. Forget about beating Baltimore and Philadelphia as they prepare for the playoffs. Cleveland should be a win, and Dallas is a toss-up.
Six wins are necessary for fans to believe Shanahan can find success in 2013, especially if Griffin has a decent year. Shanahan probably will get a fourth season regardless because changing coaches after Griffin's first year might impede his progress, and he's priority one for the franchise.
The team isn't the joke of several years ago when vice president Vinny Cerrato and coach Jim Zorn destroyed the roster. But the Redskins must start winning. After three straight losing seasons and only three playoff berths since 1993, fans are exhausted.
Maybe Washington can steal a couple more wins to reach .500, but that sounds more like 2013.