Over the past four weeks—all Redskins wins—the fans in Washington have gotten confident. Maybe even a bit cocky.
Surely there's good reason for that. Three consecutive wins against divisional rivals and a "cherry on top" win against Baltimore last Sunday have lifted expectations higher than they have been in over 10 years.
Well, like many of you, I have been watching this team for a long time. More than two decades, even. Although that may not seem long to some of our readers, it has seemed like a lifetime to other Redskins fans in their early-to-mid 20's.
One thing that has been common over that span is the classic "letdown game."
I pray to God that it doesn't happen this week (or this season, for that matter). I hope that the Redskins got that nonsense out of their system after the Carolina game.
However, Cleveland is a team the Redskins need to approach with extreme caution.
The last four games required very little effort to get the adrenaline flowing. Three division rivals? Easy. In-state rival in control of its division? Piece of cake. Road game against a 5-8 team early on Sunday afternoon with only a couple of pockets of the population watching? Umm...
There's no history between the two teams. No bad blood to speak of, and not a single item of bulletin-board material. The Redskins will have to rely on their playoff hopes as the key motivating tool to get fired up for victory. That should be enough.
But Cleveland won't be the easiest hurdle in the playoff race. Remember, the Browns come in to Week 15 with the fourth-longest active winning streak in the NFL.
Only the Broncos (8), Patriots (7) and your beloved Redskins (4) have rattled off hot streaks that best Cleveland's at the moment.
Granted, the Browns' last three wins were against Pittsburgh, Oakland and Kansas City. However, you can't take away value from any three-game winning streak in today's NFL.
After an 0-5 start, it's apparent that the Browns have improved. They are 5-3 since posting that atrocious mark, including that aforementioned win streak.
Those three losses? Those were against Indianapolis (9-4), Baltimore (9-4) and Dallas (7-6) in overtime. The total combined losing margin was just 17 in those contests, too. With 10 of them coming against Baltimore.
They're not so different after all, the Browns and Redskins. Both started slow and have turned in hot streaks in the waning part of the season. Both are led by all-rookie backfields and a both have defenses that have had brief moments of greatness (such as Cleveland's eight takeaways against Pittsburgh and the Redskins holding the Giants to three points in one half), but have been spotty at best overall.
If the Redskins come out firing on all cylinders, with or without Robert Griffin III, and win by 17 points, I'm not going to be floored with astonishment.
On the flip side, if they come out flatter than a Kansas pancake and lose by two touchdowns. I will just shake my head in sobering, yet unsurprising, disappointment.
I will see for myself firsthand, as I am now heading to Cleveland for the game. If I make it out of "The Dawg Pound" alive, then I will check in with all of you tomorrow. In the meantime, wish me luck.
Korey Beckett is a Featured Columnist for the Washington Redskins and Bleacher Report's fantasy football coverage. Like him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/koreybeckettBR
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