Mike Shanahan's Washington Redskins have a difficult post-bye schedule.
The spirit so evident during their seven-game win streak at the end of last season returned to ensure they went into their bye week at 1-3.
It was crucial that they got that first win before the week off. It will give the team some confidence, as well as some time to reassess the mistakes and go about fixing them.
Upon return, Washington has a tough schedule and must improve if it is to make the postseason. Luckily, the NFC East is weak, and the Redskins still have a legitimate shot at the playoffs.
Read on for a breakdown of the remaining fixtures, along with predictions based on the season so far.
The Cowboys had no answer to Alfred Morris last year.
The Redskins swept the Dallas Cowboys in 2012, much to the delight of their long-suffering fans. It even included the team's first-ever Thanksgiving victory over Dallas. They couldn't stop Robert Griffin III or Alfred Morris, and the rushing attack led the Redskins to two wins.
The way 2013 has gone, however, suggests it will be difficult to repeat.
Prior to the loss against San Diego, the Cowboys defense had looked strong. It will be interesting to see how it fares against Peyton Manning in Week 5, as Philip Rivers tore them apart to the tune of 401 yards and three touchdowns.
If Manning does the same, it will give the Redskins some decent game film on how best to attack them this year.
Rivers and the Chargers ran a no-huddle offense to great effect, which is promising for Washington. The stuttering Redskins offense has looked much better when working at pace, never allowing the defense time to adjust.
In that situation, Griffin has made more instinctive decisions and been more accurate with his passing, while Morris has gained good yardage through patience and vision.
With a week off to rest Morris and the Cowboys likely coming off two straight losses, the Washington defense steps up again and the Redskins travel to Cowboys stadium and get the win.
Final score: Redskins 24-17 Cowboys
Week 7 should see Jarvis Jenkins play his first home game of the season against Chicago.
After a disappointing loss to the Detroit Lions, the Chicago Bears face New Orleans in Week 5. The Bears defense struggled in two distinct areas against Detroit: the linemen looked shaky and the unit as a whole failed to stop the run.
The Bears have won a couple of games this year by having the better of the turnover battle, which is what the Redskins did at the end of last year. Of course, that's often the difference between winning and losing in any game, but remove that and the Bears suddenly look vulnerable.
Add to this some tackling issues, and the defense suddenly resembles the one in Washington. It's not that bad, but there are legitimate comparisons to be made. Charles Tillman has had some injury problems of late, and his recovery could be crucial to the Redskins success through the air.
If Washington can protect the football and pressure Jay Cutler into mistakes, they could emerge with their first home win of the year. Cutler didn't find his rhythm against the Lions and was inaccurate as a result.
Ultimately, though, it's difficult to see the Redskins winning this game. Both Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery will find easy yards against a Washington secondary that has struggled all year.
Final Score: Bears 31-20 Redskins
The Denver Broncos await Washington in Week 8
There's not really much that can be said here. The Denver Broncos look like the best team in football right now, and Peyton Manning is throwing the ball wherever he wants, safe in the knowledge that someone will haul it in.
The fact that it's being played at Mile High stadium isn't going to make this game easier, and with Von Miller returning to the active roster the week prior, the Redskins are in for a long day across the roster.
Manning's stats over the first four games are daunting: 1,470 yards, 16 touchdowns and no interceptions. His completion rate is 75 percent, and the Broncos offense is really starting to click.
With games against the Cowboys, Jaguars and Colts, Denver is likely to be 7-0 by the time Washington comes to visit. Expect Manning to continue his relentless pursuit of greatness and sweep aside the Redskins defense.
If you're going to miss a Redskins game in 2013, this is probably the week to do so.
Final Score: Redskins 20-48 Broncos
Philip Rivers lit up the Cowboys and travels to Washington in Week 9.
They play the Raiders, Colts and Jaguars leading up to Week 9 and will be confident of winning all three. If Rivers can run the offense like he did against Dallas, it will be difficult for Washington's defense to get off the field.
Antonio Gates, Eddie Royal and Vincent Brown are more than capable of tearing up the Redskins secondary, and Danny Woodhead and Ryan Mathews also caused problems against the Cowboys.
It's vital that the Redskins' front seven get pressure on Rivers from an early stage. The Chargers offensive line has already been shuffled around and mistakes led to them dropping the game against the Titans in Week 3.
If Washington can sustain the sort of pressure it showed against the Raiders, the team will have its first home win of the season.
In Week 9, that's not really good enough, but it's already been a difficult year.
Final Score: Chargers 23-27 Redskins
Christian Ponder and the Vikings have struggled this year.
In the end, it took a solid performance from Matt Cassel to lead Minnesota to victory in London. Even though Cassel only attempted 24 passes, he completed 16 of them for 248 yards and two touchdowns. Crucially, he threw no interceptions and was able to lean on the running game a little more.
Whether Cassel or Ponder starts the Redskins game, stopping the run is crucial to the outcome. Peterson's 140 yards against the Steelers is an ominous sign, despite the fact that Pittsburgh have looked awful so far this year.
Washington's rushing defense showed real improvement in Oakland, which they can hopefully build on over the coming weeks.
The missed tackles are a problem against any team. Against Peterson, it will kill them. Nevertheless, this remains a game the Redskins can—and should—win.
By this point in the season, Griffin and the offense should be in sync and putting up points prior to the second half. Controlling the time of possession and stuffing the run will force Ponder—or Cassel—to take risks with his arm, which is when mistakes happen.
It'll be close, but the Redskins take the lead in the fourth quarter and come away with another win.
Final Score: Redskins 24-21 Vikings
Michael Vick and the Eagles caused the Redskins all sorts of problems in Week 1.
Despite the Eagles' slide from 1-0 to 1-3, the triple-threat posed by Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson remains a potent one.
The Redskins defense was blinded by speed against Chip Kelly's offense in Week 1, and the missed tackles could again be their undoing if they fail to address them during the bye.
Shuffling the safeties and cornerbacks around has been effective in reducing the yards surrendered each play. Bacarri Rambo has been the one to go after failing to wrap up tackles, blowing assignments and taking bad angles.
However, with more help he will develop into a solid NFL player, and it's entirely possible that he's back in the lineup by Week 11. Tanard Jackson, too, may have returned to the field.
Peyton Manning carved up the Eagles last week, but he'll do that to anyone. The Eagles defense has struggled, however, with Fletcher Cox and Mychal Kendricks currently failing to live up to expectations.
The Redskins will want revenge, and Kelly's offense is not new anymore. We've seen the Eagles beaten through pure efficiency—plus the Eagles' special teams unit has been horrendous—so the key to success will be to keep the defense guessing.
Washington was forced to throw after committing several turnovers early in the Week 1 encounter. If Griffin can reignite the threat of him running, there will be some flat-footed Eagles on defense leading to decent gains.
Given the start to the season, three wins in a row seems a little ridiculous right now. However, the improvement shown makes it completely plausible. Players will be back from injury and suspension, and winning cures every ailment in the NFL.
Final Score: Redskins 31-21 Eagles
Colin Kaepernick has had a slighly uneven start to the 2013 season.
The San Francisco 49ers only managed a total of 10 points in their losses to the Seahawks and Colts, which prompted a mini-meltdown among fans who expected nothing less than total dominance this year.
They got back on track by crushing the Rams, but their losses will give Redskins fans hope for an upset. Both the Colts and Seahawks stayed tight in coverage, forcing Colin Kaepernick into risky throws.
Eric Branch wrote for SFGate.com that the young quarterback's numbers across that stretch were 26-of-55, 277 yards, no touchdowns, six turnovers and a 32.2 passer rating.
He stayed in the pocket too long, expecting his receivers to get open. They never did, and Kaepernick struggled to improvise. The Redskins' problems on defense have had more to do with tackling than coverage, but they're still fragile and face a tough time replicating Seattle and Indianapolis' success.
By this point in the season, there's no excuses. If the team fails to live up to its potential in Week 12, it's down to the coaches.
It'll be closer than it seems right now, but the Niners will leave D.C. with another victory.
Final Score: 49ers 34-27 Redskins
Eli Manning and the new York Giants have started very poorly.
Is it possible that the New York Giants continue their slide into mediocrity as late as Week 13? Common sense would suggest otherwise, but Big Blue hasn't exactly looked like a team on the rise so far.
The Giants haven't just been beaten, they've been thumped. Unlike the Redskins, they don't get the relief of a bye until Week 9, so their season could be over by then. However, thanks to the ineffectual NFC East, even at 0-4 they are in with a chance.
Wins against the Eagles in Weeks 5 and 8 could change the balance of the division slightly before New York faces the Cowboys and Redskins after the bye.
It's entirely possible that the Giants are 5-6 going into the Redskins game, which would match the predictions set out here for the Redskins. If the Cowboys beat the Eagles but lose to the Giants, they could also be 5-6, meaning that this game would be for control of the NFC East.
Fresh off a decent performance against San Francisco, the Redskins get after Eli Manning and stuff the Giants' anemic running game. David Amerson and DeAngelo Hall pick off Manning in the third and fourth quarter and the Redskins take the W.
Final Score: Giants 20-34 Redskins
Dontari Poe and the Chiefs defense have been dominant this year.
The Kansas City Chiefs look like they're for real this season. With an aggressive defense featuring the likes of Tamba Hali, Eric Berry, Dontari Poe, Derrick Johnson, Justin Houston and Brandon Flowers, they were just searching for a quarterback to bring things together.
In Alex Smith, they seem to have found the perfect fit for Andy Reid's West Coast offense. Quick releases on short and intermediate passes keep the chains moving and the defense unsettled, which could be a problem for the Redskins.
Although Washington is showing signs of life in the secondary—and should be much-improved by Week 14—the sheer efficiency of Smith and the powerful Chiefs defense will be their undoing.
Redskins drop a close one here, moving to 6-7.
Final Score: Chiefs 27-20 Redskins
The Atlanta Falcons boast some of the best pass-catchers in the league.
After pushing the Falcons all the way last year, the Redskins will be pleased with how Atlanta's season is shaping up. It has some winnable games ahead, but also some tough matchups against the Seahawks, Saints and Packers.
B/R's NFC South Lead Writer Knox Bardeem stated that Matt Ryan is currently 1-of-8 on trips to the red zone this season. Even with Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White catching the ball, Ryan is having trouble finding them.
It's likely to come down to pressuring the quarterback again. If the Redskins can get in Ryan's face, he could be forced into errors. We saw him miss open receivers against New England, so he's clearly having trouble with his accuracy.
The Falcons defense is also allowing an average of 26 points a game, which doesn't help their QB. Although there's plenty of time for Atlanta to steady the ship, look for the Redskins to avenge their defeat from last year.
Final Score: Redskins 30-21 Falcons
Tony Romo was the main offender in this fixture last year.
It comes down to this again. A game against Dallas at FedEx Field to decide the NFC East.
Tony Romo threw three interceptions—including two on the opening two Cowboys drives—and Alfred Morris ran over the defense for 200 yards.
Over the past five years, the Redskins, Eagles and Giants have all beaten Dallas on the last game of the season to kill the Cowboys' playoff aspirations. Romo clearly doesn't thrive in these situations.
However, this isn't the last game of the season, and the Cowboys can't choke forever. Romo remains a good quarterback, and Dallas' defense can prop him up if they revert to the form shown in their opening couple of games.
This is going to be an immense battle, and if both teams can remain relatively unscathed by injuries, it will go right down to the wire.
The Redskins take this one in overtime and take control of the division.
Final Score: Cowboys 24-30 Redskins
Mike Shanahan's side have been inconsistent, but will retain the NFC East crown due to divisional superiority.
With the Giants' recovery and the Cowboys stalling, the Redskins could emerge as the division champions due to their superior record over their divisional rivals, but 9-7 is obviously preferable going into the playoffs.
By this point, Robert Griffin III should be looking something like his old self, and he had a lot of success against the Giants last year. The New York defense couldn't contain him, and he found the space to connect with his receivers.
The Redskins' offensive line has been porous this year, but when Griffin has managed to get out of the pocket, they have been able to give him just enough time. Trent Williams is the key here.
A strong showing at MetLife Stadium would give the team a lot of confidence as the postseason arrives.
Final Score Redskins 17-13 Giants