With their hopes of repeating as division champions slowly dwindling, the 1-4 Washington Redskins are faced with the unenviable task of focusing on improving rather than desperately grasping at a playoff run. Even with the abysmal showing the NFC East has put on this season, the 'Skins can't look beyond their next game.
The Chicago Bears are a healthy 4-2 and will likely prove an even tougher task than any of Washington's first five opponents.
Even in the face of all of that harsh realism, the Redskins can still hold onto the old adage that any team can win on any given Sunday.
With that in mind, here are some bold predictions for Washington's clash with the Chicago Bears.
It seems contradictory to the mire the team has been stuck in, but there's enough evidence to suggest the Redskins are capable of upsetting the Bears this week. Something about their lethargic, muddled performance against the Dallas Cowboys just points to a slump-breaking game against Chicago.
The Bears defense isn't as staunch as it once was, yielding 26.8 points per game, and Jay Cutler might be on the verge of a big day as far as interceptions are concerned.
If you overlook the record disparity, the Bears do not look like contenders, and despite having a top-tier receiver like Brandon Marshall, a takeaway-happy defense and an elite running back, they let too many teams hang around in games where they should coast to victory.
Everyone on Washington's side looks ready to snap out of their funk, while the Chicago side looks to be headed for disaster.
Chalk it up to a pair of shoddy quarterback performances in a row, but the Redskins defense has held their past two opponents to 199 yards over their past two games. Their secondary has to have some confidence from that fact, and that should lend itself to an uptick in turnovers.
David Amerson suffered a concussion against the Cowboys, but if healthy, he may be in line for another interception to go with the pick-six he collected in Oakland.
DeAngelo Hall has a pair of turnovers for touchdowns, but he's been quiet lately and is due for a good route-jump interception. Even more than Hall being due, or Amerson maybe hitting his stride, is Ryan Kerrigan's nose for the ball going largely unsatisfied.
He forced the fumble that Hall took for a touchdown in the season opener, but he hasn't cashed in on a turnover of his own. Expect active hands from Kerrigan as well as the rest of the defensive front, and it will mean multiple interceptions.
Cutler threw six interceptions in the first four weeks of the season, but he hasn't thrown one in the past two weeks. Expect a pair of picks to fall into the hands of a waiting Redskin or two.
Though he has just 17 catches on the season, rookie Jordan Reed has been by far the best tight end for the Redskins. Fred Davis has all but disappeared, and Logan Paulsen is much more utilitarian, which is made even more apparent by Reed's spark.
Coming back from his injury, Reed caught four passes for 58 yards in the loss to the Cowboys, but he recorded his longest reception of the season on a 29-yarder.
The Bears have only yielded one big game to a tight end this season, the honor going to Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints to the tune of 10 catches for 135 yards. Even so, Reed is enough of an unknown to maybe slip into the soft spots of the defense and make a living off of the run after the catch.
It may be a quiet breakout, but Reed may be in for a career-best seven catches for 70 yards and a touchdown.
The Bears offensive line has yielded just nine sacks this season, which does not bode well for the Redskins defense, which has had early success getting to the quarterback before opposing offenses light them up.
Twice the Bears have given up three sacks in a single game, and the Redskins are poised to get that and more.
Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo account for half of Washington's 16 team sacks, but the key to the defense's success against the Bears will be pressure from up front and on secondary blitzes. Barry Cofield, the ever-underrated nose tackle, was shut out of the Dallas game but had two sacks against Oakland before the bye.
The defensive coordinator has been searching for a spark for his beleaguered unit, and some exotic blitzes, or packages, to emphasize the trenches could be the key. Washington may walk away from this contest with five sacks if all goes well.
Sort of a catch-all prediction for Robert Griffin III, but given his relative lack of quality play this season, it is a bold prediction. Through four games, Griffin has lacked aggressiveness, accuracy, timing and chemistry with his teammates.
Coming out of the bye week, even with the sack-fumble and sub-50 percent completion rate, Griffin just looked better.
He didn't shy away from contact when he broke the pocket to run, even going as far as to throw a stiff arm or two at Cowboy defenders. He only completed 19 of his 39 pass attempts, but he was under heavy pressure throughout the game, and the coaches didn't seem too keen on maintaining offensive balance.
Griffin's best game will come against the Bears, who are giving up a so-so 271 passing yards per game and failed to hold an opponent under 21 points this season.
RGIII will not only throw for 300-plus yards and three touchdowns, but he won't turn the ball over, which he has done six times already this season.