It is the time of the year when rookies start to lag and veterans ache. The opponent, coming off a shutout loss on the road, appears wounded and lackluster. Add in a schedule that would do wonders for frequent flier miles but just adds another draining factor to an already arduous work schedule, and it adds up to an upset waiting to happen.
The Niners are four-point favorites going into Fed Ex Stadium and face a team that is banged up (running back Tim Hightower and No. 1 receiver Santana Moss are out). The Skins are struggling at quarterback (Rex Grossman and John Beck have combined for 12 interceptions) and on the offensive line.
It is a team that appears to be without a lot of weapons on offense, reducing head coach Mike Shanahan’s offensive creativity. And in Harbaugh’s mind, it also is a Redskins team desperate for a win. At 3-4, they are still in the hunt for control of the NFC East, but another loss could prove quite deadly.
Harbaugh will bring that up repeatedly, and here are the five things he will stress so the 49ers will avoid a letdown this Sunday in Washington.