The Redskins face one of their toughest tests of the season in the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers stand atop the NFC West, while the Redskins lie at the bottom of the NFC East. Though not unbeatable, San Francisco is riding a five-game winning streak compared to Washington's three-game losing streak.
It is a battle of streaks for both teams, but the Redskins can't risk extending their own if they intend to make something of this season.
There are a million and one reasons to expect much of the same from the Redskins this Sunday. However, there is no greater motivator for a team like Washington than desperation. The Redskins have every reason to play their best game against San Francisco, but here are a few reasons why this game is a must-win for Washington.
Though the Seahawks eked their way into the playoffs last season with a losing record, that isn't likely to happen this season. The playoffs are still a ways away, but the Redskins can't afford to lose more ground than they already have.
A win over San Francisco brings Washington back to even on the season, and in much better standing in the NFC.
No one is saying that one win can change an entire season, or the composition of a team. However, the Redskins can stay within reach of the rest of the NFC with a win over one of its top teams. The Redskins were once in prime position for a playoff spot, but then they hit the bye week and saw a rash of injuries decimate their offense.
A win over one of the NFC's best would be huge for the Redskins, and could derail the 49ers' season. The NFC has been wide open for several years, and one loss can easily multiply and open the door for the rest of the conference to catch up.
The Redskins were once atop the NFC East with a 3-1 record looking down on their struggling rivals. Four weeks and three games later, the Redskins are back where they belong, at the bottom of their division riding a three-game losing streak.
Washington will find it very difficult to keep pace with their own division if they fall to 3-5 with a loss against San Francisco.
A victory over the 49ers would put the Redskins back at .500 and give them a leg up over the Eagles who already lost to San Francisco. Dallas pulled an overtime victory in Week 2, and New York has yet to play the Niners, but a win would likely prove invaluable in the event of a division tie.
You saw how excited John Harbaugh was after his team beat the Detroit Lions, and they had a winning record at that point. Imagine what it would feel like for the Redskins if they beat the San Francisco 49ers, who are riding a five-game winning streak.
A morale boost would do wonders for the Redskins on both sides of the ball, and could be the best remedy to their recent woes.
There were some emotions on the sidelines during the loss to Buffalo, and it shows that at least London Fletcher cares. One of the biggest issues for the Redskins isn't their performance on the field, but their attitude. They don't look like they want to play football, and that in of itself is demoralizing.
Winning isn't easy, but it makes things seem easier. Success breeds success, and success breeds positivity.
With what the Redskins have shown over the last three weeks, it is easy to see them allowing their three straight losses to become four, five and six. Players may talk about how losing sucks, but that doesn't mean they have to accept it.
Washington needs to stop the losing streak and start a winning streak, and a win over San Francisco is their biggest test and their first opportunity.
Winning is a habit, and the Redskins are not currently in the habit of winning. Losing is contagious, but a victory can turn the tide and Washington's fortunes for the season. A victory over the Niners would be a huge momentum shift to say the least.
What better way to boost morale than to get a win over the 49ers and have it be John Beck's first win as a starter? It would surely earn him some support from his teammates on offense.
Much was made about last week's shutout loss to the Buffalo Bills, and for good reason. It was the first time since 2005 that the Redskins had been shut out, and the first time in 267 games that Mike Shanahan had been shut out.
Shanahan has seen his number of critics skyrocket since the Redskins lost three straight coming out of their bye week.
The Redskins need to win this game to give Shanahan some pride back. He hasn't made all the right decisions, but he is unquestionably a better coach than Jim Zorn, despite posting a worse record after 22 games.
Shanahan's biggest flaw is allow his son Kyle to handle play calling duties, when it was Mike Shanahan's offensive brilliance that Washington paid for.
If Washington can't beat San Francisco, the calls for Shanahan's head will echo even louder across DC, and an impatient owner like Dan Snyder won't sit on his hands much longer.
Every analyst on every station in every market covering the NFL has highlighted the offensive inadequacy of the Washington Redskins. It is no secret to anyone, least of all the Redskins themselves, that their offense is in need of fix.
If the Redskins can beat the 6-1 San Francisco 49ers, their critics will have to reevaluate their claim that Washington can't win without a quarterback.
It isn't likely to be pretty on offense for the Redskins, but an efficient day with zero turnovers could be enough for a win. Given how well Washington's defense has performed despite being on the field most of the time, it isn't out of the question for the Redskins to limit the 'Niners offense, especially through the air.
Following their loss to Buffalo last week, the Redskins have now had a three-game losing streak in each of their last 12 seasons. Not only does it reflect poorly on the current regime, it shows a consistent neglect by coaches, front office personnel and the owner.
Successful teams don't allow a loss to turn into losses, let alone streaks spanning over a decade.
The Redskins have made some memorable playoff runs in the last five or six years, but why should it come down to the final four games to decide their fate? Why not start winning early instead of resting on your projected role of spoiler, or waiting on some surge of emotion to carry your team to the postseason?
Few teams can recover from four straight losses to reach .500, let alone make a push for the playoffs.