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As Bye Week Looms, Mike Shanahan Eyes Improvement In Second Half

By ZAC BOYER | @ZacBoyer

With a 3-5 record and a week off looming, the Washington Redskins are facing an important turning point in their season this Sunday when they return home to host the hapless Carolina Panthers.


“I think everybody knows that it’s a must-win game when you’re 3-5 [before] the bye week if you want to have any chance at the playoffs,” head coach Mike Shanahan said.

The Redskins’ season reached the halfway mark three days ago when their most futile effort of the season led to a 27-12 loss at Pittsburgh. It was the first time in eight games they did not lead, or at least hold a tie, in the fourth quarter; the average scoring margin before the loss to the Steelers had been roughly a touchdown.

“I think we all know the record defines who you are, but I mean, if people can’t figure out or take a look at the offense and see it’s a completely different football team, then you know, they obviously don’t have a background in football,” Shanahan said. “We’ve got to play much better than we’re playing, and with this experience that we’ve had, we’re hoping we can get much better the rest of this season.”

While the Redskins have a losing record, history will show they’re not yet out of the playoff hunt. Since 2000, 29 teams have not had a winning record halfway through the season and made the playoffs – including New England in 2001, when it was 4-4 after eight games yet won the Super Bowl.

They also have five games remaining against NFC East teams, having played only the New York Giants thus far. And, when factoring in the win percentage of their remaining opponents, the Redskins have the fifth-easiest schedule in the NFC still remaining.

“I think everybody understands, at the midway point, that you better be playing your best football, or else you’re eliminated very quick,” Shanahan said. “We know statistically, it’s not that way, but realistically, that’s what happens over the years.”