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Is this Sunday’s game the first “must win” game of 2012 for the Redskins?

I absolutely detest the fact how common it’s become for overused clichés to be included as part of most people’s regular vernacular, especially when it comes to the sports world. But, three games into the season and coming off two straight losses, if there was a “must win” game for the Washington Redskins for this season, their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this weekend would be one.

What happens if Tampa Bay ends up beating the Redskins on Sunday? A loss would drop Washington to 1-3, and things could get ugly for the 2012 season in a hurry. The Redskins return home to host the Falcons, who could very well be the best team in the NFL right. They follow that by hosting the Vikings, a team that beat San Francisco (who many thought was the best team in the NFL) by double digits. That’s followed by road games against the Giants and the Steelers, and then back home against Carolina, who beat the Redskins by double-digits in 2011.

A “glass is half empty” fan (pardon yet another cliché) could very easily make the argument that the Redskins could be looking at a 3-6, 2-7, or even 1-8 record by the time their bye week rolls around in week 10 (by the way, it only gets worse after the bye week).

Make no mistake: like the matchups against the St. Louis Rams and Cincinnati Bengals over the last two weeks, this Sunday’s matchup against Tampa Bay also a very winnable game. They’re the only team in the NFL with a more porous pass defense than the Redskins (Washington is 31st against the pass, Tampa Bay is 32nd). Sure, they’ve held their opponents out of the endzone (for the most part), but haven’t had much luck in locating it themselves either. They’ve scored a grand total of six touchdowns in three games, but four of those touchdowns came in a loss against the Giants. They’re the third worst team in the NFL in throwing the football, even with two Pro Bowl caliber receivers; Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman hasn’t thrown for more than 250 yards all season, and has thrown an interception in two of their three games.

On the flipside, Tampa Bay has been really freaking good against the run. They’ve allowed a grand total of 142 rushing yards all season, and while they’re coming in with a 1-2 record, they gave both the Giants (in the Meadowlands) and the Cowboys (in Dallas) everything they could handle, losing each game by seven or less points. Like the Redskins, they’re one of those teams with a lot of young talent at key places, that’s teetering on the doorstep of “potential” and “production.”

Still, this is a game that the Redskins “should” win, and a loss would be even more painful for several reasons.

A loss this Sunday would be painful for multiple reasons. Let’s even remove the fact of how much it would suck to lose to Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano, who is quickly on pace to usurp the title of “biggest douche bag head coach of the last five years whom absolutely nobody at all likes” away from Todd Haley. The entire coaching staff is made up of his third and fourth choices at key positions, starting right at the top; let’s not forget how the Buccaneers hired Schiano only after failing to land Jeff Fisher and University of Oregon head coach Chip Kelly. Then, after Schiano took the job, most teams refused him access to their coaches, when he was trying to fill out his own staff. It would be a downright embarrassment if the ridiculously-paid Mike Shanahan and company were to lose to these guys.

On top of that, this will easily be one of the “friendlier” away games all season, with several Redskins message boards planning away-game-meetups in Tampa, especially given how easy it will be to get tickets for the game; most of the population of Tampa Bay comprises demographics far more concerned with shuffleboard and Matlock marathons, and those who do care about sports probably are more focused on the Tampa Bay Rays, a team who’s right in the middle of a playoff race.

And finally, consider the fact that the proverbial “schedule-making gods” happened to put what could be argued as the “softer” teams towards the beginning of the schedule, and yet the Redskins still managed to start the season 1-2. They beat the team that nobody thought they’d beat, although we realize the Saints are nowhere near the same powerhouse we believed they were, and then the Redskins dropped both games against teams they very well should have beat. But three straight losses against teams that the Redskins very well could and should have beat would be catastrophic, again when taken in the context of the schedule immediately looming and slate of opponents for the rest of the season.

At least a win against Tampa Bay would give them a little positive momentum going into the game against Atlanta, and given the way the Falcons look, they’re going to need every bit of it. But as for the bigger picture, maybe a win against Tampa can curb the losing tide a bit, and right the ship as it heads into some very rough water as the 2012 season continues to unfold.

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