<
>

Redskins' season could hinge on beating Bears

play
Berry: McLaurin should be No. 1 waiver claim this week (1:50)

Matthew Berry proclaims that Terry McLaurin is the WR1 in Washington and should be the No. 1 waiver claim this upcoming week. (1:50)

ASHBURN, Va. -- The worst-case scenario exists because, well, that's how life has gone for the Washington Redskins (0-2) in recent seasons.

Winless after two games, the worst case is not one they want to consider, but that's what they would face with a loss to the Chicago Bears on Monday (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Then again ...

If they beat the Bears, they could be looking at a mini-turnaround.

"You never know what play or what game the switch flips," Redskins quarterback Case Keenum said. "Who knows where that leads? We have the same mindset in that locker room. So the sky is not falling for us."

Maybe not, but Monday's game feels like it could be a pivot point for Washington's season. Consider the scenarios riding on the outcome.

If the Redskins lose ...

They're staring at 1-4 or maybe 0-5: After Monday, Washington plays a winnable road game against the New York Giants -- a game the Giants will view as highly winnable, too. Then the Redskins play at home against the New England Patriots in Week 5. They don't want to think about participating in a Winless Bowl in Week 6 in Miami.

The heat will increase on defensive coordinator Greg Manusky ...: The Redskins nearly replaced him last offseason. This season the defense was supposed to be their strength, especially early on. Instead, they rank 30th in yards and points allowed after losing to Philadelphia and Dallas.

The Redskins have allowed 63 points over the first two games and there have been internal complaints about the lack of aggressiveness defensively. Against Dallas in Week 2, of quarterback Dak Prescott's 30 pass attempts, the Redskins rushed more than four defenders only four times. Prescott completed 17 of 20 passes when the Redskins rushed just four, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Yet they didn't try much else, never stunting. If Chicago quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has a big day against Washington, watch out. The Washington defenders point to growing pains because the team has some youth -- it started rookies at inside linebacker and slot corner. But the Redskins need to get it turned around fast to avoid more heat on Manusky. They haven't fired a coordinator in-season since owner Dan Snyder bought the team in 1999.

... and coach Jay Gruden: He's in his sixth season with one playoff appearance and no postseason wins. The clock ticks louder on his tenure with every loss. The Redskins also started 0-2 in 2016 en route to an 8-7-1 season in which they missed the playoffs because of a season-finale loss. If Gruden needs a playoff appearance to save his job, he should know this stat: Since 1990, of 136 teams to start 0-3, only four have made the postseason, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

The Redskins placed their 10th player on injured reserve Wednesday -- cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. They need a year when their injuries don't dominate the season, but, regardless, Gruden must get them to produce. Snyder hasn't fired a coach in-season since Norv Turner in 2000, but the Redskins also don't want a season-long deathwatch on Gruden's tenure.

The calls for rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins will increase: The Redskins don't want to rush Haskins onto the field. But if they're 0-3, the fan base will start wondering why the No. 15 overall pick isn't on the field, especially with the other first-round quarterbacks -- the Giants' Daniel Jones and Arizona's Kyler Murray -- already starting. It's hard to imagine a staff that needs to win will put Haskins on the field if they're still alive for the playoffs, unless they deem him ready.

If they win ...

They have a chance to alter their season, at least temporarily: The difference between 0-3 and 1-2 for postseason hopes is tremendous. Of the 228 teams that have started 1-2 since 1990, 76 have made the postseason (25%). Five teams last season started 1-2 and made the postseason, including the Patriots.

The Redskins aren't the Patriots and might not make the postseason. But they do play at the Giants in Week 4, so 2-2 becomes realistic. After New England, they play at Miami, so a 3-3 record after an 0-2 start is possible. Of course, the hard part will be to win against a Bears team that was 12-4 a season ago and has one of the NFL's best defenses.

"It's a long season," Redskins running back Adrian Peterson said. "Last year we were 6-3 and then things went downhill. It can go the opposite way as well."

The pressure subsides, at least temporarily: One question after another on social media revolves around the fate of various coaches on the Redskins' staff. Those questions won't end until they win a few. If Keenum can lead a win against the Bears, then fans will continue to be (mostly) patient waiting for Haskins.

The Redskins say he needs time, and the more they win, the more he can keep working on his game away from the spotlight. At some point they're going to need him, whether later this season or next. Both Haskins and the team want him as prepared as possible for that opportunity. And they want it to come later rather than sooner.

A win Monday could help achieve that goal.