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The Chat House with Michael Wilbon: Redskins-Rams, NFL in Review and Cubs or the White House?

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Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Sports Columnist
Monday, October 13, 2008; 1:15 PM

Welcome to another edition of The Chat House, where Post columnist Michael Wilbon was online Monday, Oct. 13 at 1:15 p.m. ET to take your questions and comments about the Redskins' loss to the Rams, an unpredictable weekend in the NFL and whether or not he would trade a Cubs World Series title for the loss of his preferred presidential candidate.

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A transcript follows.

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Centreville, Va.: Would you classify this loss to the Rams as a make-or-break point in the Redskins season? Losing a close game to a winless team at home is a very frustrating and upsetting. How will Coach Zorn and the team react? Will they fall apart? Will they start pointing fingers? Will they lose confidence? Or will Coach Zorn exert leadership and instill confidence back into the team? I'd like to know what your opinion is on this juncture in the Redskins season.

Michael Wilbon: Hi everybody...I'm live from Cleveland where Tony and I are for MNF...well, Tony for the actual game and me for the pre-stuff activities, like PTI...What a crazy NFL day yesterday...A thriller for teams like the Texans and Cardinals and Rams and Falcons...A killer for my Bears and obviously the Redskins, which is where we'll start before jumping into all things NFL and hitting some MLB playoffs, college football, etc.

I always make fun of Washingtonians, perhaps more than any other group of fans in the country, as being so wildly predictable where it concerns the Redskins and their own mood swings over every NFL game. No, 4-2 after six games doesn't make anything that just happened make or break. Had they lost in Dallas but won yesterday would that 4-2 feel any better? Yeah, probably it would, but the 4-2 counts the same. In fact, it counts more because the Cowboys are a division opponent and the Rams aren't. It was a bad loss. A silly loss. I certainly didn't think this was going to be a "trap game" because the Rams are so awful. But the turnovers, as Thomas Boswell so insightfully wrote in today's editions of The Post, played "Gotcha!" with the Redskins. The Rams couldn't drive for a touchdown, which means the defense, other than one completed pass at the end, played darn well. Clinton Portis was great again...The turnovers were a killer. Now, should yesterday's result bring the Redskins and more importantly their fans back to earth? Yes, of course. Do the Redskins suddenly stink? No. From the post-game comments it's easy to see they're a bit embarrassed, which is understandable. But the bet here is they'll bounce back and win the next two to go 6-2...Even 5-3 would be okay because the NFC East is starting to seek a more reasonable level. But they'll need to be 6-2 and have a little cushion before the division games resume.

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Nashville: Is there such a thing as a "good" loss? Based on the numbers, they should have won the game....minus the turnovers, one of them a fluke, that should bode well for the team, right?

Michael Wilbon: I see where you're going but I think losing at home to an 0-4 team is a bad loss. Losing a game when the trailing team has only 11 seconds left, as was the case with the Bears yesterday, is a bad loss. Those were two really, really bad losses. They weren't catastrophic, just bad losses. Nobody needs to be fired or benched...they were just bad losses.

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Fairfax, Va.: I know we're gonna hear a lot -- a LOT -- today about the punter and the OL who shoulda fell on the ball, but come on. This is an offense that scored 17 points -- seven of them on a short field -- against a defense that had given up over 30 points to every single team it had played. Having a sloppy, overconfident, and underperforming offense is what lost the game, not the punter or the lineman.

Michael Wilbon: I agree with that, though the head coach has put the punter on notice and he HAS to be better than he's been...But the offense should have been better. Give the Rams a little credit, particularly Jim Haslett, for coming in after the coach was fired and keeping the team together and getting it ready during a bye week...

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Cumberland, Md.: Wilbon, after your recent column regarding the racial slurs used in a high school football game between teams from Cumberland and D.C., I believe the best way to fix this problem is to continue having these two teams that obviously have different racial and cultural backgrounds continue playing each other in the future. How long will it be until teams from these areas can once again begin playing each other and start to put this problem behind?

washingtonpost.com: Racial Prejudice Pops Up in an Arena Normally Free of It (Post, Sept. 26)

Michael Wilbon: I hope immediately...I really do...or if not immediately then very soon. I don't know that school officials see the solution as I do, but that's what I'd propose.

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Van Ness, D.C.: Hi! Love your work in the Post and on ESPN. And of course a shout out to TK. Hope you both are having a blast in my hometown ... Cleveland! I'm not even going to ask who ya got in tonight's game!

Two quick questions: Do you agree with Texas getting the No. 1 spot in the polls? I know that they beat No. 1, but won't their schedule put them at No. 1 eventually if they really deserve it? I think it will all work itself out anyway, but I find it interesting when bye week teams are overlooked.

Also, what's up with the 4:30 EST ALCS game today? I'll take any excuse to leave work early, but it seems like a weird start time to me.

Thanks for your insight. And sorry about Northwestern this weekend.

Michael Wilbon: Thanks...I spend a lot of time in Cleveland during the LeBron Era...And yeah, I'm picking the Giants to win tonight...Texas should be No. 1...They'd be No. 1 in my poll if I still voted. And they'll have every chance to prove whether they're worthy over the next three weeks with a KILLER schedule that begins at home Saturday with Mizzou, which needs to feel a little desperate after losing to Ok. State at home Saturday...What a conference, the Big 12! Best in the country. Sorry, SEC. Red Sox-Tampa resumes this afternoon and that's a real series now that it's 1-1...

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Maryland: Relax Washington, we lost, we turned the ball over, special teams were a problem, we missed interceptions. And we overcame it and had a chance to win. We put up much better numbers and really didn't play to lose..the stars were aligned, it happens, ask Dallas. It really was a good lesson, if we learn from it. Skin's only blamed themselves, and that's the right attitude! Whathca think Mike W?

Michael Wilbon: That...pretty much.

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Evanston, Ill.: Are you kidding me? Kyle Orton leads his team on a 77 yard drive and guns it to Rashid Davis in the end zone to take the lead with 11 seconds left. Game over, right? No, an awful squib kick and defensive collapse leads to a Falcons win. What is wrong with this defense?

Michael Wilbon: The defense, while good, is overrated and not clutch and the specials teams looks poorly coached. In fact, the 3-3 Bears have lost all their games this season on the final play of the game, which to me points to bad coaching...I don't mean they're bad coaches; they're less than two years removed from the Super Bowl. But I believe the Bears team this season has been inadequately coached. It's always something. The defense was horrendously designed on the final play in Atlanta AND the special teams coach, after watching his team fail to cover an earlier kickoff, went soft with the kickoff instead of booming that thing to the end zone...Bad special teams coaching...AND, Lovie should have kicked the field goal on fourth-and-goal from inches in the fourth quarter two scores behind...That would have made FG a moot point...

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Phoenix: Talk about a heartbreaking loss, I'm becoming a Kyle Orton believer watching the way he led the Bears down the field for what seemed to be the game winning drive. However, I'm so tired of coaches calling for the squib kicks late in the game. Teams are basically giving up 20 yards on that play, (granted the Falcons almost took the prior kickoff to the house) but why do coaches insist on the squib kick late in the game. I see no benefit from it.

By the way, I need to give credit where credit is due, Matt Ryan looks really good out there.

Michael Wilbon: Squib kicks are lazy, period. And Matt Ryan is rookie-of-the-year. The balloting is already closed. AND, make Mike Smith coach of the year...Four wins already in Atlanta? Kudos to Ryan and White...As for Orton, he's played very, very well this season. That drive to go ahead with :11 should have launched the Bears. Instead, they're likely feeling sorry for themselves at 3-3 when they should be 4-2 at worst, probably 5-1.

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Nicholasville, Ky.: Thank you for being the voice of reason. Do you think that the Giants will falter this season? They are at the top of most power rankings yet after a home division win have only played three games whose combined record is 1 and 12.

Michael Wilbon: The Patriots beat up on a bunch of patsies early last year and they were a great team. I think the Giants are the best team in the league right now, strength of schedule aside. The Redskins strength-of-schedule wasn't too good yesterday but how did that work out?

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Reston, Va.: Michael, do you think Tony Romo is the most overrated starting QB currently active in the NFL? If not, who wins that prestigious honor? Also, when the heck are they going to get rid of the tuck rule?

Michael Wilbon: I like Romo tons, but I think he's overrated...Really good, but not a young Brett Favre. The Cowboys, in general, have been overrated by folks in my business. How many weeks have I said that here in the Chat House. Now, Romo is out four weeks with a broken finger. You know who the backup QB is? That, ladies and gents, would be one Brad Johnson. I think the Cowboys are in trouble.

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Oak Hill, Va.: Colts looked totally different after their bye week and the Chargers crushed the Brady-less Patriots...who do you like in the AFC after 6 weeks?

Michael Wilbon: If Jacksonville can win next week and get to its feet after losing all those offensive linemen, I still like the Steelers, Jaguars and Titans...The Colts could be getting to their feet, collectively, as well.

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Richmond, Va.: Why can't one person handle both kicking jobs?

Michael Wilbon: In 1985 the Redskins place kicker/punter was Jeff Hayes. Early in a game in Chicago, trying to make a tackle, he got injured...So, the Redskins had no kicker and no punter. They didn't need a place-kicker anymore because they never scored again. But when they needed a punter they had to go to Joe Theisman, who had a -1 yard punt in the wind in Soldier Field that day. You can't afford to have one injury knock out TWO players...two that are so critical to the outcome of the game.

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Ponderville: Hey Mike -

Would you trade the Presidential election going against the candidate you prefer for a guaranteed Cubs World Series title?

Michael Wilbon: Hmmmm...in the past, I'd have said yes. This election? Given the shape the economy is in and the direction other things in the world have been going? No chance.

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Portland, Ore.: I was wondering if you had any comment regarding the two conservative talk show hosts who stated on their radio show that they thought Magic Johnson was faking having AIDS.

How about Magic's classy response, chiding them for their ignorance and astutely pointing out that he has HIV, not AIDS.

Michael Wilbon: That rumor has been out there for 10 years, believe me, in Black World. That a couple of conservative talk show hosts wouldn't know the conversation taking place among black folks wouldn't exactly stun me.

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Washington, D.C.: I was happy to see the Rams finally win this season (Grandma's in St. Louis, so if she's happy, I'm happy). But I have to reprogram my brain after watching the Dallas-Arizona game. Arizona is now 4-2 and at the top of the NFC West; in my early 30something mind, Arizona is a perpetually lousy team. But good for them too! It's nice to see a team get themselves out of the basement and be a contender.

Michael Wilbon: I think the Cardinals can win the NFC West. Seattle, the preseason favorite in that division, is teetering perilously on the edge...I, too, am glad to see the Cardinals play well early. They've got, for my money, the best receiver in football in Larry Fitzgerald...and the best trio in Fitz, Steve Breaston and currently injured Anquan Bolden who should be back in a couple of weeks. Remember, the Cards beat the Cowboys yesterday with him in street clothes, still nursing a swollen face after that knock out two weeks ago...

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Washington, D.C.: Mike, can you take me into the mind of an NFL player. Two boneheaded plays that I saw yesterday that I doubt you would see in high school much less the NFL. Kendall's catch/run and the Lions QB running out of the end zone. Obviously these guys aren't stupid. Is it spur-of-the-moment brainlock, trying too hard, or is it that (unlike many sports) football players are so programmed to perform a specific task that they may not be able to handle anything unusual coming their way.

Michael Wilbon: You're way way wrong on the Kendall play. You see it all the time. I can remember a half-dozen times I've seen it. It was a mistake...Now, having no idea where the end zone is and missing the line by six feet is incredible. THAT, you shouldn't see in a high school game. I was watching that game for some strange reason at the time that play took place...Maybe I was watching the Red Zone Channel and they cut to that game...Can't imagine why otherwise I'd be watching Vikings-Lions.

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Fairfax, Va.: Hope you're enjoying Cleveland -- I recommend Great Lakes Brewing Company, particularly the Edmund Fitzgerald. If you eat there, try the stout ice cream. Delish!

Michael Wilbon: Thanks for that...I'll file it away for my annual first-round Wizards-Cavs trips to Cleveland! Actually, Coach Mike Fratello, a Cleveland resident, is THE MAN to know in Cleveland when it comes to dining...And I have an approved list of eateries from Coach Fratello and put it to good use when I'm here, which is more often than you'd think...

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New Orleans: Do you foresee any major changes in Dallas, especially since Romo is out for a month?

Michael Wilbon: You mean besides T.O. blowing up and PacMan getting beat? No...that's about it.

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Harrisburg, Pa.: Everyone seems to be talking about turnovers which I agree are important, but really isn't it time to deal with our punting situation?

Michael Wilbon: Zorn says this either this kid is going to have to punt well right now, like this week, or he'll be out. We'll see. But punting didn't cost you the game yesterday. The Rams, remember, scored one touchdown and it didn't come off anything involving a punt.

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Herndon, Va.: As a Northwestern grad, you were probably sad to see them leave the ranks of the undefeated at the hands of a decent MSU Spartan team...but what did you think of Toledo taking down the Michigan "little" Blue at the Big House?

Michael Wilbon: The Northwestern QB is a really nice athlete with a pretty big arm and a good set of legs on him but he played a really scattered game Saturday against Michigan State. The Spartans are good...but it was a winnable game. He forced some really bad throws Saturday and it cost us...And our special teams looked like the Bears...not good.

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Austin, Tex.: Mike, I wanted to get your thoughts on the Texas-Oklahoma game. Unlike the Alabama-Georgia stinker these were two great teams that each played perfectly throughout the game. Even as a Texas graduate, I was glad to see OU only drop to number 4, these are two of the best teams in college football. Have you ever been to the Cotton Bowl/Texas Fair for this game? Incredible atmosphere, great food, and amazing football.

Michael Wilbon: Texas-OU was fabulous! And yes, I've been to the Cotton Bowl to see it...in the mid-1980s to be exact. It is a wonderful atmosphere...I thought OU was going to win because I thought Sam Bradford would outplay Colt McCoy...and I was wrong, even though Bradford, I think threw FIVE touchdown passes Saturday...Used to be those teams were so unimaginative offensively, so boring...Not now. The QBs in the Big 12 on Saturday completed more than 70 percent of their passes. I don't think Texas can stay undefeated but what a victory over OU...

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Ashburn, Va.: Michael, it seems like there have been quite a few botched calls this season. In your experience covering the NFL, do you think there is a higher incident of missed calls, or does it just seem that way because they have been given so much attention?

Michael Wilbon: Yeah, I do. I'm sure somebody in the NFL office in NYC would tell me I'm wrong and the number of calls missed, statistically, is about the same as it always is...But anecdotally, I think there have been more blown calls of consequence this season...And we're not halfway done with the season.

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Fins: Mike,

What's your take on the unconventional offensive sets that the Dolphins are running? It seems like they're getting a lot of mileage out of their unpredictability and that more teams might start looking at the Wildcat-style offense.

Michael Wilbon: The thing that has always bothered me about pro football is that its too conservative...not imaginative enough. I love what the Dolphins are doing and in a copy-cat league you can be certain we'll see more of the "Wildcat" offense, whatever that is. Why not use all your available weapons in the most creative ways possible? You see more imagination in the NBA than in pro football, which is why I'm glad to see some Arena Football influence sneak in every now and then. When the West Coast offense was born (or at the very least popularized) in San Francisco, it seemed radical. Teams spent the next 25 years copying it, like it's the only offensive system available. Good for the Dolphins. I hope it shreds defenses. It's fun to watch and I imagine it would be pretty fun to play.

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Washington, D.C.: Hey Mike

Thanks for taking my question. What should Pac Man's punishment be for the fight he and his body guard got into last week?

Thanks

Michael Wilbon: Suspension for two games by the league.

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Washington, D.C.: Hey Mike, do you think the Joe Paterno needs to retire talk will settle down for a while? Or do certain parts of the fan base just want him to retire because he's in his 80s? Because he sure doesn't seem to be hindering their success at the moment!

Michael Wilbon: Now isn't the time to want to nudge Joe Pa out. His Nittany Lions are undefeated and ranked, what, 3rd or 4th in the country? Now, the behavioral problems at Penn State that simply didn't exist for years and years are issues that stop at Paterno's desk. He got the credit when that program had zero problems. He has to take the responsibility with so many kids have so many issues. He recruited them. It's never been JUST the winning at Penn State because Paterno said it was about so much more than that, and he backed it up as few coaches in any sport in any era did.

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Washington, D.C.: Mike, I really, really would like to know what genius thought the squib kick was ever a good idea. Kicks are so rarely run back, and when they are, I never here anyone say "dang we shoulda squibbed it."

Michael Wilbon: It's idiotic...the squib kick.

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Philadelphia: Wilbon-

Will this current economic crisis affect player salaries? Certainly, if banks are failing all over the place and financial institutions are crumbling, then advertisers might begin paying less, and people might be less likely to buy those crazy personal set licenses, or whatever the hell they are.

Thanks!

Michael Wilbon: It would seem...right? But we haven't gotten there yet. Mark Cuban made a fascinating observation the other day about the sale of the Cubs probably being delayed now. And I talked to a banker Saturday who said other teams will be up for sale now, in all professional sports. If the crisis lasts for awhile, we'll get to see whether their crystal balls are accurate.

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Baltimore: Thoughts on the unfortunate news about Seve Ballesteros? I know he's a feisty guy, so I'm hopeful he'll fight this to the end.

washingtonpost.com: Ballesteros Has Tumor (Post, Oct. 12)

Michael Wilbon: It's very sad to hear and I'm sure the Ballesteros family is welcoming all good wishes and prayers. I read that this morning and was startled by it...All the best to Seve...

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Washington, D.C.: Mike,

It seems to me that many people need to take a chill pill, and I'm not just referring to the Redskins. Whether it be the Cowboys looking good and now faltering, or the Colts being left for dead, and now suddenly looking unstoppable, we read way too much into each week's game. It reminds me of something I heard a coach say once: "You're never as good as your best game, and you're never as bad as your worst game."

Michael Wilbon: Yep.

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Durant Brooks: Nobody needs to be fired or benched? How come Vinny has me packing my bags? Can you talk to him?

Michael Wilbon: Well, maybe one guy. And it ain't Vinny who called you out yesterday. It was your coach.

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14th and Constitution: Mr. Wilbon, how about some chat house love for the Caps? We spend some time in here ripping on T.O., Snyder, Ocho Cinco and others for their diva like behavior. Meanwhile, down the street we have a legitimate mega-star in Ovie who plays hard, is a great teammate, and seems to be a great role model. How about some love towards Ted Leonsis? We can name all the things he hasn't done, but how about the one thing he has done: stand up and take accountability for the franchise under his watch. This is a class franchise and it's playing in OUR city.

Michael Wilbon: We throw some love at Ovechkin several times a season, though we don't discuss him a ton. The Capitals got off to an okay start, losing the opener but coming back (behind Ovechkin) to win the home opener. I've known Ted Leonsis longer than most any of you out there that have come to praise him lately. He's a terrific owner and has been for quite awhile. It would be great if the Capitals can play up to the level of the preseason hype. Some folks are picking the Wizards to miss the playoffs, so the Capitals might need to carry the winter around here.

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Tampa: Do you feel personally responsible for the Redskins loss? I believe you jinxed them quite significantly last week by referring to the Rams as a 'bye week.'

Michael Wilbon: Yes, I did say that, and NO, I didn't tackle and throw or block yesterday...

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Chantilly: Gotta disagree with you re: the bodyguard. Isn't that the purpose of a bodyguard in this situation? To keep Pacman from getting into fights with others? Pacman bristled at someone watching over him, and pushed back some. To me, that's part of the job description of the babysitter type of bodyguard. You take the hit so the innocent don't.

Michael Wilbon: I didn't even comment on the bodyguard did I? I said suspend PacMan. These are two separate issues. I don't know went down and don't care to know. PacMan can't stay out of trouble and being told there was a zero tolerance policy in place. So PacMan needs to be punished.

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Arlington, Va.: Did someone just ask if you would trade your vote for president for a Cubs World Series? Are you kidding me folks? Come on. I understand wanting your team to win -- but we are talking about the most powerful person in the country. Really?

The rumor about Magic...do they think he stopped playing basketball because he wanted to?

Michael Wilbon: Did you read that I said, "No." Or are you just ranting for the hell of it after coming up with your own answer? Oh wait, or are you ripping the question? Yeah, the question, especially being asked right now, is too far out there. BUT it goes to show you how fandom takes a hold of people. Folks are passionate about sports and politics...sometimes in that order.

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Washington, D.C.: If you were the Wizards GM, would you hold the fort and wait until everyone gets healthy like they do every year, or would you be proactive and try to make some trades to send some of the multitudes of young unproven bodies/draft picks that we have in order to get some veteran help at the 5?

A trade such as Nick Young/Etan Thomas and draft picks to LA for Chris Kaman works monetarily.

Michael Wilbon: I don't think the Clippers have any desire to trade Chris Kaman, who seems to be part of their immediate plans to make the playoffs this season. And yeah, I'd wait until everybody got back to make decisions on anything...I realize that could mean doom for the Wizards in the short term...I don't think I'd have signed Arenas...But if you do sign him you have to let it play out with the group you assembled to play with him.

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Washington, D.C.: Michael,

I know everyone's upset about yesterday, but seriously, if I had said that at this point the Redskins would be 4-2 and second in the division, everyone would have taken it, right?

Michael Wilbon: Yes, and that's the way we're going to end today's chat, with perspective...I've got to run down the hill to the stadium and join TK for PTI today before the game...Everybody have a great week...We'll chat Monday post- Redskins-Cleveland and I'll be in New England where the reeling Patriots will host MNF...Thanks everybody. MW

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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