I can't make up my mind about the Redskins this year. I have read all the preseason reports in the newspaper and watched the preseason games on television. Still, I can't decide whether the Skins will be playoff contenders or pushovers.

Some things make me believe that the Redskins might sneak into the National Football League playoffs.

The Lines: On offense the Skins have added Casey Rabach at center. Rock-solid Jon Jansen returns at right tackle after being injured last year. So this season's unit should be much improved over last year's leaky line.

The Redskins had the third-best-rated defense in the NFL last season and were the second best against the run. The line looks terrific again. I expect defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin to blossom into a star.

Everyone watches the runners, passers and receivers at a football game. But it is the big guys up front who make the difference. The Skins have some good big guys on both sides of the ball, so they have a chance.

Clinton Portis: This speedster has the toughness and the shifty moves to be a special running back. Now, with a better offensive line, Portis should improve on last year's rushing totals of 1,315 yards and five touchdowns.

Portis also will be better rested, because Ladell Betts looks ready to give the Redskins some quality minutes as the Skins' backup running back.

This Season's Schedule: The Redskins have what looks to be one of the easiest schedules in the NFL. They play only five games against teams that had winning records last season. The Skins might be able to squeeze out enough wins against stinko teams including the Chicago Bears, Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers to have their first winning season since 1999.

Of course, there are two big reasons that make me think that the Redskins will be pushovers again this season. . . .

Last Season's Schedule: Redskins fans argue that last season's team lost a lot of close games. True, seven of the Skins' 10 losses were by seven points or fewer. But the Redskins did not beat a single team with a winning record.

Sorry, but the Skins are much farther away from being a playoff team than their fans think. Close doesn't count in the NFL. Playoff teams have to beat good teams. The Redskins haven't shown they can do that.

The Quarterbacks: I root for Patrick Ramsey. He's young, tough and has a big-league arm. But, boy, does he make me nervous. Ramsey can make a great throw on one play and throw a bonehead interception on the next. He has to be much more consistent if the Skins are going to be winners.

Backup quarterback Mark Brunell looks better than he did last season. He has to. Last season, Brunell was as bad as any veteran NFL starter I have ever seen.

So what's the verdict: Playoffs or pushovers?

I hope I am wrong, but I think the Skins are headed for another losing season.

Fred Bowen writes KidsPost's sports opinion column and is the author of sports novels for kids.

Redskins' hopes rely on, from left, tackle Jon Jansen, running back Clinton Portis and quarterback Patrick Ramsey.