If the Federals intend to win their first game before they grow overly accustomed to the patterns of defeat, they had better find a way to overcome the Michigan Panthers today at RFK Stadium (1:30 p.m., WMAL-630).

Despite consecutive losses to Chicago, Los Angeles and Boston, oddsmakers have made the Federals a one-point favorite, and one suspects that this line shows a pessimistic estimation of Michigan rather than enthusiasm for Washington's play so far.

The Federals next play Philadelphia and Arizona, far stronger teams than Michigan.

The Panthers opened the season with a victory over an equally weak Birmingham Stallions team, and then lost to Tampa Bay and Oakland. In January, the Panthers dangled a multimillion dollar offer in front of John Riggins, but the Redskins fullback decided to stay with the Super Bowl champions.

The Panthers did, however, sign Anthony Carter, a promising wide receiver from the University of Michigan. He is Michigan's Herschel Walker, its Craig James, but like Walker and James, Carter can only show his wares with the help of his teammates. So far, that help has been erratic.

"Our whole defense can't be worried just about stopping Anthony Carter," said Federals safety Donnie Harris. "Besides, he hasn't exactly set the league on fire yet."

Against Oakland, Carter caught only two passes. Quarterback Bobby Hebert, a rookie from Northwest Louisiana, was more successful throwing to wide receiver Derek Holloway, who caught touchdown passes of 48, 22 and 38 yards in the last 16 minutes of the Invaders game.

Michigan's place-kicker, Novo Bojovic, is one of the league's leading scorers, connecting on five of seven field-goal tries.

While owner Alfred Taubman, a shopping center developer, had hoped to install a dominant rushing game by signing Riggins, he has had to manage with Tony Ellis, who has gained 148 yards on 41 carries.

The Panthers are led on defense by linebackers John Corker and Ray Bentley and strong safety David Greenwood, a rookie from Wisconsin who would have been an NFL first-round draft choice.

Unless Washington's rushing game improves dramatically with the addition of Mike Wilson at left guard and former Giants running back Billy Taylor as a backup for Eric Robinson, quarterback Kim McQuilken will have to continue the success he had last week against Boston throwing to receivers Joey Walters and Mike Holmes.

Walters has 14 receptions for 209 yards and a touchdown and Holmes has nine catches for 166 yards.

The Washington defense has been relatively successful, holding opponents to just one touchdown in the past six quarters of play. Boston crossed the Washington five-yard line three times last week, but could manage only one field goal on those drives.

After a three-day tryout that began Wednesday, the Federals have signed former Giants linebacker Dan Lloyd and center Tony Aloia, of Arizona State, to the team's developmental squad . . . The team also signed punter Dana Moore, of Mississippi State. Moore will handle the punting in today's game and backup quarterback and punter Mike Forslund has been moved from the playing roster to the developmental squad . . . In order to make room for Taylor, who was signed Friday, running back Mark Sanford was also moved to the developmental squad.