The language of NFL analysts becomes obtuse when trying to figure the Washington Redskins. A movement, possession or an adjustment, and suddenly they are not the team you thought they were at all. They're better.

There are certain things everyone knows about the NFC champions. When Kelvin Bryant is in, they usually will pass, when Timmy Smith jogs to the huddle they usually will run, and when George Rogers is involved there is balance. Charles Mann and Dexter Manley will rush, and frequently the linebackers will blitz. Next question.

But within that simplistic power scheme lies a world of subtlety that fascinates the NFL cerebrals, and the past two weeks has been the engrossing task of the AFC champion Denver Broncos.

What this fastidious, workmanlike team displays, after being shoved through all those computers and chewed over by the weary-eyed statisticians, is that it is perenially underestimated. It is a team that constantly defies the logic of numbers, losing just four games and coming from behind to win others it probably should have lost this season. The result is that opponents must prepare not for a tendency or wrinkle, but for an overall personality that is indefatigable, and which has an uncanny knack of exploiting others' vulnerabilities while protecting its own.

"It's the reverse of preparing for any other team," Minnesota Vikings defensive line coach Paul Wiggin said. "They force you to know yourself instead. You have to say, 'Where am I weak?' Because that's exactly where they're coming."

Why the Redskins are so difficult to defeat, and why they are such a problem for scouts and analysts, is a result of a carefully conceived plan that emphasizes motion to create mismatches and isolates skill against less skilled. Wiggin calls them "masters of the mismatch." Cleveland scout Michael Lombardi, who analyzed the Redskins in the event the Browns had made the Super Bowl, calls it "formationing." What it amounts to is an ability to shift so an opponent's weakness is exposed at the snap. The final touch is the Redskins' execution, which allows a play to work even when everyone knows it's coming.

Consider the Redskins' first touchdown of the NFC championship victory over Minnesota, a 42-yarder from Doug Williams to Bryant. The Vikings knew they could not allow Bryant to go one on one with linebacker Jesse Solomon. But the Redskins went into motion, and almost immediately Bryant beat Solomon for the score. It was not that the Vikings weren't expecting it; in their first meeting this season Solomon was burned on the same play.

"What they've realized is that football is becoming basketball on grass," Lombardi said. "Everyone is trying to get their stronger player on your weaker one. They're the best at it. They do it by shifting and formationing you.

"You can sit there in the office on Wednesday and say, 'The one thing we can't let them do is . . . ' But on Sunday, they'll do it anyway."

Another problem is the deceptive nature of the Redskins' scheme. What initially looks simple and even old hat is complicated by the Redskins' knack for creating the diversion. One of Wiggin's roles with the Vikings is to diagram running plays, a seemingly straightforward task since the Redskins only appear to run out of three formations. But Wiggin found that what began as a fundamental task expanded to frustrating proportions.

"Historically what they've done in modern football is there waiting for you," Wiggin said. "But you start to compound the possibilities, and they go on and on . . . If you break it down, they really only have three running plays. But it can come at you in the dangdest ways."

The prospect of facing that confounding offense loomed over the Vikings all season. As Minnesota was preparing for another conference opponent, the defensive staff wondered if it should bother with a particular coverage and front it hadn't employed in some time. Defensive coordinator Floyd Peters thought then nodded. "We better work on it," he said. "We've got to play the Redskins."

That the Redskins have their own vulnerabilities is a given, but it is a question of exposing them against an incessant pass rush (eight sacks against Minnesota) and an offensive line that is virtually impenetrable (the Vikings did not get a sack). Scouts noted that Washington's preferred method of attack is laborious ball control passing, so an opponent who can get an early lead may have a better chance, forcing the Redskins to take chances that could result in mistakes.

Unraveling the Redskins' diversions can be made easier by following tight end Don Warren. Where he goes, chances are the run will follow; although he is disguised as many things, he frequently winds up as the lead blocker on the rush. "A high percentage of the time they're going where he is," Vikings director of pro personnel Bob Hollway noted.

Defensively, scouts saw it as imperative to hold off the pass rush, but also observed an opportunity to take advantage of Washington's attacking secondary. Hollway noted that cornerbacks Darrell Green and Barry Wilburn tend to be overly aggressive, and if a quarterback buys time, he can burn them. A scrambling, impulsive type like Denver's John Elway clearly could hurt them.

"They're apt to bite on the first move," Hollway said. "So if you time it right and get away from that pass rush, if you can break the rhythm, then you can get something."

Lombardi said more succinctly, "Washington has to decide how to handle Denver's wide receiver speed. Can Wilburn in fact cover {Vance} Johnson and {Ricky} Nattiel, and can they contain Elway?"

But ultimately there is probably nothing Washington can do that has not been seen or tried before. It simply works for them.

"They don't fool anybody," Hollway said. "There's no need for tricks. They just execute it."