Have absolutely no clue how the Redskins will fare today in their season opener at FedEx Field. Have absolutely no clue how the Redskins will fare this season, other than noticing nearly every newspaper and television prognosticator picks them for last in their division with no chance at the playoffs.

Such gloomy forecasts might discourage even the most optimistic Redskins fan who believed the return last year of Joe Gibbs after a 12-year hiatus would ensure the team's return to a prominent position among the elite teams in the NFL.

But a 6-10 record in 2004 and free agent defections of two of the Redskins' top defensive players -- middle linebacker Antonio Pierce and cornerback Fred Smoot -- along with safety Sean Taylor's offseason legal issues, LaVar's knee and QB Patrick Ramsey's inconsistent play this summer are among the question marks hanging over the big stadium today in Landover.

That said, the Redskins' offensive line looks stronger with the return of tackle Jon Jansen and addition of center Casey Rabach that should make runners Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts better and provide Ramsey more opportunity to find receivers Chris Cooley, Santana Moss and David Patten.

Gibbs was the first to admit the offense didn't deliver the big punch last year ("so we'll try anything") and hired Bill Musgrave from Jacksonville to coach the quarterbacks and inject some spice to the mix. So far, Musgrave seems to have helped Mark Brunell, if not Ramsey, while rookie Jason Campbell prepares to hold the clipboard for now -- an expensive luxury if that's all he does this year.

That would leave much of the responsibility of winning games to Gregg Williams's defense, which is where we left off in 1977, the last of the late George Allen's seven successful seasons in Washington that produced a 67-30-1 record. Sonny Jurgensen, who will see his 41st consecutive season opener today from WJFK's broadcast booth, quarterbacked for Allen until Jurgensen's retirement in 1975. But Jurgensen did not get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on the strength of Allen's playbook, sharing the job with Billy Kilmer and never winning Allen's favor.

"George's philosophy was 'don't make mistakes,' " said Jurgensen. "That's how you win when you don't score." Jurgensen threw 179 touchdown passes in 11 years with the Redskins, including 31 in 1967. Jurgensen salivates at recent "rule changes that favor the offense" and adds, "people want to see offense."

In Gibbs's previous tour here he had the likes of Art Monk, Gary Clark, Riggo, Joe Theismann, Ricky Sanders and the Hogs to run up the points and Richie Petitbon's defense to keep opponents at bay. But it might be time to pull those 30-year-old films from the Allen years off the shelf -- if not the 71-year-old former quarterback in the broadcast booth who some of us fantasize still has one last fourth-quarter drive left in him.

It's Not Over Till . . .

The week that was for the Washington Nationals began on Labor Day with the Washington Opera's General Director Placido Domingo's stirring rendition of the national anthem at RFK Stadium that had so many in the crowd of 32,000 roaring their approval.

"I've hoped for years Washington would have a team, so I could do this," Domingo said on my answering machine, responding to my questions. "I love baseball, the Mets, the Marlins and now the Nationals. I've done the anthem all over the league. What an exciting season in Washington -- and I hope the Nationals make the playoffs."

Domingo's big-time solo was followed by an equally superb show by Nats pitcher Livan Hernandez, who held the Florida Marlins scoreless for eight innings and knocked in a key eighth-inning run with a single in Washington's 5-2 victory. But after that, Nats Manager Frank Robinson could have thrown the veteran baseball-loving tenor into the rotation, getting about the same results as he did from Darrell Rasner and John Halama. Talk about a quick hook. Robinson pulled these guys before either broke a sweat. John Patterson, an ace all year, did not fare any better Thursday night in an 8-4 loss.

Attendance for the series against the Marlins (fewer than 30,000 fans at each game) was disappointing to me considering playoff implications and perfect weather. Still, Nationals President Tony Tavares on Wednesday called the season-long response to the Nats "fabulous" -- adding, "we have a shot at drawing 2.7 million, which is gratifying and much better than anyone thought we could do." Tavares admitted the club needs to do a better job of attracting minorities to games ("we do as well as any team, but that's not good enough") and fill seats left vacant by "no show" season ticket owners.

Tavares's future, after the team is sold? "I don't believe in entitlement, but if the new owners were interested in me remaining, I would want meaningful input in the club."

Touching the Bases

* The plan by Magna, the Canadian company that owns Laurel and Plimlico, to cut the Maryland horse racing season from 200 days to 112 is either a bluff to get the state to approve slot machines or an admission that the game is on its last legs. The Magna Gang said slots would not be a factor in its operation when it took over the tracks several years ago. Magna executives do not appear to keep their commitments.

* Hail and farewell to 42-year-old Jerry Rice, who retired last week rather than become a part-time reserve for the Denver Broncos. In a 20-year career, Rice caught 1,549 passes for 22,895 yards for 197 touchdowns -- all NFL records -- for San Francisco and Oakland and Seattle. He was the best wide receiver ever.

* Hall of Fame basketball coach Red Auerbach, a Washingtonian who also ran the Boston Celtics for five decades, remains in intensive care at Sibley Memorial Hospital, recovering from complications following recent surgery for colon cancer and other problems. Auerbach's two daughters appreciate the numerous good wishes from fans, friends and former players.

* Saw the last 30 minutes of Andre Agassi's fabulous five-set victory over James Blake Wednesday night, only by accident, having woken up at 12:30 a.m. and turned on the TV to see if they'd made Feinstein's new book on the Ravens into a TV movie yet. But there were Andre and James on CBS when they were supposed to be on USA. The USTA was smart to begin its best match of the tournament at 10:30 p.m.

* Peter Bondra and the Capitals, who start training camp this week, need to cut a deal.

If you have a question or comment? Reach me at Talkback@washpost.com.

Redskins backup Mark Brunell seems to have been helped by quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave in the preseason. But question marks will loom over the team today in Landover.