The Washington Redskins have plenty to prove in 2018. Coach Jay Gruden, fresh off a two-year contract extension that keeps him in burgundy and gold through the 2020 season, has an underwhelming 28-35-1 record (a .445 winning percentage) and just one playoff appearance (2015) with the franchise. Yet his optimism runs high.

I don’t think we really have any glaring weakness,” Gruden said during his Wednesday news conference at the team’s training camp complex. “I think we have addressed a lot of them throughout the draft and free agency and the veteran guys here, and I think our depth has been addressed, so now it’s just a matter of just going out and playing together.”

Gruden has a point. Three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Alex Smith, acquired from the Kansas City Chiefs this offseason, replaces Kirk Cousins, the team’s starting quarterback over the past three years. Defensive tackle Daron Payne and running back Derrius Guice, the team’s top picks in the 2018 draft, add needed depth. And if Jonathan Allen, Josh Doctson and Jordan Reed can stay healthy, Washington does indeed have a roster capable of causing mismatches.

However, the absence of weaknesses is countered by a lack of perceived strengths and, as a result, the Redskins are not expected to be competitive in 2018; per the preseason point spreads released by CG Technology in May, Washington is favored in just four games this season, all at home: Week 2 vs. the Indianapolis Colts (-3), Week 6 vs. the Carolina Panthers (-1), Week 7 vs. the Dallas Cowboys (-1) and Week 14 vs. the New York Giants (-1.5).

Knowing the point spreads for each week allows us to project how many wins the Redskins will have in 2018. For example, a team that is favored by one point at home can be expected to win 51 percent of the time. Using this method for each of the 16 games of the season estimates Washington is most likely to finish 2018 having earned between five and eight wins, with a 7-9 record the most likely outcome. The Redskins have just a 31 percent chance of finishing 8-8 or better. Skeptical? This also falls in line with the over/under win total set at seven for Washington.

As you would expect, seven or even eight wins won’t be enough to contend for the division title, and it looks like the Redskins will finish last or second to last in the NFC East behind the Philadelphia Eagles and Cowboys.

According to Sharp Sports, Washington has the ninth-toughest schedule, and it will face six of the league’s top 10 toughest opponents. Two other opponents, the Panthers and Cowboys, rank 11th and 12th.

The most challenging part of the schedule is toward the end of the season, when the Redskins will be on the road against the Cowboys (Week 12), Eagles (Week 13), Jacksonville Jaguars (Week 15) and Tennessee Titans (Week 16). Based on the preliminary point spreads, Washington has less than a 33 percent chance to win each of those games, making the first half of the season that much more important.

As you can see, there is little room for error, with Gruden and his squad needing to make the most of the season’s first half. If not, Washington could flounder more than expected, with the possibility of a four- or five-win season within reach.

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