How often do the Redskins lose to a team they should beat?

Should.

That word’s been popping up a lot this week, as in the 3-5 Redskins should beat the 1-6 Panthers. But longtime Redskins-watchers say that the team has a habit of losing to teams it should beat. Anecdotally, it seems true, but how often has it happened?

In 2011, the 5-11 Redskins were one of the Vikings’ three wins. Washington also lost to three 6-10 teams (Miami, Buffalo and Carolina), though all on the road. Of their five wins, one came against the 2-14 Rams. The rest were against teams that finished 7-9 or better.

In 2010, they lost four times to teams that finished 6-10 (Houston, at Detroit, Minnesota, at Dallas). That year, they beat two 6-10 teams (Dallas and Tennessee) and three that won 10 or more games (Philadelphia, Green Bay and Chicago).

Add in this year’s Rams (3-5) and Bengals (3-4) games, and the win against the 5-3 Vikings, and there’s certainly evidence that the Shanahan Redskins play up or down to their competition.

The phenomenon predates Shanahan, and probably isn’t just limited to the Redskins. Perhaps the better question is why.

This is where you come in. What explanation can you come up with?

In the NFL, there isn’t a whole lot of difference between bad teams and good. Many games are close. The best teams finish. The Redskins’ problem, then and now, is putting close games away. Instead, they’ve let them get away and their record reflects it.

Why do you think the Redskins lose games they should probably win? How worried are you about Carolina in this regard?

Looking at records alone, Sunday’s matchup is deceiving. The Panthers aren’t really an easy win. Five of Carolina’ six losses have come by six points or fewer. They’ve lost by six, 29, two, four, five and one. The Panthers have come closer to beating the 7-0 Falcons — they had them on the ropes — than anyone in the league, and that includes the Redskins, who were tied with the Falcons in the fourth and lost by 7. The Redskins also have four losses by a touchdown or less, and on blowout, to the Steelers.

This is more even a matchup than the records might suggest, yet it’s still the kind of game the Redskins need to win if they are to progress from slightly subpar to pretty good. Would you agree? Isn’t that how consistent winners are built, by beating the teams they should beat?

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Lenny Bernstein · October 31, 2012

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