1. Momentum. Where will the Redskins go after Sunday's Miracle in Maryland? Under Marty Schottenheimer, the Redskins started a five-game winning streak after a late-game turnaround against Carolina. And last season the Redskins beat Dallas in miraculous fashion, using the momentum to beat a good Seattle team the following week at home. But that preceeded two straight losses. Still, momentum can be real. When the Redskins were 5-6 they were fortunate to face a St. Louis team starting a rookie quarterback from Harvard. Predictably they won. It wasn't a huge victory to the rest of the league, but to the team it provided a sense of relief. All they needed was a little momentum to regain their confidence. Once they had it, they rolled. This week will be the biggest game -- it's about the fifth such game this season -- because if the Redskins win, a wave of momentum will follow. And with Atlanta, Minnesota and St. Louis all losing the other day, the NFC suddenly looks even tighter. Washington's 1-3 conference record is a major problem. And the Redskins still have problems. But they have the hint of life, too.
2. Troy Vincent. There's no question he's a terrific leader and his impact in that area is real. He's the new Ryan Clark, serving as an on-field mentor of sorts for Sean Taylor and the defense. Vincent knows the defense well and knows how to organize teammates. That's fantastic. But Vincent is still limited as a player. He was not considered good against the run in Buffalo as a safety and his coverage skills were average. He was caught flat-footed on the Terrell Owens deep drop. Still, he'll help because of his presence. When you talk to Vincent, you automatically feel his leadership and want to do whatever he says. He speaks with confidence; his actions and his words demand that you follow him.
3. Adam Archuleta. Please spare us the talk about ''packages.'' When the coaches say he didn't play more Sunday because he wasn't in more packages, it's demeaning to anyone who knows the game. Sorry, but good players are employed in many packages. And Archuleta knows the difference. I'm guessing right about now he wishes he had signed with Chicago, reuniting with Lovie Smith. And I'm guessing the Redskins wish they had Ryan Clark back. Not that Clark is a Pro Bowl player by any means. But he could do what Vincent did and he was a presence. Archuleta appears to be more of a loner and does not qualify as a leader.
4. Joe Gibbs diatribe. Gibbs opened his Monday press conference with a rambling monologue about moves the Redskins have made and how the organizational structure works. Here's what we know: you don't have to defend your setup if you win. The proof is there that the structure is not working. Yes, Washington has hit on some free agents and they've formed the core of their roster. But the lack of success with draft picks (in Vinny Cerrato's six drafts, the Redskins have picked 31 players after the first round; only one, Chris Cooley, is a fulltime starter) and the carefree manner in which they've traded picks has hurt the franchise. If Gibbs quit tomorrow, could you honestly say the Redskins were in better shape than when he started? I don't like saying that because of the immense respect I have for him. But as a team president, he has hurt himself as coach. Gibbs is worried about winning right now; good GM's are worried about building. When the two thoughts merge, a consistent winner is produced.
5. The defense. Having Cornelius Griffin back is a major plus. It allows the Redskins to have success against the run, something they don't do when he's either out or even hurt. Washington still is not where it used to be against the run, but at least with Griff they have a chance. With a porous pass defense -- opposing QB's have a 102.4 rating against them -- they need to be stout in one area if they want to succeed. I'm concerned with the number of teams remaining on their schedule who like to pass. But if they can't slow the pass, they at least have to make teams one-dimensional.