The Washington Redskins have the San Francisco 49ers right where they want them -- off the schedule.
The Redskins found out Sunday that they're not as good as the 49ers, but they probably share that distinction with 26 other teams right now.
Their only consolation is they don't play the 49ers again in the regular season.
Although 49ers linebacker Matt Millen raised the possibility after San Francisco's 26-13 victory of the two teams meeting again in the playoffs, the Redskins can't look that far ahead.
They've got to find out first how they stack up with the rest of
"What we've got to do now is find a way to be 3-1 at this break," Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said. "We've got to win two games to get to the break. That's the way I look at it."
The Redskins play the Dallas Cowboys and the Phoenix Cardinals the next two weeks before they get a bye under the National Football League's new system in which each team plays 16 games in 17 weeks.
They then play four games against the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles in a five-week span that likely will make or break their season.
Beating Dallas at home Sunday doesn't seem to be too difficult a task.
But it wasn't supposed to be a difficult task the past two years when the Cowboys went 3-13 and 1-15.
That didn't stop the Cowboys from winning at RFK Stadium the past two years. The strange thing is that Tom Landry's final victory as Dallas coach in 1988 and Jimmy Johnson's first victory as Dallas coach last year came at RFK Stadium.
The Redskins can't afford to overlook the Cowboys again or to get too depressed about the San Francisco loss.
"We're going to bounce back," quarterback Mark Rypien said. "You're frustrated and for a day or so, you kind of think about it [the San Francisco loss], but once Wednesday comes around, we've got [to think about] a team [Dallas] we owe one to."
Defensive lineman Darryl Grant said: "It's a long season. We just have to go out and rack up some wins. The San Francisco game is water under the bridge."
The loss to San Francisco, though, again raised all the troubling questions about the Redskins as they attempt to make the playoffs for the first time in three seasons.
The first question is whether they can beat playoff-caliber teams. The past two times they played teams that finished the 1989 season with winning records -- Denver last year and San Francisco on Sunday -- they lost. In between, they had recorded six straight wins.
Gibbs, of course, takes issue with the interpretation that the Redskins haven't proved they can beat good teams.
"I disagree with that," he said. "I think last year, we played [beat] good teams. We played the Chicago Bears. They're a pretty good football team, I think. We played Seattle. I think they're a pretty good football team. That's somebody else's opinion [that they haven't beaten good teams]. That's not mine."
Rypien also remains a question mark at quarterback until he shows he can take the team to the playoffs.
Rypien was quick to say he didn't play well against the 49ers.
"I didn't make any plays. I've got to find a way to make some throws and get us going," he said.
Rypien also has to cope with the criticism that a quarterback takes after a poor effort.
"Quarterbacks are always going to get barbecued along with the coach," Gibbs said. "Get the fire ready."
Rypien has to show he can take the heat.
The Redskins also don't know if their pass rush and running game will be good enough this year. They didn't have any sacks against the 49ers, and they rushed for only 87 yards. Their first six plays against the 49ers were pass plays.
They also don't know if Martin Mayhew can hold up at the other cornerback slot alongside Darrell Green.
Mayhew was burned by John Taylor for eight catches, but he wasn't helped by the Redskins' inability to pressure Joe Montana.
Barring a shocking upset, the Redskins will go into the bye with a 3-1 record, but without finding out the answers to any of those questions.
Coming out of the bye, they'll play the New York Giants twice in 15 days, on Oct. 14 and Oct. 28.
Those two games will tell the Redskins everything they want to know about this year's team.