(Sports Network) - Though it hasn't always been pretty, the fact that the Washington Redskins have already knocked off a few of the NFL's heavyweights during the initial portions of this season is a clear indicator of their improvement under Mike Shanahan. The revamped team will have another chance to sway those remaining skeptics this Sunday, when the reigning AFC champion Indianapolis Colts pay a visit to FedEx Field for an interconference clash.
The extensive alterations, headlined by the hiring of the two-time Super Bowl winning Shanahan as head coach and the acquisition of decorated quarterback Donovan McNabb, the Redskins made in the aftermath of last year's 4-12 disaster have quickly paid dividends. Washington enters this weekend's play tied with the New York Giants and Philadelphia for first place in the NFC East with a 3-2 record, with the wins coming against a trio of 2009 postseason participants in Dallas, the Eagles and Green Bay.
The Redskins have been more resourceful than dominant so far in the Shanahan/McNabb era, and the team's new-found resiliency was illustrated in last Sunday's overtime victory over the Packers. Washington was gashed for 209 yards in the opening period and faced a 10-point deficit after three quarters, but the defense stiffened after its early struggles and the offense engineered three late scoring drives to deliver a gritty 16-13 victory.
McNabb helped orchestrate the comeback by throwing for 357 yards and a touchdown, while the Redskins held Green Bay scoreless over its final seven drives and got a game-changing interception from safety LaRon Landry to set up kicker Graham Gano's 33-yard field goal in the extra session.
Washington has been a bend-but-don't-break operation all throughout this 2010 campaign. The Redskins are allowing a league-high 410.2 yards per game, but have yielded a total of only 32 points in their three triumphs.
While the Colts have had some uneven performances over the course of their 3-2 start, which has the club locked in a four-way tie in the competitive AFC South, the one constant has been an explosive offense that stands among the NFL's best in total yards, passing yards and points scored. To no one's surprise, the charge has been led by iconic quarterback Peyton Manning, who's making a strong case for what would be an unprecedented fifth career MVP citation.
However, it was Indianapolis' somewhat-maligned defense that rose to the occasion in Week 5, with the unit limiting then-unbeaten Kansas City to 261 yards and keeping the Chiefs out of the end zone all afternoon long in a 19-9 win this past Sunday.
The Colts had been battered for 174 rushing yards in their previous outing, a 31-28 road setback to Jacksonville that left the perennial playoff contenders at 0-2 in divisional play.
Indianapolis has garnered plenty of recent success when taking on NFC teams during the regular season, though, having won six straight interconference matchups dating back to 2008.