The Washington Redskins and their fans discovered the futility of looking at a schedule and projecting into the future. As in "We have three easy games coming up and will be 7-1.''
Yes, that was the mood in the capital city before the Skins stumbled Sunday.
"The headlines got good. We were saying 'Yeah, we're here.' We've got three games we can win,'' Clinton Portis said after the Redskins lost the first of those three, at home to winless St. Louis. "And we overlooked a team today that came in here ready to play.''
This weekend offered what the NFL loves: The "on any given Sunday'' theme first enunciated by Pete Rozelle.
Not only did the Rams win, but Houston got its first victory over a Miami team that already had shocked the league by doubling its 2007 win total with victories over New England and San Diego, the AFC's two finalists last season. And Detroit, as futile as St. Louis over the first quarter of the season, barely lost 12-10 in Minnesota; the Vikings benefited from a somewhat dubious 42-yard interference call to kick the winning field goal.
In fact, it was a strange enough day that even the seemingly impregnable NFC East took two hits, the Redskins loss and Dallas' overtime defeat in Arizona. Given that Tony Romo broke a finger in OT, it might have been better if Nick Folk had missed the 52-yard field goal that tied the game at the buzzer - at least the Cowboys would have gone home healthy.
And the Lions' loss was marked by one of the strangest plays ever, the safety taken by Detroit QB Dan Orlovsky. With the ball at his 1-yard-line, Orlovsky took a snap, rolled to his right over the back line of the end zone and continued to look downfield as if everything was fine.
"When they started blowing the whistle, I was like, 'Did we false start?' Were they offsides? And then I looked and was just like, `You're an idiot.' "
Still, the most startling result was in Washington, where the Redskins and their fans were on a high following consecutive road wins in Dallas and Philadelphia, the final victories in a four-game winning streak. In fact, the conventional wisdom was that even their opening-night loss to the Super Bowl champion Giants was an aberration because they were still adjusting to a new offensive system.
With the Rams next, followed by Cleveland and a game at Detroit, fans were getting ready to book tickets to Tampa, where the Super Bowl will be played Feb. 1.
There should have been omens.
The Rams, outscored 147-43 and noncompetitive in four losses, fired coach Scott Linehan, then spent their bye week straightening out a few things under Jim Haslett.
Linehan, to be blunt, had lost his players after benching QB Marc Bulger for Trent Green against Buffalo, and probably was over his head anyway.
Haslett is much more suited for the job and has legitimate credentials. He was coach of the year in 2000, his rookie year with the Saints, leading them to a 10-6 record and the NFC West title a year after they finished 3-13. He was fired by New Orleans after it went 3-13 in 2005, an unfair development considering the team had been displaced by Hurricane Katrina. In many ways he was a hero, the steward of a team that played its home games in San Antonio, Baton Rouge and East Rutherford, acting at times as a de facto general manager and owner.
So this was a trap game in every respect for the Redskins, who also lost to the law of averages. After no turnovers on offense for five games, they had three, including a botched play in which Jason Campbell's pass was deflected to guard Pete Kendall, who then fumbled it. It was scooped up by Oshiomogho Atogwe, who returned it 75 yards for the Rams' only touchdown.
Does this mean St. Louis will challenge for a playoff spot and Washington collapse? Of course not; the Redskins would win nine out of 10 times they'd meet.
But it's another example of the NFL's legislated parity, where the best teams and the worst teams are occasionally separated only by odd bounces and strange penalties. And why it's so hard to win those office knockout pools - you know, just pick a winner on Sunday and advance.
Except that there are no sure winners.
Take Minneapolis, where the Vikings entered the season billed as a Super Bowl contender. They are 3-3 now, in a three-way tie with the Packers and Bears atop the NFC North. Are they out of it? No.
But they haven't played well on offense, so the fans in the Metrodome spent the day booing that offense and chanting for the dismissal of coach Brad Childress.
They finally beat the winless Lions, who entered the game in a dead heat with the Rams for the distinction of being the NFL's worst team, when that marginal pass interference call set up a winning field goal by Ryan Longwell. The score was 12-10, meaning the two points from Orlovsky's brain lock were decisive.
But it might mean that Detroit will win next week, when it goes to Houston. All the Lions have to do is follow the precedent the Texans set.
Last week, Houston led Indianapolis 27-10 midway through the fourth quarter and seemed on the way to its first win. Then backup QB Sage Rosenfels fumbled twice and threw an interception - all trying to make big plays - and the Texans lost 31-27.
On Sunday, with Matt Schaub back at quarterback, the Texans rallied to beat Miami 29-28 after Andre Johnson made a 23-yard reception on fourth-and-10 to keep a drive alive. Then Schaub ran a quarterback draw from 3 yards on fourth down with 3 seconds left to give Houston the win.
Two improbable plays and an improbable win for a team that a week earlier gave away a game. It's why teams go unbeaten only once in 35 years and no one goes winless.
On any given Sunday ...