For the inept New England Patriots, Saturday's game is their chance to end an 11-game string of failure. For the Washington Redskins, it's an opportunity to confirm their season of success with a playoff berth.

The matchup appears to be a mismatch, as every Patriot game seems to be. New England has the NFL's worst record, 1-12, and an 11-game losing streak. Washington is 8-5, and a victory will guarantee a wild-card berth in the post-season.But the Redskins don't need long memories to know it's a mistake to take the NFL's latest laughingstock as a joke. Last season, the Dallas Cowboys were the league's dunces, finishing with a 1-15 record, but that one win was against Washington.

"They beat us soundly, at our home" recalled Redskin Coach Joe Gibbs. "I think we've got to go in there (to Foxboro Stadium) with the feeling they're going to play their absolute best. And we would be absolutely stupid - with everything we've got riding on this - to take it any other way."

His cautionary words are not lost on defensive tackle Darryl Grant.

"Any one week, on any given Sunday or Saturday or Monday, one team can beat the other team," said Grant. "It's just a matter of time when a team will explode, putting the whole package together."

New England would be the easy winner if the NFL had a "Least Likely to Pull an Upset" contest.

Over the past four weeks, the Patriots have averaged just six points per game. They are the lowest-scoring team in the league, with 154 points. At their season average of less than 12 points per contest, they would have to play 19 more games to equal Buffalo's 373-point output.

The Patriots also have the uncertain status of rookie quarterback Tommy Hodson, who has a fractured ring finger on his throwing hand. If he does not start, Marc Wilson will replace him, despite a 1-9 record in 10 New England career starts.

Of the last 14 NFC teams to travel to New England, every one has left with a victory.