Projecting the Biggest Roadblocks in Redskins' Pursuit of an NFC East Title
Six weeks into the NFL season, the Washington Redskins are just two wins short of their 2011 total. But at 3-3 and with the meat of their schedule coming up, they'll need to stay focused to compete for an NFC East title.
Right now, Washington's in the heat of the race that culminates with the crowning of the division's champion. But the Redskins must avoid numerous roadblocks that may come between them and the finish line.
Fellow B/R Featured Columnist Thomas Galicia offered his take on each team's odds at winning the East.
But the following slideshow will touch upon specific things the Redskins will need to overcome to take home the grand prize.
The Redskins last made the playoffs in 2007, so overconfidence has not exactly been something to worry about within the organization. But in a football-crazed city like Washington, fans tend to get boastful after wins because it feels so good when they happen.
A majority of office workers who work inside or outside of the Beltway have experienced at least one water-cooler moment when gab fests break out about the Redskins. Some are braggadocios, while others are remorseful. It just depends on the outcome of the previous game.
But 2012 has been different. What makes this year so interesting is the RG3 effect that began to take shape as soon as the Redskins made the Heisman Trophy winner the No. 2 overall pick in April's draft.
In the nation's capital, Robert Griffin III seems to be everywhere—from Adidas, Subway and Gatorade commercials to a front-row seat in the stands after a 76-yard romp.
So how can overconfidence be avoided when a potential Rookie of the Year is the team's new heart and soul?
Even his numbers keep climbing: 1,343 passing yards, five touchdown tosses, 379 rushing yards and six rushing scores.
That's exciting stuff, and those digits make it hip to be a Redskins fan again. But it's still early in the season, and Griffin is in his NFL infancy.
Staying humble is the single most important thing the team can do to earn and sustain success. And it starts with Robert, who appears to be sure of himself but not cocksure. If he remains focused and keeps outside distractions to a minimum, the Redskins may remain in the hunt for an NFC East crown to the season's very end.
This roadblock may come as a surprise. But adjustments are crucial for coaches who pride themselves on film study and counter-strategies.
Take Philly, for example.
Juan Castillo is one of the nicest guys that's coached in the NFL, but Eagles head coach Andy Reid retained his friend and defensive coordinator for far too long. Dating back to last year, it was brutally apparent that Castillo was failing at making adjustments to the counter-attacks of opposing offenses.
To have any chance of winning the East, Washington's staff has to keep from getting complacent.
Defensively, the Redskins have had good moments and bad, but the unit has been aided by a tremendously productive offense.
RG3, Alfred Morris and company have been averaging nearly 30 points per game. But that's old news to Washington's upcoming opponents, who will intend to do something about it.
The more tape teams watch of the Redskins, the more prepared and less surprised they'll be.
Washington still has all six of its divisional battles ahead. And you can bet those staffs will study RG3's tendencies with a fine-toothed comb.
Let's just hope Mike and Kyle Shanahan recognize all of this before it's too late.
A team's injury status is always changing, so it's hard to gauge the effects it will have from game to game or over an extended period of time. But serious injuries like the ones Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker sustained are often debilitating.
So far this season, Washington has had injuries to its offensive line, at wide receiver and at the safety position. Fortunately, substitutes have stepped up to keep the Redskins competitive, but depth is becoming shallow in key areas.
With Pierre Garcon ailing with a nagging foot injury, the Redskins are another serious injury away from possibly going outside the organization for help at wideout.
The same could be said at linebacker, where Chris Wilson and Rob Jackson are now heavily involved and where the aging London Fletcher is vulnerable.
If the Redskins aren't careful, they may spend more time rehabilitating over the holidays than preparing to celebrate as "Beasts of the East."
In this slideshow's introduction, I wrote something about "the meat" of the schedule. I also said it was coming up. Now, I'll add one more announcement. It's unavoidable.
Beginning Sunday in New Jersey, Washington will battle the Giants, who are bitter rivals and the defending Super Bowl champions. New York sits atop the division at 4-2, but the Redskins are unafraid. In fact, they swept Big Blue a season ago, and the Giants are 0-2 in the division so far.
That makes this week's game critical for both teams and a potential roadblock for Washington.
Defeating New York would put the Giants in a hole, despite an identical record. But a Redskins loss would give the champs a two-game lead over Mike Shanahan's squad in the NFC East.
Getting back near the top would then be difficult for Washington because of who comes next.
But from Week 11 through Week 13, it's a "Battle Royale," with a home date with Philadelphia, a road tilt in Dallas and a home rematch with the Giants in successive weeks.
That's blasphemy, if you ask me. Who the heck served as schedule-maker this year? Were replacements brought in during a lockout that the commissioner kept quiet?
And if those matchups aren't tough enough, check out the homestretch.
Washington closes with Baltimore in Week 14 and Philly and Dallas again after a short reprieve in Cleveland.
Overall, the schedule isn't pretty, and the Redskins' fate will lie with how they fare against their common rivals.
Then again, that's the roadblock for any team that strives to be the best among its peers. The schedule may even be a blessing, so that RG3 could get his feet wet before divisional play.
2011 NFC East Final Standings
New York Giants 9-7
Philadelphia Eagles 8-8
Dallas Cowboys 8-8
Washington Redskins 5-11
2012 NFC East Current Standings
New York Giants 4-2
Philadelphia Eagles 3-3
Washington Redskins 3-3
Dallas Cowboys 2-3
If we took a person who did not know the outcome of last year's Super Bowl and told him or her to glance at the 2011 standings above, what are the chances they would guess that one of the teams would finish the season as a World Champion?
Slim to none is the correct answer. But even if hindsight is 20/20, I'm sure a few Giants are still bewildered at how they accomplished greatness in such an awkward way.
Now, look at the second set of standings and tell me what you see. More mediocrity? More uncertainty? It's sad but true.
So, what will be become of this year's Redskins? Will fate be the final roadblock between an improving team and surprising contender for the division crown?
Most of Washington's fans would probably admit that this season has already been a fulfilling one and that the sky's the limit with RG3. But there's still 10 games left, and the craziest of dreams may still come true.
It's the modern-day NFL, for goodness sakes. And if the Giants got hot in '11, the Redskins can do it in '12.
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