How much has Robert Griffin III changed the Washington Redskins? A team that won just five games a year ago has lost its best defensive player and one of its top offensive players from 2011, and yet here we are in December, with the Redskins suddenly becoming a favorite to win the NFC East.
That's right, a favorite.
The 'Skins might still trail the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants by one game in the standings after beating the G-Men by a single point Monday night at FedEx Field, but Washington now has all the momentum, a more favorable schedule and has virtually locked up the tiebreaker over the Giants, whom they've now outplayed in four consecutive meetings.
The Redskins have won three straight and the defense appears to have turned somewhat of a corner. Nobody can slow down their complicated offense, and their four remaining opponents have a combined record of 22-26.
The Giants have lost three out of four; opponents seem to have them figured out. There's a target on their backs, and their four remaining opponents have a combined record of 28-20. They'll be underdogs in Atlanta and Baltimore, while Washington should be favored in its final three games after playing the Ravens at home in Week 14.
Here's the key, though: Washington merely has to make sure that one of its wins comes against either Dallas or Philadelphia to automatically clinch the division tiebreaker over Big Blue, which means that simply based on where Vegas puts the odds for the final four weeks, this Washington team could have an inside track to win the NFC East for the first time since 1999.
Odds and projections aside, I'm finally confident that this team is actually good enough to overcome its defensive problems and pull this thing off.
They've held three of their last four opponents to 21 points or fewer. Griffin is Mr. Efficient. Alfred Morris is getting better as the season wears on. The pass rush isn't consistent, but it's been rising to occasions. The secondary isn't reliable, but it's better now than it has been all year.
Forget the first three quarters from Monday night. Eli Manning was 1-for-3 with a sack allowed on four fourth-quarter passing plays in the loss.
In the very flawed NFC East, this next improbable scenario just might happen.
For nine consecutive years, at least one NFL team has gone from worst to first in its division. Despite the injuries and the tough-luck losses from earlier in the season, the Redskins have a very real chance to extend that streak to 10 straight in 2012.