The Washington Redskins are playing meaningful games in December for the first time since they entered the year's final month with a 7-5 record in 2008. That was Robert Griffin III's first season at Baylor and Mike Shanahan's final season in Denver. Jason Campbell was the quarterback and the New York Giants were still the dominant team in the NFC East at that point.
Things feel much different this year, what with Griffin and Shanahan and all, and with the Giants only holding a one-game lead on the 'Skins, who have a shot at actually winning this division for the first time since it still had the Arizona Cardinals in it back in 1999.
That's right, 1999. When RG3 was only RG9 years old.
It's an exciting time to be a Redskins fan. Let's break down the good and the bad in our latest state of the union-style look at the D.C.'s rejuvenated football team.
What They Should Be Thinking
The defense is actually holding up despite the loss of Brian Orakpo and despite the fact we're lacking some serious talent on the back end, but now Cedric Griffin is out for the remainder of the regular season due to a suspension and DeAngelo Hall, who's been playing well of late, is walking around on crutches.
Can you imagine this D without both Griffin and Hall? Josh Wilson's been beaten like a rug, and there's no one else on our roster who can be relied upon in the starting lineup.
The offense was clicking and didn't face a lot of pressure, but they still finished with only 17 points Monday night at home. That's a bit of a concern. Alfred Morris fumbled in the red zone, as did Griffin. But the 'Skins got lucky, with the Morris fumble only costing them three points and Griffin's actually resulting in seven points for the offense.
This team is young and inexperienced and still quite depleted, and we have no idea what to expect of ourselves down the stretch. That's scary.
For the first time all year, Griffin wasn't sacked once by a world-famous Giants pass rush that only one week prior had roughed up Aaron Rodgers. RG3 still took some hits that we'd rather not see him take, but the pass protection did a nice job and our unique offense continues to make it difficult for opposing defensive fronts to know what exactly they should be doing on a play-by-play basis.
Griffin's putting up borderline-MVP numbers and only two backs have more rushing yards than rookie Alfred Morris. The balance is a game-changer.
The D continues to find ways to get pressure despite the loss of Orakpo, and we've survived bigger losses than Griffin's. We do need Hall, but his injury isn't expected to keep him out long term.
We've got nothing to lose. We weren't supposed to make the playoffs this year and this season was as good as over four weeks ago. We've battled back to make things interesting and now we control the momentum, the divisional tiebreakers and have an easier schedule than the Giants and Cowboys. We have a chance, and we aren't stressing about it.
What I'm Thinking
Stock Rising (offense): Alfred Morris
Forget a potential rookie wall for Morris, who has had two of his top three games as a pro, yardage-wise, in the last two weeks. Few backs in football have been as reliable as this guy in 2012, and he's only picking up steam.
Stock Rising (defense): Rob Jackson
Is it possible that Jackson has emerged as a better outside linebacker than Ryan Kerrigan? Orakpo's replacement had a sack and four pressures against the Giants, while Kerrigan had just two hurries. It seems he's been getting better with each start.
Stock Dropping (offense): Logan Paulsen
He looked as though he was going to shine when he relieved the injured Fred Davis, but Paulsen's play has dropped off lately. He's dropped two of the last six passes Griffin has thrown his way and has just three catches in the last two games.
Stock Dropping (defense): Cedric Griffin
He's been playing extremely well lately and gave up just three completions on seven targets Monday night, according to Pro Football Focus. But when you flunk a drug test and get suspended for a quarter of the season, your stock drops significantly.
On paper it looks real good. The 'Skins have won three out of four and have a favorable schedule, while the Giants have lost three of four and do not. Plus, Washington has now proven that it can go toe-to-toe with heavy hitters in big games in December.
I'm beginning to believe they'll find a way to pull this thing off, but the lack of depth due to injuries on defense still concerns me greatly.
View last week's report here