What do you need to win a Super Bowl nowadays? For starters, you have to peak at the right time.
The Washington Redskins can check that off the list. They've now won seven consecutive games entering January after dismantling the Dallas Cowboys at home to take the NFC East crown for the first time since 1999.
What else? How 'bout a top-of-the-line quarterback?
Robert Griffin III might not have played his best game of the year Sunday night against Dallas, but he still made several big runs and throws while again avoiding turnovers despite the fact that his injured right knee is still far from 100 percent.
Considering that Griffin is likely the rookie of the year, as well as the fact he has just as many NFL playoff victories as every other starting quarterback in the NFC playoffs except Aaron Rodgers, I'd say the 'Skins can check that piece of criteria off the list, too.
Finally, a quality pass rush is usually necessary, too.
This is something the Redskins lacked for the majority of the year, what with that weak secondary and that supposedly crippling injury to Brian Orakpo and all. But Jim Haslett has been a magician during the second half of the season, and suddenly the 'Skins are pressuring the quarterback to enough of an extent that they've masked their mediocre secondary enough to win seven times in a row.
That pass rush was relentless Sunday night, forcing Tony Romo to make several game-altering mistakes. They're red hot, and they'll get to feast on some inexperienced quarterbacks from the get-go in January.
So, is it possible that the Redskins—winners of six or fewer games in each of the last three years and hit hard by injuries on both sides of the ball—could ride a rookie quarterback and a rookie running back all the way to Super Bowl XLVII?
The odds still don't favor them, mainly because the 49ers and Packers and Seahawks and Falcons stand in the way and because a rookie quarterback has never been a Super Bowl quarterback. But this team has a special feel to it, and Griffin is no ordinary rookie signal-caller.
It helps, of course, that the other rookie in the offensive backfield, Alfred Morris, is one of the hottest backs in the league. Fresh off a dominant 200-yard, three-touchdown performance against the Cowboys, Morris—runner up to only Adrian Peterson for the league's rushing title—gives Washington one of the most unstoppable offensive attacks in the NFL.
Throw in that they're about to get nickel cornerback Cedric Griffin back from suspension and that starters DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson, Rob Jackson, London Fletcher and Ryan Kerrigan are playing their best football of the year, and it's easy to see a path for the 'Skins to make a run way earlier in the RG3 era than anyone expected.
Kyle Shanahan manages Griffin flawlessly, and RG3 will only get better as his knee continues to progress. Haslett manages the defense magnificently. There isn't a team in football that is coached better than the Redskins.
It's only a matter of time before a rookie quarterback breaks through and gets to the Super Bowl. This might be that year. First, RG3 and Morris and Co. will have to overcome the Seattle Seahawks—who are just as hot, just as unique offensively, also led by a dynamic rookie quarterback and an elite running back and who are even tougher defensively. At least that's at home next Sunday.
After that, Griffin or Wilson will be two wins shy of history, with Andrew Luck potentially also in the mix in the AFC.
Crazier things have happened. But if they don't, the Redskins ensured in Sunday night's performance—which was more dominant than the score indicates—that they're the new team to beat in the NFC East.
And things might stay that way for many, many years to come.