It's been almost four months since the end of the 2012 NFL regular season, and much remains the same: The NFC East consists of a pretty mediocre quartet of teams, and the Washington Redskins stand as the slight favorite in an unremarkable division.
That being said, the division is still incredibly competitive and there's no guessing who will come out on top in 2013.
The Redskins finished 10-6 and won the division in 2012 despite fielding a conservative passing game and one of the worst pass defenses in NFL history.
The New York Giants finished 9-7 after a 6-2 start and demonstrated their frustrating inconsistency at the end of the year. New York finished 3-3 while scoring 44 points per game in wins and just 15 points per game in losses.
The Dallas Cowboys went 8-8 for the second consecutive year and lost yet another soul-crushing de facto division title game in Week 17.
The Philadelphia Eagles were 4-12 and showed that their disappointing 2011 "Dream Team" year was indeed no fluke.
Every team in the division is flawed, which will either make next season incredibly infuriating to watch or insanely fun and competitive. After several weeks of free agency, nothing has really been cleared up.
The Redskins are probably the safest bet to win the division, but there are so many "what-ifs" around that one begins to wonder whether or not a repeat title is in the cards.
First of all, Washington did next to nothing in the offseason to improve the roster significantly. The moves made were strictly in-house for the most part, with contract restructuring and re-signings taking precedence in a cap-strapped year.
The Redskins' biggest acquisition might have been E.J. Biggers, and that's not because of his talent—it's because he instantly becomes the second-best option at the crippled cornerback position.
Washington's offseason moves were more about surviving the cap penalty than improving its roster. Looking at it that way makes it seem like a particularly successful offseason, but the current roster will have to play up to or higher than the level last year's team reached if a repeat title is possible.
As it is, the three other teams in the division failed to capitalize on the Redskins' silence in free agency. The Cowboys are in an even bigger pickle with their salary cap situation than Washington is and reportedly have less than $100,000 available to them after the minor signings of Justin Durant and Will Allen.
The Giants lost multiple impact players, including Ahmad Bradshaw, Osi Umenyiora, Martellus Bennett and Chris Canty. They shored up the roster with some nice pieces in Aaron Ross and Cullen Jenkins, but the team doesn't appear to be as talented as it was in past years.
The Eagles probably made the biggest move of the spring, nabbing former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly from the college ranks, but there are too many holes on the roster for Philly to have a realistic shot at the division in 2013. There is offensive talent, but there's no cohesiveness and the defense is a mess.
What does this all mean for the Redskins?
Well for one, it means that Dan Snyder, Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan can exhale. In a year when there was almost no money available to improve the team, the rest of the division failed to step up to the plate.
In addition, they don't have to deal with the headaches caused by DeAngelo Hall (whose release saved the team about $8 million), and they know that they have two team-first players in Santana Moss and Adam Carriker, both of whom took straight pay cuts to stay with the team and keep Washington under the cap.
|Re-Signed||Free Agents Signed||Impact Losses|
|Logan Paulsen||Tony Pashos||DeAngelo Hall|
|Sav Rocca||E.J. Biggers||Lorenzo Alexander|
|Rob Jackson||Cedric Griffin|
There is an interesting mix of young and veteran talent in Washington, and this team is a player or two away from being really, really good. If the Redskins can overachieve in the secondary next season, a second straight division title should come with relative ease.
Don't forget: Washington didn't have an impact in free agency, but they're essentially getting two free agents on the defensive side of the ball regardless—Carriker and the dynamic Brian Orakpo both sat out for the majority of 2012 with injuries and will be back to wreak havoc.
The future is bright in Washington, and the mediocrity of the division will only increase its chances of repeating as NFC East champions. The Redskins are by no means a complete team, but there is enough talent to mask those deficiencies. Throw in some smart salary cap moves, a couple of minor pieces and continued stellar coaching from Shanahan, and you have a formula for sustained success.
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