5 Reasons the Washington Redskins Will Represent the NFC in Superbowl XLVIII
For committed Redskins fans, the term "Super bowl" has grown old in recent years. Repeated attempts to reach unrealistically high expectations have collectively crushed a fan base that remains more dedicated than almost any in sports.
But finally, Washington has a product worthy of praise to place on the field.
Year three of the Mike Shanahan era saw the first giant step towards success in D.C., with a 10-6 record and the first home-field playoff game since 1999.
Now, it is the organization's responsibility to ensure sustained success.
Luckily for them, they appear to have the pieces in place. With an offense that can move the ball, a defense that can stop it and a special teams unit that can get the job done when it needs to, few obstacles stand between the Redskins and a deep playoff run.
But can they get past the top teams in the NFC? Only time will tell.
Here are five good reasons Washington is primed to represent the NFC in Superbowl XLVIII.
Experienced Offensive Line
It can be argued that the most commonly overlooked component of a football team is also the most important to success. Say what you please, but no collection of skill-position players can win in the NFL without an effective offensive line.
Plain and simple.
Luckily, the five men primarily in charge of protecting a fragile Robert Griffin III this upcoming season have plenty of experience on the job. And the very same core that helped lead the way for the league's best rushing attack a season ago will be blocking for Alfred Morris once again.
Trent Williams, Kory Lichtensteiger, Will Montgomery, Chris Chester and Tyler Polumbus started all 16 regular season games in 2012, developing a cohesive unit many a coach would envy.
Together, the group has 25 years of experience in the NFL. The Redskins certainly lack depth behind the starters, but another year of good health may very well mean the return of one of the game's most successful offenses and a trip to Superbowl XLVIII.
I probably lost half of them at the headline, but anyone with a decent knowledge of the NFL knows that the largest obstacle standing between the Redskins and an NFC Championship lies in the secondary.
Washington ranked 30th out of 32 teams in passing yards against a season ago, surrendering more passing touchdowns than any other team in the league.
Key injuries across the board certainly didn't help, but the Redskins defensive unit must improve if they are to advance in the playoffs in 2013.
Luckily, that progress began last season.
After allowing an average 29 points through their first nine games (3-6), Jim Haslett's group surrendered just 20 points a contest over the last seven (7-0).
More good news can be found in the fact that Washington is returning two important pieces right away and potentially a third down the road. Pro Bowlers Brian Orakpo and Brandon Meriweather both missed a majority of the season a year ago, and should be starting week 1 against Philadelphia.
According to SBNation, Adam Carriker could return for the Redskins around playoff time should they make it there.
Depth at the cornerback and safety positions has also been upgraded via the draft. Bacarri Rambo and David Amerson are two immensely talented athletes, who could receive significant (if not starting) playing time in 2013.
The main reason the Redskins experienced so much success last season was largely because of the unpredictable read option offense.
And even though skeptics have called for its removal following Robert Griffin III's injury, there is little reason to believe Kyle Shanahan will do away with such an effective system in 2013.
Nine days until the opener, Washington has yet to show their cards. And, much like last season, opposing defenses don't know what to expect Week 1.
Here's one hint: we likely won't see RGIII bust out 70-yard touchdown runs this time around. But the mere threat of a speedy quarterback beating defenders to the edge will keep defensive ends honest and help benefit the passing game.
The primary concern for opposing coordinators has to remain with last season's second-leading rusher, Alfred Morris. But once the defense reads pass, don't think they are out of the woods.
After RGIII takes the ball out of the running back's grasp, he has the option to run himself or pass to a receiver. In an ideal world, a strong return from Fred Davis in a contract year combined with a healthy Pierre Garcon for 16 games would mean that Washington's offense has limitless potential.
I'd like to see teams try and stop that unit for four quarters.
When Washington decided to deal three first-round picks for the second overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, many criticized the organization for making a desperate reach.
One season into Robert Griffin III's career, I think we can put that discussion to rest.
RGIII silenced the critics a season ago by putting together one of the most remarkable rookie seasons in the history of the league. By year's end, the Redskins' quarterback had compiled 20 touchdowns, 3,200 yards and a rookie-record 102.4 passer rating en route to the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
If that weren't enough, Griffin impressed fans and teammates alike with his standup character and inherent ability to lead.
Nothing but praise has poured from the Redskins locker room since his arrival a year ago, and ESPN's recent documentary about Griffin's road to recovery has to silence any doubters about his work ethic.
After putting together a seemingly perfect campaign in his rookie year, there aren't many ways that RGIII can improve. But if anyone is going to progress after setting rookie records and tearing an ACL, it's No. 10 in the burgundy and gold.
And I can't wait to see the look on the opponents' faces.
For the first time in a long time, the Redskins seem to have all the pieces necessary to win at the highest level.
High expectations for a team full of free-agent acquisitions is one thing. But this squad has a foundation in place to win for years to come.
And 2013 isn't too early to start setting the bar high.
One of the main ingredients needed in the NFL is veteran leadership. Last season showed us that rookies can experience success; however, you don't see teams with lots of fresh faces advancing deep in the playoffs.
Entering this season, Washington has experience on all sides of the ball. Two-time Superbowl Champion Mike Shanahan roams the sidelines, while 15-year veteran and Superbowl champion London Fletcher anchors the defense.
Ironically, the youngest part of the Redskins' team was the most successful in 2012. With a rookie quarterback and a rookie running back, Washington's offense averaged more points per game than all but three NFL teams a season ago.
Now, they return a veteran in Fred Davis and an entire offensive line that might draw comparisons to the "Hogs" of old if they continue on the same path they started last year.
Call me crazy, but this team has serious potential. IF they can stay healthy, don't be shocked if they are playing late into the month of January.