Washington Redskins Must Top Rivals to Win Division in 2009

Philip SpeakeCorrespondent IMay 27, 2009

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 16:  Martellus Bennett #80 of the Dallas Cowboys catches a touchdown pass against Chris Horton #48 of the Washington Redskins to lead Dallas 14-10 over Washington in the fourth quarter during the game on November 16, 2008 at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins comprise one of the best, if not the best, divisions in all of professional sports.

With 11 Super Bowl championships and 19 total appearances in the big game, the division is always good for a few playoff teams and fierce rivalries.

Last season, the division had only two playoff teams, down from three in 2007. The Giants were the best team in the NFC through most of the season, finishing 12-4, while the Eagles snuck into the playoffs with a 9-6-1 record by defeating the Cowboys in Week 17.

Philadelphia reached the NFC Championship for the fifth time in the past eight seasons, barely losing to the Arizona Cardinals in January.

The NFC East has been represented 30 times in the NFC Championship, also tops in the NFL. The teams have posted a 19-11 record in those games.

History is telling us that this is the best division in football. Unfortunately for the Washington Redskins, it seems that things are not going to change much this year.

After a last place 8-8 season in 2008, the Redskins are hoping some defensive improvements and another year of experience from their young quarterback and head coach will earn them their first division title since 2000.

However, all the teams in this division have just as high of expectations.

The Giants are coming off a Super Bowl win two years ago with much of the team still intact. Osi Umenyiora returns from a year off due to injury. Eli Manning is still getting better.

If you're still don't believe in Eli, then you must not be watching the same football as me. He threw just 10 interceptions and got his completions up to 60 percent. Both career bests, even though he was missing his best target, Plaxico Burress, for some of the year. 

The Giants are a legitimate championship contender. They also have Brandon Jacobs, Antonio Pierce, Justin Tuck, an emerging Aaron Ross, and a great offensive line. Expect New York to be around first place all season in the division.

Washington has had trouble with the Giants over the past few years, and they are the biggest obstacle the Redskins will need to overcome to win the division this season. After being swept last year, the teams face off in Week 1 in the Meadowlands.

In 2008, the Eagles were swept by the Redskins, but are still another force to be reckoned with. Donovan McNabb has given Redskins fans nightmares before and surely will again before he is done playing ball. Brian Westbrook is still Brian Westbrook, the safest fantasy pick in all of football. DeSean Jackson is a playmaker, and Jeremy Maclin should be able to make a difference, but you never know with first year wideouts. Just ask the Redskins about that.

Their defense is usually strong, but Jim Johnson is in declining health, Brian Dawkins is in Denver and there goes most of their leadership. Question marks are surrounding the defense for the first time in years in Philadelphia. I for one would not bet against them being in playoff contention through the year.

Regardless of talent, the Cowboys are the most important obstacle for Washington, psychologically at least. Last season, the Redskins were a quarter away from giving themselves a 7-3 record. They also gave Dallas new hope for the season with a 14-10 loss in front of 90,830 fans on Sunday Night Football. It was the second-straight national television loss for the Skins, and from that point, the wheels were beginning to fall off the wagon.

For the Washington Redskins to have a chance at winning the NFC East, they have to sweep Dallas and split with the other two teams. Sweeping Dallas is what gets their blood flowing.

Stopping DeMarcus Ware, Trent Cole, Tuck and Umenyiora from getting to Jason Campbell is a great starting point for the offense. Second, they need to score more points than the Detroit Lions this year, unlike 2008. The defense will not let the Redskins down. It is time for the offense to pull the team up.

It just so happens they get another shot at two-straight national television games. If the Skins can hang around nine or 10 wins by Week 15, they have a great chance of taking the division. 

In Week 15, they are home against the Giants, and in Week 16 they are home against the Cowboys.

It's football in late December, under the lights that will be the biggest obstacle for the 2009 Washington Redskins.