Rather than simply dissecting Week Five's NFC East matchup between the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles, I have chosen to respond to a sentiment that seems to be prevalent around the NFL.
That sentiment being that, somehow, someway, the Redskins have not won four in a row based on their quality play, but rather on some form of luck or "happenstance."
I'll start with the simplest point: They are 4-1, including 2-1 in road games, involving three of the four teams that make up what many believe is the best division in football.
The one loss was on opening night, where the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants had the emotion of a ring ceremony and a fiery speech from the retired Michael Strahan on their side to start the game. The Redskins ran into a buzzsaw and couldn't quite recover from it.
I would argue that no team could have done better in the early stages of that game. Their ability to recover was hindered by the fact that it was the first game for a rookie head coach, the first game for the new offense as a whole, and the first game for a young quarterback in his third new offense in his four years in the NFL.
Things are different now after Week Five. And I contend that if that game were played in Week Six, the results would be different, too.
In five weeks of football, the Redskins have not taken over the league's statistical rankings in many categories. Defensively, the Redskins are only ranked 13th in yards allowed, 11th in points allowed, 20th against the pass, and ninth against the run.
But those numbers don't tell the whole story.
The Redskins have faced five of the NFL's top nine offenses during this stretch (based on current rankings, the Eagles were sixth entering Week Five). In each game, the Redskins' defense held the opposition to its lowest yardage total and its lowest point total of the season.
The Redskins defense has only allowed 10 fourth-quarter points all season, doing so while facing five of the top ten scoring offenses in the NFL, including three of the top five.
Four of the five opposing quarterbacks are currently ranked in the top five in yardage in the NFL, and the fifth, Eli Manning, is a respectable 12th. Four of the five are also in the top seven in quarterback rating as of now (following Week Five) and the fifth (Donovan McNabb) is 13th (before facing the Redskins, he was eighth).
Three of the five opposing quarterbacks experienced their worst quarterback rating of the season against the Redskins. The other two, Drew Brees and Tony Romo, had their second-worst ratings, by a very small margin, 68.2-69.8 for Brees and 82.6-90.7 for Romo.
The Redskins' defense has only six sacks on the season. That ranks 26th in the NFL. But consider the quarterbacks they have faced.
- Brees - tied for third in the NFL with four sacks all season, one sack for every 37 attempts
- Romo - tied for third in the NFL with four sacks all season, one sack for every 40.5 attempts
- Eli M - tied for fifth in the NFL with five sacks all season, one sack for every 26.4 attempts
- McNabb - tied for 20th in the NFL with 10 sacks all season, one sack for every 17.5 attempts
- Warner - 28th in the NFL with 12 sacks all season, one sack for every 15.25 attempts
Three of these five QBs are among the very best at getting rid of the ball, and the other two are pretty good as well when one considers the sacks per attempt. As a point of comparison, the worst quarterbacks in sacks per attempt are Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Cassel, with 6.8 and 6.93 sacks per attempt respectively.
The best? Kerry Collins and Jay Cutler, with one sack in 115 attempts and two sacks in 191 attempts.
Is it a surprise that the Redskins weren't able to sack these quarterbacks? No.
The Redskins defense has caused a turnover in four of the five games, the exception being Week Five against the Eagles. Contrarily, the Redskins' offense is the only offense in the NFL with no turnovers all season!. The lone turnover from the team as a whole was a fumble on a punt return.
Quarterback Jason Campbell is the only starting quarterback with no interceptions or fumbles all season! His 96.7 quarterback rating is currently eighth in the NFL, and he has completed nearly 64 percent of his passes.
On top of that, he has faced some of the league's best defenses, all but one (New Orleans Saints) are in the top 14 overall. All but one (New Orleans Saints) are in the top 17 in pass defense.
The Redskins have run the ball as well as any team in the league, currently ranked fifth in average rush yards per game. The Redskins are the only team to rush for more than 100 yards against the Cowboys and Eagles this season, two teams in the top 10 in rushing yards allowed.
The Redskins' offense ranks fourth in time of possession (TOP) in the NFL, with a large disparity in TOP during the fourth quarter:
- Eight minutes 31 seconds
- Six minutes 30 seconds (the only game in which they did not win TOP in the fourth quarter, against the New Orleans Saints, the Redskins overcame a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win)
- 10 minutes, 32 seconds
- 13 minutes
- Nine minutes, 11 seconds
The Redskins had the league's most difficult schedule through the first five weeks of football, and have a 4-1 record in that span. Their opponents have a combined 12-7 record, by far the most of any other team's opponents in the NFL.
By strength of schedule (from Jeff Sagarin), the Redskins have opened the season better than any team the NFL. The Redskins are No. 1 in schedule difficulty, the New York Giants are 32nd (the easiest schedule in the NFL), and the Tennessee Titans are 30th (third easiest schedule).
The second most difficult schedule? The Cincinnati Bengals. And they haven't done very well, going 0-5.
All of this points to the Redskins being the best team in football after Week Five of the 2008 NFL season.
The Washington Redskins don't have the best collection of talent. They don't have the most Pro Bowlers, the most star players, or the best player in the NFL at any position.
But championships are not won by talent collectors, nor by any one player, no matter how good he happens to be.
Championships are won by good teams. And as of now, the Redskins are just that, a good team.
Will they be able to keep this pace for the rest of the season? Maybe.
Will they make the playoffs? Maybe.
Will they win the division? Maybe.
Will they win the Super Bowl? Maybe.
Can they do all of the above?