By now, most of us have heard the bold prediction from Washington Redskins' quarterback Rex Grossman regarding the eventual victors of the NFC East crown. If you happened to have missed it, fear not. Here is another chance to indulge yourself:
"We’re just waiting in the wings ready to take over the NFC East. Nobody’s talking about us, it’s right where we wanna be. You look at us from top to bottom out here,there’s a bunch of great players. And we don’t need people saying we’re the best right now. But when it’s all said and done, I really feel like this team’s gonna win the [NFC] East.”
Now, it isn't far fetched to predict inevitable fan reactions such as "that's ridiculous," or "you have got to be kidding me."
However, the confidence in Grossman's statement had to come from somewhere, and in all fairness, the Redskins have much to feel happy about. They found great value in mid and late rounds of the draft, and shored-up plenty of gaping holes on defense through free agency. Having the fourth-easiest regular season schedule will also add to the benefits of the burgundy and gold.
But a division title? The Redskins did get plenty of much-needed help this offseason, but their division's foes likely got even more ("dream team," anyone?). Accurately assessing Grossman's prediction will require a closer preliminary look at the NFC East. So let's break it down, team by team.
It's been an interesting summer for the Dallas Cowboys. Lack of cap space prevented Jerry Jones from making another free agency splash in Big D, and that ultimately cost them the acquisition of this offseason's biggest name, Nnamdi Asomugha.
The draft provided intrigue for Dallas when Tyron Smith was selected ninth overall. Smith, the first offensive lineman ever selected by Jones in the first round of a draft, will be heavily relied on to help protect Tony Romo.
Additional roster depth was found later in the draft, when linebacker Bruce Carter and running back DeMarco Murray were selected. Both are expected to be immediate contributors, but will not likely start.
Dallas is looking to bounce back from one of their most disappointing seasons of recent memory. But amidst last year's turmoil, new head coach Jason Garrett took the helm and guided the Cowboys to a 5-3 record down the stretch.
Now, in his first full season with a talented but under-performing core of players, Garrett will hope to awaken what could be a sleeping giant in Dallas. He will need quite the alarm clock, as Dallas faces challenging competition all season long.
A murderers' row awaits them in the last four weeks, when they will face the New York Giants twice, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a Saturday primetime showdown. If Dallas reverts back to the pre-Garrett era of 2010, they could find themselves winless in that stretch. Easily.
2011 Prediction: 8-8
Dallas remains talented on both sides of the ball, and having Romo back for a full season is very promising. But the names of the receivers on the depth chart past Dez Bryant's are flat out scary if you're a Cowboys fan. Are you sold on Bryant lasting a full season without injury? Who steps up?
Additionally, the secondary was greatly exposed in 2010, and Dallas did little to address that. Pass-heavy teams like New England and Philadelphia will be salivating on game day.
And remember, a very similar roster did finish with only six wins last year, and whether or not they learned from their mistakes remains to be seen. Either way, I expect better of them than their 2010 display.
The New York Giants experienced an offseason of two very different extremes.
First, the highs: the draft put together by Jerry Reese this April was a work of art. Just about all of his picks were of excellent value, and many could see themselves as key contributors sooner rather than later.
But the lows were crippling. Free agency didn't go nearly as smoothly for the G-Men, who lost two veteran offensive linemen in Shawn O'Hara and Rich Seubert.
A chance to provide insurance for these losses also failed, when former Super Bowl hero Plaxico Burress opted to sign with the crosstown rival New York Jets. The Giants have signed no receivers this offseason.
In addition to the free agency fiasco, top draft choice Prince Amukamara is currently sidelined with a broken foot and is out indefinitely.
The Giants do have a favorable schedule that leads into their week-seven bye, but they will need every bit of rest they can get. After the week off, their schedule is composed of formidable opponents including the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints and the New York Jets.
Add two more games against a revitalized Dallas team and two against a Philadelphia team that has won six straight over the Giants, and you could have the recipe for a down-year in New York.
2011 Prediction: 7-9
Not enough can be said about the departure of Steve Smith. He was an excellent route-runner and was Manning's safest option on third-and-long. The offense will struggle to replace him, although the talent could be there in Victor Cruz or Jerrel Jernigan. That talent is raw though and could have its share of growing pains.
What more can be said about this offseason's biggest story? We know the free agency splash made by the Philadelphia Eagles, but what will it ultimately mean?
Looking at their schedule, quite a lot. Like their NFC East counterparts, the Eagles' non-conference opponents include the dismal NFC West and the more-challenging AFC East. The Patriots and Jets will provide world-class matchups, but the Dolphins and Bills will not likely pose much of a threat.
Philadelphia does have the added challenge of taking on the Chicago Bears, whose season ended just one game away from the Super Bowl.
2011 Prediction: 12-4
The Eagles have their share of challenges, but more often than not, they outmatch their opponents on paper. And by a wide margin.
The Philadelphia front office knew this, and like most other needs they addressed it. Vick now has plenty of new check-down options out of the backfield as well as Ryan Harris protecting his blindside. I expect that those moves, coupled with added time in the film room, will allow the cornerstone of Philadelphia's high-flying offense to continue to excel.
The Eagles have revamped an already sturdy roster to levels that teeter on the ridiculous. It would take the ideal season from the Redskins to remove the Eagles from their perch at the top of the NFC East.
It would take a season with almost zero room for error. A season that avenges the embarrassment of failed opportunities of last season. A season where talented rookies like Ryan Kerrigan and Leonard Hankerson make an immediate impact. A season where key free agency acquisitions actually do pan out.
A season where Mike Shanahan will not have to eat his words, after staking his reputation on John Beck and Rex Grossman.
It would have to begin with an emotional win against the New York Giants in the nation's capital on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. It would be a victory against an opponent that has won the past five encounters at FedEx Field.
That momentum will have to carry them through Week 3 with a primetime victory against their oldest rival, the Dallas Cowboys. The victory in Jerry Jones' living room would be the perfect mood-setter for future road games.
Then, a Week 5 bye will provide an additional seven days of much-needed preparation for the Week 6 showdown against the Eagles in Washington. It will be their biggest test of the season and their best chance to respond to last season's 59-28 drubbing.
And what would be sweeter than a hometown victory when Albert Haynesworth and the New England Patriots come to town in Week 14? How about the reincarnation of nine straight 50 Gut plays to run out the clock? Only, instead of Randy White, it's Albert Haynesworth that leaves the pile bruised, battered and bloodied.
Why would revenge end there? How about a gift-wrapped victory on Christmas Eve when Donovan McNabb returns to town?
It is a long list of events to avenge, with only a few goals that seem anywhere close to attainable. But this fairy tale-esque series of events is what it would take for the Redskins to win a competitive division this season. For the first time in years, things seem to be running smoothly and sensibly in the offices upstairs, but significant results are likely far away.
It's more of a dream than anything else, and there's already one "dream team" in the NFC East. And when examined closely, that dream is beginning to seem like it could be very, very real.
...the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Redskins and Cowboys have improved, and the Giants could still be a tough opponent for anyone this year. But Philadelphia has widened the gap far too much for any of the aforementioned improvements to weaken their stranglehold on the division.
It will be a season of lofty expectations in Philadelphia, and a division win is only the beginning of what they hope to accomplish. A favorable schedule and transitional seasons on the horizon for Dallas, New York and Washington should pad the confidence of a team with such elevated aspirations.
To reiterate, Rex Grossman predicted a division title in Washington. This hinges not only on a series of storybook wins for the Redskins, but now also relies heavily on the collapse of the reigning division champions.
The Eagles put together a star-studded roster this offseason, but they may not the only team that's dreaming, after all.