The NFC East has been one of the strongest divisions in football, since the 1970's, from top to bottom. Three teams, the Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys, and New York Giants, have each won multiple Super Bowls since then. A fourth, the Philadelphia Eagles, has played in two Super Bowls as well.
The NFC East also used to include the Saint Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals featured many great players, including three Hall of Famers, and were generally always in the thick of the race for the division title. They did win two consecutive division titles in 1974 and 1975, but left the NFC East after the 2001 season. They are now in the NFC West, and have played in Arizona since the 1988 season.
The 2009 NFL season should be more of the same for this division. The Giants will be just two seasons removed from winning a Super Bowl, and the Eagles were within minutes of appearing in last years Super Bowl. Both teams are expected to challenge again this season.
The Cowboys are another team many are looking to challenge for the division crown. Dallas' core players are mostly still intact, and the team has made significant upgrades on the defensive side of the ball. If the Cowboys start holding their own along the line of scrimmage this year, they have the talent to win the Super Bowl trophy.
The Giants are a veteran team that has most of the players from their Super Bowl XLII winning team still on the roster. They have a stout defense, and are known for having a fierce pass rush. If their young wide receivers step up this season, they have to ability to win it all again behind their excellent offensive line.
Philadelphia is a team many expect to get back to the NFC Championship game. They are led by Donovan McNabb, a quarterback who seemingly has put the franchise on his back throughout most of his career. McNabb is heavily relied upon because the Eagles running attack has been wildly ineffective. He also has some new weapons to enjoy this year, and McNabb might end up setting career high marks in every passing category by seasons end.
The Redskins are a team in flux. They are trying to transition between being a veteran team, and a team trying to rebuild towards the future. Their head coach, Jim Zorn, is in his second year with the team. He inherited a veteran team built for power football, but Zorn wants the team to use the West Coast system. This transition had the Redskins being the 28th ranked offense in the NFL last year.
The defense is also trying to get younger and faster, while relying on the many veterans they have as starters. Washington's defense was the 6th best in the NFL last year, and is the main reason the team was able to go 8-8 last year.
After signing free agent defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth to a very lucrative contact a few months ago, Washington is hoping their defense can be even better this year. This may need to happen, due to the Redskins inconsistencies on offense.
The key to the Redskins success on offense will be the effectiveness of their blockers. This group is amongst the most talented in the league, but they have not been able to stay healthy as a whole unit the past several years. They are also getting old, and two to three of their starters are not far away from retirement.
Teams always hope they can stay healthy an entire season, and very few ever do. This is the Redskins hope, and well as believing their veterans have another push left in their bodies to fulfill their potential for being champions.
The problem is the NFC East. This is a grueling division that wears down each team in it. Typically, by the time a team from the division reaches the playoffs, the team is spent and running on fumes. Winning the division is a huge task, and is probably the hardest thing to do in the NFC.
The Washington Redskins are considered to have little chance at winning the NFC East by many, but the talent is certainly there to do so. Many good fortunes have to fall their way, as it does for any champion in NFL history, as well as unfortunate moments happening to their division rivals.
It is a long shot, as are the Redskins hope for glory in 2009, but not unfathomable. This is how a Cinderella season occurs. Ask the Arizona Cardinals.