1. Since Monday's Sixpack, I have cooled down considerably. It's not that I am angry because of the continued losing ways of our favorite franchise-there is a certain understanding that this year we are still building to a point from which we can legitimately contend. Further, there is tangible evidence of that building process. We are seeing a slew of young players perform at a level that makes us all rather giddy about the future. (Define "slew" as you wish.)
2. I guess I am (or was) most upset because while the Washington "window" might not be officially open yet, the NFL has left the door cracked open for this team in 2012. That which makes us good enough to win now (our offense) is perhaps not good enough to overcome that which prevents us from winning now (our pass defense), but it's close.
3. And you know what? For all the years that anger and apathy have combined to create a bitter cocktail for the faithful in the stands at FedEx, I am finally starting to feel my own feelings again regarding this team and its ability to win. After all, how emotional are you going to allow yourself to get about a team with Tony Banks or Danny Wuerffel under center? (Okay...Kevin, don't answer that-he sat next to me for all those years and I recall being somewhat...emotional.)
4. It is refreshing to get to the end of games and feel like we can legitimately win. It was different last season with Rex. Sure, we were in games in the fourth quarter. Sure, we had the ball with chances to take the lead or secure the victory. But the belief that our team would or could win was just not fully there. In fact, I am fairly certain we were all watching those games thinking, "This is going to end badly." When our offense has the ball in the fourth quarter these days, we are confident. It's like being at the end of a date with a hot girl you know is into you. When you make your move, you are confident it is going to work and lead to...good things. With Rex, it was like being on a date with a girl that was a solid two levels of hotness out of your league. When you made your move at the end, there was a better chance of the night resulting in a restraining order than it resulting in...good things.
5. Does that make Robert Griffin III the hot girl that is totally into us? Yes...yes it does. (That does not mean that restraining orders are out of the question though. Keely...looking in your general direction.)
6. Let's get back to this idea that the NFL is offering the Redskins an opportunity to compete for a wild card in 2012. Look around at the landscape of the NFC. The teams that the Redskins are currently chasing outside of the NFC East are teams like Seattle, Arizona, and St. Louis-all NFC West teams. If history teaches us anything, it is that this division will likely even itself out over the next two months. All things being equal, you don't expect Arizona to keep up its current pace given their shaky situation at quarterback. While Seattle's defense continues to be a huge story this season, one has to question how many times that offense can pull the rabbit out of its hat at the end. The Redskins have already lost to St. Louis, so we are down a tie-breaker to the Rams.
7. Outside of the NFC West, all eyes will be directed on the New Orleans Saints, as they attempt to dig out of the gargantuan hole they put themselves in to start the season. They are very capable of doing so, but the Redskins hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over Drew Brees (and not Sam Bradford...really? Serenity now!).
8. Let's not sleep on either the Detroit Lions or the Minnesota Vikings. Both are very dangerous teams this season. Luckily, we have another key head-to-head tiebreaker over the Vikings, but at 5-2, they are a safe distance ahead of us at the moment. The Lions are an interesting team because they have elite playmakers on both offense and defense. They never seem to be out of the game, and they have the horses to get the job done at the end. We'll get to the real teams we have to concern ourselves with in a second, but if the Skins find themselves in contention, I predict it will be the Lions sharing our spot on the bubble in late December.
9. Whether you want to suggest that this past game against the Giants shows how close we are to the top of the NFC East or not, we are MUCH closer than we've been in recent seasons. The Giants, by virtue of their 5-2 record, have established themselves as not just the best team in the division, but also one of the best teams in the conference (shocker...they are the defending Super Bowl champs). We'll get another shot at them in December at FedEx, but until then, we have to knock the Cowgirls and Eagles down, and that is where the true opportunities lie. Any shot we have to be contending for a playoff spot at the end will be determined by these four games.
10. Philadelphia and Dallas both stand in our way of the wild card with their 3-3 records. Both teams are dealing with their own unique brands of adversity. In Philly, they just made the extremely bold move of firing their defensive coordinator during the season. That is not a decision that is made lightly, and is indicative of a mess behind the scenes. We all know what the latter means, and it does not lend itself to winning. In Dallas, they just lost their leading tackler, the very dynamic linebacker Sean Lee. You never know what the "next man up" is going to do, but recovering from this kind of loss hurts a lot. It is reasonable to expect that these events will contribute to losses in the coming weeks. While we can hope that other teams (like Atlanta and New Orleans, for instance) assist us in our playoff push by beating our divisional foes, we need to take care of our own business. I think we need to take three of these four games and I think that is very possible. As I said last week, I see us taking two against Dallas and one against Philly. Based on our performance against New York last week, perhaps we can still hold a reasonable expectation of victory against the Giants in December, but we simply can't afford to finish out of second place in the NFC East if there is to be any hope for a playoff appearance in 2012. For the first time in a very long time, I can suggest this with a very straight face.