There is something different about this December. There is something in the air, something in the streets. A new era has begun in Washington and the positive force of it is permeating every corner of Redskins Nation.
2012 is the year that the Redskins indoctrinate a new generation of fans and reinvigorate generations jaded by years of neglect and free agent fix-it football. An entire generation of Redskins fans doesn't remember a team who consistently made playoff runs, or even consistently had a shot at them. 2012 is the year of the turnaround, the year that all changes.
The Redskins currently sit atop the NFC East. They have a chance to clench the division for the first time since 1999 and a playoff spot for the first time since 2007. In fact, since winning the Super Bowl in the 1991 season, the Redskins have only had four playoff appearances - 1992, 1999, 2005, and 2007 - none of which featured quite the same mix of youth and talent that the 2012 team possesses, particularly at quarterback.
In 1999, Washington's quarterback was Brad Johnson. In 2005, Mark Brunell led the team from under center. And in 2007, Todd Collins replaced an injured Jason Campbell to lead a four game winning streak and grab a wild card spot in the playoffs. None of those quarterbacks held a starting job with the Redskins two years after their playoff appearances, or even started more than 11 games in the season immediately following.
The 2012 Redskins are, like the 2007 team, coming off a 5-11 previous-season record to enter the final week of regular season play with a 9-6 record and an impressive string of wins at their heels. And just like that 2007 team, they will face division rival Dallas Cowboys on December 30th at FedEx Field.
But this is not the 2007 team. Today, the Redskins have Robert Griffin III - and Alfred Morris, an explosive wide receiver corps, young talent on defense, Kyle Shanahan's creativity and a Pro Bowl-caliber kicker.
This is also not the FedEx Field crowd of 2007. Redskins fans have brought an energy to FedEx this December that has not been felt since the team moved to the Landover stadium. The team has finally given fans a reason to believe that their cheers matter and that they'll be able to continue those cheers each week.
For the first time since the 1991 championship, the Redskins are actually poised to earn their way into the post season with more than just luck. Sure, there has been some luck on their side this season, but more of it has been of the bad variety than the good - from injuries to suspensions and, of course, the salary cap hit. The 2012 team has overcome the bad luck and an abysmal start to the season and used their talent to rise above it.
Redskins Nation wants Dallas. They want them badly, as they always do. Sunday's Cowboys game is different, though. This weekend's game is the game that reignites the Redskins-Cowboys rivalry that many had declared dead. The rivalry is alive and about to reach the fervor of decades past.
This December is one that Redskins Nation will remember as the one in which the franchise finally rose again to earn the place of esteem it had for so long held in their hearts. The Redskins are giving fans a December to remember, and the hope for many more to come. Win or lose Sunday, this is about more than the 2012 playoffs.