1. Nothing I am about to say has anything to do with anything that happened during the televised practice between Washington and Tennessee last Thursday night. Further, everything I am about to say could get blown up by what happens between now and mid-September.
2. The Washington Redskins have spent a great many years outside the "contender bubble." While you could argue that everyone in the league starts the season inside this bubble, the truth is that it is very much popped for a lot of teams by mid-August. Let's be clear--this bubble is not just for any team that has yet to be mathematically eliminated. Legitimate contention exists around the league year-round in many cities, but there are also teams that fail to reach that bar at any point during the league calendar. Beginning with our seven-game winning streak to end last season, and continuing through our offseason as defending NFC East champs, the Washington Redskins find themselves squarely within the confines of the "legit contender" group.
3. There is still work to do both on the field and in the front office before we can favorably compare our organization to the ones in Green Bay, New England and Baltimore. They have earned their spot at the top of the NFL hierarchy with quality decision-making from those in charge, and...well, winning consistently. That said, the Redskins enter the 2013 season in the same boat as teams like the Packers, 49ers and Falcons--legitimate contenders to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Unlike previous seasons where 39 things had to happen in order for us to be considered "for real", health is (finally) our primary driver for staying in contention. That is what ultimately determines the chances of any good or great team. Instead of crossing our fingers and hoping a journeyman skill player still has enough in the tank to perform at a high enough level for us to win, or praying that a 6th-rounder can come out of nowhere and dominate at his position (hmmm), we are finally at a point where we know we have enough proven talent to win.
4. Of course, Robert Griffin III's health is the chief factor when determining if we have the chops to challenge for a spot in the Super Bowl. You could say the same for the starting quarterbacks in Green Bay, New Orleans, Atlanta and San Francisco. I would take Kirk Cousins over Graham Harrell, Luke McCown, Dominique Davis and Colt McCoy all day. This is a huge part of what makes us a threat to represent the NFC in the big dance.
5. If I may beat some of you to the punch--our offensive line and defensive secondary do have question marks. The counter-argument on the OL side of things is that this group played together last year with pretty decent results. In the secondary, help has arrived in the form of raw talent out of the draft, and before you argue that it is just wishful thinking to hope they will pay off in 2013, I would argue that there is very little to suggest that the additions of Meriweather, Amerson, Rambo and Thomas this season will make us worse than we were in 2012. You know, when we won the division?
6. It is not premature. It is not blind optimism. The Redskins are Super Bowl contenders--and this time, not in the same way that the Cleveland Browns are Super Bowl contenders. They can score enough points to overcome mediocre defensive efforts, and there is reason to believe that our defense will rise above mediocrity. The Redskins are a serious team again. The Redskins are a factor in the NFL again (and not because of circus antics). It is both appropriate and necessary to elevate our expectations beyond "gaining experience and making progress with our schemes" to "win, win, win."
Can we handle the truth?