1. The Redskins had quite a day yesterday, without even lacing them up. The NFC East standings show that OUR Washington Redskins sit just a half-game back of the first place New York Giants. Despite his six touchdown passes yesterday, Eli Manning could not top Uncle Rico. Drew Brees dropped SEVEN touchdown passes on the G-men, which dropped the Giants to a 4-4 record. It is a little bit alarming that we have to play those Saints in a couple weeks, and even more alarming that people seem to be pointing to that game as the most winnable of our next three. Did I say alarming? I meant terrifying...but there is time for that later.
2. Is there anything more satisfying than watching the Dallas Cowboys think they are going to win a game, only to see those chances disappear? The Seattle Seahawks made huge plays on defense, and Russell Wilson proved why he is so valuable as he made extremely heady decisions with the ball on the final and decisive fourth quarter drive. Greg Hardy looks every bit the monster he is billed to be, but even his insanely athletic interception late in the game was not enough to give Dallas the edge. Matt Cassel simply did not have what it took to outwit the Seattle defense. The Legion of Boom is for real, and it was great to see them crush the spirit of our divisional rivals. Does anyone remember watching this game and seeing Jerry Jones' face after that Hardy interception? He was so happy. He felt so smart. You could just SEE him thinking, "Anybody else want to comment on the kind of player Greg Hardy is, or my thoughts on his leadership?" I am pretty sure he unhinged his jaw for that smile. It was Texas-sized. And then...poor Jerry.
3. I think I am right there with those Skins fans who look at our 3-4 record and instinctively feel like it isn't good enough. As much as I think that the Miami loss in the opener should have been ours, the truth is our win over Tampa Bay kind of cancels out that feeling. We've been almost good enough a couple times this season, and we've answered the bell in dramatic fashion in games against Philadelphia and Tampa. If you recall, the loss to the Giants began pretty much out of the gate with the safety and turnovers. The Jets game got out of control in a hurry. All in all, it would seem that we are neither a "good" 3-4 nor a "bad" 3-4, and this is a great thing. It is a pretty honest record. It is a "grinder" kind of record, indicative of the rockiness of our 2015 campaign thus far.
4. This is all to say this: we know what "bad" 3-4 looks like. (We even know what "bad" 6-2 looks like...ooooohhhhh Zorny.) I don't think you can look at the Redskins right now and call them a "bad" team. I think you look at the Redskins today and you have to say that there is a core group of young players that seem to be buying in to what the organization wants to do. Is it fair to call us short on talent? Perhaps, especially if you are comparing us to teams like New England, Green Bay or Denver, but if you do, you have to recognize where we have been successful in adding talent. McLovin has brought in young players that are making a difference now (Brandon Scherff, Matt Jones, Preston Smith, to name a few). Another solid draft and this team all of a sudden stands a LOT taller. If you kind of take it all in context, a new and exciting truth presents itself to us. It's the kind of truth that exists almost exclusively in the sports universe, and it goes like this: "What if...?"
5. The goal this season was always to develop a core group of players. Whether that core group of players is coached by Jay Gruden in the future is not the point. McLovin is interested in knowing who he has in guys like Kirk Cousins, Morgan Moses, Ryan Grant, Trent Murphy, Trenton Robinson, etc. We are seeing that core group of guys (along with others) respond to the opportunity. This will net us both positive short-term and long-term results. The late drives to win games serve the purpose of giving players like Kirk Cousins confidence, while you know, also netting actual wins. The success of younger guys like Morgan Moses, Trent Murphy (quietly having a decent season) and Matt Jones will absolutely benefit us as it gives clear guidance to McLovin when it comes time to allocate offseason resources. You might say that a team is even willing to take losses to learn this information, but the Redskins have likely taken fewer losses than most people would have bet on a few months ago. Again, this doesn't build the case that we are a contender, but it does suggest there is another possible outcome than a 5-11 record followed by an angst-filled offseason. Those other possibilities came a lot more into focus over the weekend.
6. That said, what are we defining as "contender?" Captain Obvious would look at the NFC East and call it wide open. Contending for a division title is all we need to concern ourselves with, and I don't believe the crap I hear about the NFC East title being some kind of consolation prize. It is a worthy goal, and just because we play the Patriots this week followed by games against the Saints and Carolina Panthers, there is no reason to take our eyes off that prize. Think about it: the Giants are a tick ahead if us in first place and after a game against the Buccaneers this week, they also face the juggernaut Patriots team. Then they get us and the Jets. Sounds like opportunity to me. The Eagles upcoming stretch looks a little better for them, as it contains both the Bucs and Lions, but they have a killer stretch against Buffalo, New England and Arizona before taking us on the day after Christmas. Huge opportunity. Dallas' loss yesterday keeps them firmly in the cellar of the division, with a big tilt against Philly next week. We get the Cowgirls twice in December...nothing but opportunity. Everyone who wants to call our season over just because we have to play Tom Brady and the Pats in Week 9 is missing what is actually happening around us. We should be ECSTATIC to get the opportunity to be the team that knocks off Bill Belichick. That's all it is: an opportunity. All the pressure is on New England. We have played well at home this season, so the Saints will have their hands full before we get yet another opportunity to measure ourselves against one of the better teams in the league down in Carolina. When you are desperately seeking an identity that can last longer than a week, month or even season, you should WANT these kinds of opportunities...these exact kinds of opportunities. There is a huge difference between being a last place 2-5 squad going on the road to face the Pats and being a well-rested 3-4 squad in sniffing distance of the top of the division headed into the same game. We can manage expectations this week, but it is absolutely our prerogative to look at this game and say, "What if...?" We have earned at least that much so far this season. Enjoy it. No matter what happens this weekend, our season is far from over.