A victory over the New York Giants not only puts the Redskins atop the division with New York, it places them in the conversation of a truckload of NFL teams that are stuck in a morass of mediocrity.
There has never been so much parity in the league as there has two weeks before the halfway point of the season. For reasons Washington has little to do with, never has 3-3 looked so promising in the third weekend of October.
If you foresaw the Patriots and Packers with the same record as the Redskins, Rams, Dolphins and the Bills through Week 6, raise your hand.
If someone told you the Steelers would start 2-3 or the Saints 1-4, nod yes.
No one? Exactly.
Never mind these standings hardly resembling your grandfather’s NFL of two decades ago — this isn’t last year’s NFL.
Not a single dominant team, a New England or Pittsburgh or Green Bay from years past, has emerged. The Falcons remain as the only unbeaten but they haven’t once looked invincible.
Houston appeared awesome for a minute, but after last week, the Packers are still scoring on the Texans. The 49ers, after what looked like an early season aberration against the Vikings, were looking as formidable as anybody — until the Giants just emasculated them, holding Alex Smith’s offense to a field goal in his own park last weekend.
Sure, Baltimore is 5-1. But major injuries, including to Ray Lewis, make the Ravens as susceptible as any team to a midseason meltdown.
“I can’t remember a year that’s started off like this one,” said Charlie Casserly, the former NFL general manager now an NFL Network and Comcast SportsNet analyst. “You still got 10 games and some teams are going to begin separating themselves from the rest. But, no question, I don’t think many of us saw this kind of parity to begin with.”
Further, after the Giants won the Super Bowl last February after playing on wild-card weekend — they clinched the NFC East on the last day of the 2011 regular season at just 9-7 — has there ever been more of a crapshoot season in the NFL?
That whole if-you’re-in-it-you-can-win-it mantra applies more than ever.
If Washington can negotiate its path through injury and inexperience at key positions this season to somehow end up in the playoff conversation by late November or early December, who can definitively say an outhouse-to-penthouse finish isn’t at least conceivable?
Mike Shanahan can’t. He admitted this week, via ESPN, that the hope Griffin brings his first year reminds him of how people in Denver began believing in the possibility of a Lombardi Trophy the moment John Elway arrived via the draft.
“We got a guy who has a chance to take us to the promised land, and that’s what you want,” Shanahan said.
Could that happen this year? Unlikely, if we’re being honest. The injuries to Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker devastated a defense whose strength was originally predicated on its front seven and its presumed fearsome pass rush.