There's a reason each team plays all 16 games during the NFL season.
Sporting a 3-6 record in November, the Washington Redskins were in position to perhaps finish last in the NFC East for a fifth straight year.
Instead, Mike Shanahan's club rallied to win its final seven games, hence the franchise would wind up NFC East champions for the first time since 1999.
While the season ended with a painful loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the wild card round, this is a team that looks a little more built for the long haul than some of their recent predecessors.
Hence, the Washington Redskins will make the playoffs for a second straight year…
If: Washington stays committed to the running game. With a major assist from rookie running back Alfred Morris (1,613), the Redskins totaled an NFL-high 2,709 yards rushing in 16 games last season (169.3 yards per game); totaling more than 1,100 yards than they did (1,614) in 2011. Combine that with the efficient passing of quarterback Robert Griffin III and it was little wonder that Shanahan's team scored 436 points and totaled 46 offensive touchdowns, up considerably from the previous season (288 points, 27 offensive touchdowns).
And: Griffin III (7) as well as backup quarterback Kirk Cousins (3) continue to practice ball security. The two rookie signal-callers last season coughed up the ball a combined 10 times. Hence, the Redskins were guilty of an NFL-low 14 turnovers in 2012. A year earlier, Washington quarterbacks Rex Grossman (25) and John Beck (5) combined for 30 of the team's 35 turnovers, the third-most in the league that season.
But: If Washington's defense doesn't look a whole lot better than it did a year ago, the team's reign as NFC East champions will be short-lived. Injuries to defensive end Adam Carriker and outside linebacker Brian Orakpo in a Week 2 loss at St. Louis took their toll on the defense as it totaled only 32 sacks while allowing 31 touchdown passes. The Redskins also gave up 388 points, the most among the league's 12 playoff teams in 2012.
So what do you think? The '12 Redskins came a long way in a short time and became the fourth different team to win the NFC East in as many seasons. But will they share the same fate as the champion '09 Cowboys, '10 Eagles and '11 Giants, all who also won division titles but missed the playoffs the following season?
Russell S. Baxter has spent the last 40-plus years watching football. He is the founder of ProFootballGuru.com, writes for numerous websites and publications across the country, can be heard on Yahoo! Sports Radio and many other networks and was blessed with an encyclopedic memory. Ready to talk NFL? Follow him on Twitter at @BaxFootballGuru.
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