Only in sports can fortunes change so dramatically, so quickly.
A few weeks ago most Redskins fans, and perhaps even the Redskins coaches, were convinced that 2012 was yet another wasted season. After losing at home to the dreadful Carolina Panthers, surely the wheels had fallen off. It was goodbye to the playoffs and hello to the dreaded “player evaluation” period. Regardless of whether Washington head coach Mike Shanahan meant to wave the white towel on the 2012 campaign, it sure seemed like he did.
And then, poof, all that is gone. Today, all Washington can talk about is Cool Hand Luke and the Giants game on Monday night.
In just three weeks, fortunes change, and suddenly the Redskins are right back in the conversation.
What happened to flip the script? Two games against division rivals, and two wins. The first was a convincing drubbing of the suspect Philadelphia Eagles. The second win—well, for Skins fans—was an all-timer: a 38-31 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, in Dallas, on Thanksgiving. The second quarter saw such an explosion of Redskins offensive firepower that the playoffs no longer seemed like such a ridiculous thought.
Though still performing well behind the offense, the Washington defense also seems improved since the embarrassing loss to the Panthers. Maybe Shanahan re-emphasized hitting over the bye week, because against the Eagles and the Cowboys the Skins secondary brought the wood.
Still, despite the encouraging results of the past two weeks, the Skins sit under .500 on the season at 5-6. But with the rest of the potential NFC Wild Card teams bumbling along, a Wild Card playoff berth remains in reach.
If the season ended today, the Redskins would be on the outside looking in at the playoffs. Only it doesn’t. Sitting in front of the Skins playoff dreams are the Seahawks, Bucs, and Vikings.
Considering the way Washington played the past two weeks—and the caliber of teams in front of them—the Redskins certainly have a puncher’s chance. Add in a favorable schedule down the stretch, and a playoff game seems like a true possibility for the Skins.
This week, however, no Redskins fan is focused on a Wild Card berth.
Next Monday night the New York Giants come to FedEx Field. The game will be packed, and the crowd will be riled up. Monday Night Football, division game. This is the game Redskins fans dreamed of when the team mortgaged its future to obtain Robert Griffin III.
The rookie quarterback now makes all things seem possible in the Redskins universe.
Beating the defending Super Bowl champion Giants will be a tall order. Vegas set the early line with the Giants as three-point favorites, even on the road.
Few outside of Washington think the Skins will win this game. A few weeks ago, even fewer people thought the Skins had a chance of making the playoffs.
One game at a time, RG3 forces more people to believe in the Skins. Monday night is his next chance, and his biggest opportunity yet.
Find JP Finlay on Twitter @jpfinlay.