Should this make Redskins feel good?

January, 16, 2012
1/16/12
3:36
PM ET
SOMEWHERE OVER MICHIGAN — Yeah, in-flight wireless FTW. Just hoping the person in the seat in front of me doesn't lean back any farther and crush my laptop screen. Really need to get that iPad...

Anyway, trolling the Internet up here in the sky and I came across this from Gary Fitzgerald, who points out that the Washington Redskins went 2-0 against this New York Giants team that finds itself in the NFC Championship Game and wonders what it all means. Should the Redskins be encouraged that they handled the Giants twice and played the 49ers tough?
Given the Redskins’ victories over the Giants and how competitive they were against San Francisco and New England, how far away are they from the postseason?

Redskins fans have dealt with this very question often in recent years.

In 2008, it was the Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game. The Redskins went 3-0 against those clubs in the regular season.

In 2009, the Redskins nearly defeated the eventual Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints in an early-December matchup at FedEx Field. They almost certainly would have won had then-kicker Shaun Suisham not missed a chip-shot field goal in the final minutes that would have secured the game for the Redskins.

And in 2010, the Redskins beat the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers 16-13 in a mid-October game at FedExField. They also defeated the Chicago Bears, the other NFC championship game participant, 17-10 at Soldier Field.

The point is this: even though the Redskins have played well against top-tier teams in the regular season, it has not translated to success the following season.

Every year is a new season. Simply put, the Redskins’ two victories over the Giants will mean nothing come next September.

When I was talking to Mike Shanahan a few weeks back, he kept bringing up the third-and-long conversions the Dallas Cowboys got against his team in the two games they played against them. He felt they could have won those two games. He's only human if he's sitting home thinking, "The Giants? We beat them twice and they're in the conference title game? Maybe we are pretty close."

And maybe they are. But the point is that this is such a razor's edge proposition, this NFL and its postseason. If the Eagles had held on to beat the 49ers or the Cardinals or even the Giants the first time, the Giants wouldn't even have made the playoffs and got the chance to show how much better a team they are now that they're healthy and confident. Last year's Packers barely made the playoffs by virtue of a tiebreaker over the Giants and Buccaneers, and they're 19-2 since they got in.

There's just not a great enough difference between great and so-so in this league right now. There are at least five new playoff teams every year. It's one of the aspects of the league that the NFL sells most gleefully — that no matter who you are or how bad your season was, you could be next year's Super Bowl champs. So if Redskins fans want to look at this year's 2-0 record against the Giants as a sign that they could be contenders sooner rather than later, I think they're within their rights. What that record proves is that anyone can beat anyone and everyone's season is fragile enough to turn on a single game or play.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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