Whenever I cite KC Joyner on here, I feel compelled to point out that he picked the New York Giants to win the NFC East last year when all the rest of us were picking the Eagles. This is to establish KC's credibility with those unfamiliar with his work, though I have to admit I spent a lot in my fantasy auction draft last week on Chris Johnson on KC's advice and so I'm hoping the credibility extends.
But I digress. The reason I'm talking about KC is this piece he wrote today about the Washington Redskins and their chances to make the NFC East a four-team race for the first time in recent memory. Obviously, the piece was inspired by how good the Redskins and Robert Griffin III looked beating the Saints in New Orleans on Sunday, but KC is always looking deeper. Griffin is exciting and a rookie and all of the good and bad things that go with that.
The main reason I had the Redskins 8-8 in my preseason predictions, while most everyone else had them lower, was my opinion of their defensive front seven. So I'll highlight what KC said about the defense:
Brian Orakpo is probably the biggest name on this platoon and he had a good game (a near interception on a pass defensed, two passes knocked down at the line of scrimmage and two tackles), but the Redskins' most impactful player by far was linebacker Ryan Kerrigan.
Kerrigan forced a throwaway, had a pass defensed on a throw that he nearly intercepted, drew two holding penalties and notched a sack in addition to tallying two tackles while being on the field for all 75 of Washington's defensive snaps. If Orakpo and Kerrigan continue to play at this level, the Redskins will soon give the rest of the division a run for the money in the battle of best pass-rushers.
KC goes on to explain that part of his Redskins optimism stems from the state of the other teams in the division after Week 1, and I think this is an important point. If an NFC East team is going to run out and win 11 or 12 games, as I still believe the Giants or Eagles can and some people are convinced the Cowboys can, then I don't think this year's version of the Redskins has the potential to slug it out with those types of teams. But the NFC East was won with nine victories last year, and if that happens again -- if the teams at the top are going to hang around .500 and bunch up with each other again -- there's no reason to think the Redskins haven't improved enough to come out on top in a situation like that. I'm with KC in that I think the Redskins are a division contender if, for some reason, no NFC East team turns out to post an elite-level record.