The Redskins already have improved in the voter's eyes -- but not by a whole lot. After finishing 31st in the ESPN.com rankings for 2013 -- one spot ahead of Sunday's opponent, Houston -- the Redskins open the season six spots higher at No. 25. They're also three spots higher than they were entering the preseason.
What does it matter? Well, not a whole lot considering wins and losses, not rankings, are the deciding factor in the NFL. But it does provide snapshots of how teams are perceived. Then again, a year ago the Redskins were perceived far different: they opened up 10th and, within four weeks, had fallen to 27. The roadmap to their season can be found in the rankings. By Week 15, they had fallen to 31st and stayed there for the final three weeks and then in the last poll.
The good news for Washington? It's first two opponents are Houston (27th) and Jacksonville (31st). A strong start is possible.
In the NFC East, Dallas is 23rd, and based on the Cowboys' defense I think that's too high. They need Tony Romo to stay healthy or their season could be a really, really tough one. The Giants open at No. 20, though their turnover-machine of an offense needs to adapt to a new system and hope their offensive line play improves. Philadelphia opens at No. 7. The Eagles clearly enter as the best team in the division, but I learned long ago that how you enter the season doesn't really matter.
You want hope? The Eagles opened last season at No. 25.