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Tuesday Take—Redskins NFL’s most impressive

Oct 7, 2008, 8:08 AM EST

The New York Giants are the best team in the NFL right now.

The Washington Redskins are the league’s most impressive team.

A distinction without a difference?

Let me explain.

The Giants are 4-0, one of two undefeated teams in the league. One of those wins came against the Redskins. Going by the adage of that old Giants coach Bill Parcells, you are what your record says you are.

However, it’s fair to say that the Giants have yet to be tested. Other than the Redskins, their opponents are from among the dregs of the NFL. Their three wins since the opener have come against the Rams, one of the worst teams in recent memory, the Bengals, the poster children for NFL futility, and the Seahawks, who still are in contention in the NFC West despite their 1-3 record. That Seattle win represents the lone 2008 victory among New York’s three victims since they beat Washington.

But it’s not like the Giants handpicked their opponents. The NFL, not Tom Coughlin, set up their schedule. Their performance shouldn’t be downgraded because of who they have faced. And on top of that they beat the Redskins, so I have no problem with anyone who puts the Giants atop the Redskins in any sort of power ranking. They only can beat the teams that line up in front of them.

While the Giants have been knocking down tomato cans, the Redskins have gone 4-1 against teams with a combined total of 15 wins. Not only is that a significantly stronger schedule than the Giants have faced, it’s also tougher than the road that the 4-1 Cowboys (opponents have a combined 9 wins, four of those belonging to the Redskins) and 4-1 Panthers (11 opponent wins).

If you don’t want to believe me about this, go see what Jeff Sagrin says on USA Today. According to his rankings, the Redskins have faced the toughest schedule, the Giants have faced the easiest. Sagrin rates the opponents of Dallas and Carolina at #21 and #20 respectively.

If you want to go to the AFC and put the 5-0 Titans in the conversation, that’s fine but consider their 31st-ranked schedule first. The 4-1 Steelers? Sagrin has their schedule at #29.

What makes the Redskins record even more impressive is the fact that it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing for them, going back to last January when Joe Gibbs retired unexpectedly. After the Giants game it was suggested that Gibbs’ replacement as head coach, Jim Zorn, needed to go get some seasoning at someplace like DeMatha High and that he should take Jason Campbell with him.

Three of their best defensive players, Shawn Springs, Marcus Washington, and Jason Taylor, each has missed two games. All three of them were out in Philadelphia as the Redskins had to overcome a 14-point deficit after eight minutes of play. The Skins trailed New Orleans by nine in the fourth quarter before coming back to win.

To summarize the Redskins’ resume—a 4-1 record against the toughest schedule in the NFL, overcoming injuries, turmoil, and some sizeable point deficits to get there. Nobody out there has done anything that impressive.

The title of the NFL’s Most Impressive in early October and a five spot will get you a latte at Starbucks. There is a long way to go and I’ll talk about the road ahead later this week.

But for right now, all things considered, that’s pretty damn impressive.

  1. Joe in Raleigh - Oct 7, 2008 at 9:59 AM

    Agreed. Redskins are looking impressive. They’re doing a lot of things well and building an identity in the process.

    The other team that has impressed me a lot is the Panthers. They have a fierce rushing attack and lots of ways to beat you. Seems like every week a different player steps up to lead the show.

    I’m glad they’re not on our schedule but I wonder if we could still run into them down the road.

  2. wtfree3 - Oct 7, 2008 at 10:19 AM

    Here’s the crazy thing, looking at the Sagarin ratings. The Skins should be at least a 30 point favorite against the Rams, but the official line is only 13.5 points.

    To which I say – really? The Skins were 11 point underdogs at Dallas, which isn’t that far off. So the Skins were nearly the same level of underdog at Dallas as the Ram at Washington? Wow. The betting public still doesn’t believe, apparently.

  3. Boss Hog - Oct 7, 2008 at 11:05 AM

    Good points, Rich. As for the Rams line — and general public perception of the Skins — I think the fact that we haven’t blown any teams out has a lot to do with it. We have four wins against four good teams, but none of them came by more than a touchdown. The Giants have been playing empty paper bags but they’ve been winning (mostly) by 25+ points. Until we flex our muscles against a bad team, and win by several TDs, I don’t think we’ll have full respect from Vegas, ESPN, etc.

  4. SkinsLovaLinds - Oct 7, 2008 at 12:09 PM

    we beat dallas at home, some say it was a fluke. then we beat philly at home, and now we’re beginning to get noticed. i hate the fact that even STILL after being 3-1 int he division we’re still the sleeper…but in all honesty, it may come back to help us out later on in the season. so let everyone have their doubts. we all know, as fans, that this is the real deal.

  5. Rich Tandler - Oct 8, 2008 at 4:57 PM

    It tends to take a while for the Vegas line to catch up with reality. The betting public isn’t necessarily very bright and/or well informed. They’re not going to show a lot of confidence in the Skins covering a big number because of how they have been pounded for years in the national media.

  6. Anonymous - Oct 9, 2008 at 7:07 AM

    I, for one, will be happy if Dallas and Philly continue to get all the media attention and the Redskins continue to quietly take care of business. The last Joe Gibbs team that went to the Super Bowl was kind of like this. Other teams got the glitz and the glory, the Redskins just got it done. Being on top of everyone’s list simply means you are a target.

    Good article Rich. Keep up the good work.

  7. Gregory - Oct 10, 2008 at 12:29 AM

    Firstly, the Sagarin, or any other power ranking index is one of the best ways to see any team’s ability to win against another NFL team. Though, as Rich said, they are somewhat skewed right now due to only five games being played.

    Win/loss records don’t necessarily do the trick, as Vegas is finding out from the last two games the skins have played.

    Look at Sagarin’s rankings last year. If you pull them up, the skins only had a 9-8 season, yet they played the hardest schedule for the year, as they have so far this year.

    I like Boss’s point, that we haven’t ‘blown away’ any opponents this year as of yet. We must remember, in all of the excitement, that we have a +6 turnover ratio right now. All of these games have been close, and a turnover at any stage of any of the last four wins could have spelled the difference between a win and a loss. To put it bluntly, we have been very lucky on a number of things.

    Look for this to change. The odds are such that we will commit several turnovers during the next three games, and they could be momentum changers, all.

    Yes, we have stepped solidly into this year. Yes we are enjoying the fruits of both the underestimation of our strengths by other teams until now, and we have been fortunate in the turnover situation.

    But make no mistake, we are now in harm’s way, to take a quote from “The Rock”. All three of the next teams we play will try to bring their A game.

    And also, think about the last 8 games of the season, with Pitt and the three teams from our division coming to DC. Do you think any of them will be in the space of dismissing us as they prepare? (Much as they seem to have done the first time around, exempting Pitt).

    The bottom line is that we soon shall see where the heart of this team steadies itself. When we face unexpected turnovers, when we perhaps fall behind due to circumstances to any of the next three teams, what will the team do?

    I agree, a win is a win by however many points. You are right on, anonymous, that it would be great to continue to take each game at a time,and to quietly take care of business.

    We have been very lucky and underlooked. Still, I have to say that this is the most rewarding team to watch for the last 17 years.

    Gregory

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