This season, the NFC East champions will likely earn the No. 4 seed in the NFC playoffs. If they are able to beat a team like San Francisco or Green Bay in a wild-card game, they will almost certainly see their season end in the divisional round in a place like Seattle or New Orleans.
From my perspective, I’d relish any opportunity to beat the archrivals in my division, and would take my chances as an underdog in the playoffs. The Redskins went one and done in the postseason last year, but their seven-game run to the division title made football in Washington fun again.
But, for some, a division crown isn’t good enough. “Super Bowl or bust” you might say.
If that’s your point of view, at what point are the members of the NFC East better served looking beyond this season and thinking long term?
Take the 0-6 Giants, for example. Rather than trying to stay within shouting distance in a weak division, they could start trying to unload a few of their veterans. Some fanatics are calling for them to ditch Eli Manning. I wouldn’t go that far, but seeing what they can get for a pending free agent like Hakeem Nicks might be worthwhile. If New York keeps playing badly enough, they could fall into position to draft a player like Jadeveon Clowney, who some think could end up being the best thing since Lawrence Taylor.
The Eagles, a team often mocked in this region for racking up division titles but not Super Bowls, are a more interesting case because they are more competitive. But they could finally abandon Michael Vick, even when the erratic quarterback is healthy enough to return from his hamstring injury. Coach Chip Kelly could give extended looks to Nick Foles or even Matt Barkley as Kelly builds his program. If neither of those guys is effective, Kelly can start to plan accordingly for a 2014 draft potentially loaded with playmaking quarterbacks.
The Redskins missed their chance to let Robert Griffin III ease back into shape after his knee surgery, but they could still occasionally mix in Kirk Cousins this season if only to show him off as a commodity for other teams. On defense, the Redskins could let some of their younger players take on bigger roles and go through their growing pains on the field in a season that won’t end in the Super Bowl anyway.
Dallas doesn’t seem to have as much to gain from looking ahead, but then the Cowboys are a team that has been stuck being good but not great for the past decade.
So, what are your thoughts? Do you play to win the division crown this year, or do you make moves to position yourself as best you can for future seasons, when your team might have a better chance to compete with the league’s best?
Greg Schimmel is a copy editor who contributes his NFL insights to Opening Kick on Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter at @Greg_Schimmel.
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Around the Web:
- The Chicago Tribune posted this quick story about the mutual respect between Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan and Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who will be on opposite sidelines this weekend. Marshall played for Shanahan for three seasons in Denver.
- The NFL reputed a Wall Street Journal report that said the league was considering Thursday night doubleheaders in future seasons. As you watch another Thursday night stinker tonight between Seattle and Arizona, remember to be thankful this isn’t true.
- According to ESPN, Lions defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh was reportedly fined again for yet another illegal hit, this one against Cleveland’s Brandon Weeden. What should the league do to curb Suh’s recklessness? The fines don’t seem to be working.
● The Redskins practice at 1 p.m. Coach Mike Shanahan and coordinators Jim Haslett and Kyle Shanahan are expected to speak with reporters.