At the beginning of the season, nobody would have predicted that the NFC East would emerge as one of the worst divisions in the NFL. Most predictors thought the fight for top would be between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles, with the New York Giants as the dark horse contender. Washington, with their instability at the quarterback position because of all the inner turmoil with Robert Griffin III as their presumed starter, seemed a safe bet to finish well behind the pack as the cellar dweller of the division. Everything changed when Tony Romo suffered a broken collarbone in week three, and the Eagles couldn’t get out of their own way, starting the season with a 1-3 record. The door seemed opened for an underdog to rise up and take, what suddenly became the weakest division in the league. The Giants, the two-time Super Bowl winners headed by Eli Manning and head coach Tom Coughlin, seemed poised to be that underdog, but after losing three straight games to fall to a 5-7 record after week thirteen, it became apparent that the team everyone counted out had emerged as the clear front-runner, and beating the Buffalo Bills in week fifteen while watching the Giants suffer another bad loss to the undefeated Carolina Panthers, it is all but evident that the Washington Redskins will be this year’s NFC East Champions.

While a 7-7 record is not even close to impressive, what is impressive is the fact that this team has come so far given where they started this season. Nobody could have predicted that Kirk Cousins would have emerged as a viable NFL quarterback given how poorly he played in limited action the last two seasons. In 11 combined games he only completed 207 of 359 passes for 2564 yards, good enough for a 57 percent completion percentage and mediocre 233 yards a game, while throwing more interceptions (16) than touchdown passes (14) and losing four fumbles. This season, he has completed a remarkable 69 percent of his passes and now has 18 touchdowns on the season, after his second four touchdown performance of the season against the Bills. While he isn’t Eli Manning or Tony Romo, Cousins has been the most effective quarterback for his team out of any NFC East quarterback this season.

What Cousins has done is made more impressive by the fact that he played much of the year without his top wide receiver in DeSean Jackson, who missed eight games due to injury. His top offensive weapon has been the emerging Jordan Reed, who has had one of the best seasons from a tight end in the league this year. With his game on Sunday he now has seven touchdowns on the year and 694 receiving yards on 67 receptions in only twelve games himself. He has one 100 yard game and four others with over 80 yards this season, and has been a valuable safety blanket for Cousins, who isn’t exactly known for his ability to throw down the field. The Reed-Cousins combo has the ability to be one of the better quarterback-tight end combos for years to come, if Washington keeps them together.

Washington’s main reason for being in first has come from their ability to win at home, as they are 6-2 at FedEx Field, which is tied with Pittsburgh for the second best home record this season, behind only the undefeated Panthers. This may ultimately be their lone Achilles’ heel as after Sunday, they are done playing home games for the regular season, with their next home game being the first round of the playoffs, if they hold onto their lead. For them to lock up the division, they will have to travel to Philadelphia next week, and then beat the only NFC East team to beat them in their building this season, the Cowboys in Dallas. Given that the Eagles are not totally eliminated yet, next week will be a tough game for them, but if they get by that, they should have no problem defeating a Cowboy team that is lost without Romo. Either way, Washington has come farther than anyone would have predicted back in September.

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