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From the booth | Getting way too far ahead of ourselves


For the first time since 2016, all four NFC East teams are above .500 past Week 10 of the NFL season. With three wild card slots and an upside down year from expected contenders like the Rams and Packers, it's possible (although not probable) that all of them could qualify for the postseason. There were three times in the 1990's (when the divisions consisted of 5 teams), when four division teams qualified for the postseason. It's never happened in the NFC East.

It might be the buzz of holding an NFL team to five yards in an entire half, a 5-1 run and a sense that Taylor Heinicke is on a magic carpet ride of unprecedented proportions, but there is a possibility of an all-time January stuffed with the Washington Commanders' biggest rivals.

Philadelphia's escape in Indianapolis keeps them in pole position for the NFC East. Since they already have a win over Minnesota (the only probable division leader or contender) that could reasonably be expected to leapfrog them in the standings, the No. 1 and lone bye is theirs for the taking. If they don't end up with the top seed, the most likely candidate at this point to pass them is Dallas. Either way, the Cowboys and Eagles have the look, feel and record of playoff bound teams. 

The likelihood of the other two NFC East teams joining them is low, mainly because they play too many games against one another, including two of the next three Commander games coming against the New York Giants.

But let's dream for a moment and stick with the premise that the Cowboys and Eagles qualify as NFC playoff teams in some order. If Washington were to ultimately qualify for the playoffs, this would be only the second time in history that all three of these teams were in the same postseason.

It happened in the 1992 postseason -- a year after Washington won its third and most recent Super Bowl. And it was the beginning of the Cowboys' reign over the NFL. Dallas won the NFC East and was No. 2 seed. Philly and Washington qualified as wild cards.

The Eagles beat the Saints in New Orleans to advance to the divisional round. The final playoff win over Joe Gibbs' amazing first run with the Washington franchise came in the Metrodome in Minneapolis, as Washington eliminated the Vikings, 24-7. Current Commanders general Manager Martin Mayhew had a 44-yard interception return. The defense held Vikings quarterback Sean Salisbury to 6-of-20 passing attemps, picked him off twice and sacked him four times.

The following week, Dallas crushed Philadelphia 34-10 to advance to the NFC title game where they would face the No. 1 seed San Francisco. The 49ers proved to be the final game Gibbs would coach for Washington in his first stint with the team. His defense came up with four turnovers, but the team could not generate enough offense in a 20-13 defeat at Candlestick Park.

The one and only time Washington faced the Eagles in the playoffs was a 1990 postseason win at the Vet. Washington has only faced Dallas in the postseason twice, both wins coming in the NFC title game and both results sending Washington to the Super Bowl. Fifty years ago in 1972, Washington became the final victim of the Dolphins perfect season. Ten years later, Washington beat Dallas to exact revenge topping Miami for their first Super Bowl title.

Now, here we are 30 years after the last and only time all three rivals found themselves in the same postseason.

That first championship for Washington starred quarterback Joe Theismann, who began his professional career in the CFL, came to Washington (via Miami) in 1974 as a primary punt returner only to wait four years before he would become the team's starting quarterback.

The 1991 championship team had Mark Rypien under center. He was a sixth-round pick who spent his first two years on injured reserve and only became the team's back-up quarterback after Jay Schroeder was traded following the 1987 championship year. And he waited out another season before supplanting Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams.

As I sat in the booth watching Heinicke just win through sheer grit, passion and acumen, I know the history of this franchise suggests that the sure things don't always end up being the local hero.

All of this is beyond premature, I get it. But you have to admit, it's not bad daydreaming material; Washington, Dallas, Philadelphia in meaningful January games with legacies on the line.

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