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In Tangled NFC East, Redskins Get to Have Their Say


There's no way out of last place for the Redskins, no way to escape the ignominy of a fourth-place finish in the NFC East for the second consecutive year.

Sure, it's a tough division. Sure, the other three teams are playoff contenders. Sure, the NFC East had a representative in the conference championship game last season and a Super Bowl winner the season before.

Cold comfort for the 4-9 Redskins. Even if they win out, and the New York Giants lose their next three, the Giants finish third on tiebreakers and the Redskins stay put in the clammy crawl space of the division.

The Redskins still get to have their say in the NFC East race. They can still influence the outcome. They play the Giants here on Monday night and the Dallas Cowboys at FedExField six days later. They can make life truly difficult for both of their better-heeled rivals.

That's not much to hang a helmet on in the final three weeks and a role as the spoiler lacks a sense of mission.

In a sense, that's winning for the wrong reason when there is a right reason and the Redskins certainly have a right reason – they are 0-4 in NFC East contests, one of four teams in the NFL not to have earned a divisional victory. Those wins are the real measuring stick of a team and the indicator of whether it can contend.

"It's clear that our division games are most important," head coach Jim Zorn says. "We have two at home now and they will be very important to us. Not so much what we can do to the other teams, the (playoff) status and all that kind of stuff. Really, we just want to go out and win. We want to continue to put our wins together. Not what ramifications, what the formulas will be, and all that kind of stuff."

This is a tangled web of a division, with deep-seated antipathies, odd streaks and quirks peculiar to each team. This is a division where one team may well have another's number.

Take the Giants. Please. They needed to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday night to move into first place. They knew Dallas had already lost and the Giants had made Texas toast of the Boys the previous week.


Nah. Couldn't do it. Even after talking about taking back what was theirs much earlier in the season. The Giants lost 45-38 and have now fallen to the Eagles four consecutive times (counting playoffs).

"It was our opportunity and we didn't finish the deal," Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said.

Yet they had just completed a sweep of the Cowboys. Their first sweep of the Boys since 2004 and the first in which they scored more than 30 points in each game since 1963. Go figure.

The Giants also maintain a firm grasp on the Redskins' windpipe. They've won three in a row and six of the last seven against the Redskins, and quarterback Jason Campbell has never beaten the Giants.

Dallas and Washington stand on the most equal of footing. They've split the season series the last four years and five of the nine games have been decided by five points or fewer. Margins of victory include three, two and one.

The NFL realigned into eight divisions of four teams each in 2002, shipping the Arizona Cardinals from the NFC East to the NFC West. No NFC East team has struggled more than the Redskins. They've had a winning record in divisional play once (5-1 in 2007 when they won 10 games and qualified for the playoffs as a wild card). They've been 1-5 four times and are 15-31 overall.

At 0-4, the Redskins face the possibility of going winless in the division for the first time since 1994 when they lost all five en route to a 3-13 mark in Norv Turner's coaching debut.

It's not easy to win in the NFC East. This division sent two teams to the playoffs last season, three in each of the two years before that. The NFC East hasn't been limited to a single playoff qualifier since 2004, when the Eagles won it and went to the Super Bowl and everyone else in the division straggled in at 6-10.

Other teams may be working on their playoff formulas and complicated postseason math. For now, the Redskins' concern is neither addition nor subtraction but division.

Larry Weisman covered professional football for USA TODAY for 25 years and now joins the Redskins Broadcast Network and to bring his unique viewpoint and experience to Redskins fans. Go to for the Redskins Blitz column and NFL Blitz on Friday. Larry also appears on The Jim Zorn Show on WRC-TV on Saturday night, on Redskins Nation, airing twice nightly on Comcast SportsNet, and on ESPN 980 AM radio, all in the Washington, D.C. area. Read his blog at and follow him on

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