Qualifying NFL Championship Weekend

As always, there were some very interesting tidbits from yesterday’s AFC and NFC Championship action.  I encourage each of you to proceed with perspective.

For the glass-half empty Redskins fan, another weekend of football was just a reminder that their beloved Redskins are at home watching the playoffs.  Watching four teams with Redskins ties take the field was enough to induce nausea, and there was no consolation and nothing to take away from the games.

For the glass-half full Redskins fan, there was legitimate reason to believe in progress.  Each of the four teams that played yesterday have undergone major roster renovations in recent years, which includes drafting at key positions and/or finding quality free agents.  The Redskins have matched that trend under Shanahan, and will look to continue that process in the coming weeks and months.

Guess which group I’m in?

For a closer look at how this affects the Redskins, check it out below:

AFC: Ravens 20, Patriots 23:

This game featured former Redskins Edgar Jones (Ravens) vs. Andre Carter (Patriots, injured reserve).  Both were total non-factors in the game.

This was one of the best non-Redskins games that I’ve been able to catch this season, and was a battle that deserved overtime.  Come to think of it, it reminded me of the Redskins-Patriots game earlier this year, which also deserved overtime.  For those of you in need of a reminder, Rex Grossman threw the game-tying touchdown to Santana Moss in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter, but it was negated by offensive pass interference.  Game over.

Had the Redskins won that game, they would have changed the playoffs by giving the Ravens the top seed in the AFC.  With the top seed, yesterday’s game would have been played in Baltimore, likely changing the outcome of the game.  Funny how that works.

Now that the Ravens return home empty-handed, we can finally put to rest the discussion of whether Redskins fans should feel one way or another about the Ravens.  I won’t share my personal stance on the matter, but allow me to reflect on my disdain for the issue: it’s beyond trivial.

The Ravens are a “geographic rivals,” for what it’s worth, and that’s not much.  Almost every season, the Redskins and Ravens play a fun, but ultimately meaningless preseason game.  Once every four years, they play a regular season game, which puts the rivalry in the same company as Redskins-Browns and Redskins-Broncos.  This isn’t Redskins-Cowboys, this isn’t Ravens-Steelers, it isn’t even Patriots-Jets, so don’t get swept up in the media hype.  If you cheered for the Ravens in the playoffs, your status as a Redskins fan is unscathed, and no media member should ever make you feel bad for doing so.

But that’s just my humble opinion.

NFC: Giants 20, 49ers 17:

This game featured former Redskins Carlos Rogers (49ers) vs. Devin Thomas (Giants).  Both were significant factors in the game.

In an oddly similar scenario to the first game (score, drama, turnovers), the second championship game was a back-and-forth affair that ended after several possessions in overtime.

Strangely enough, the Redskins played some of their best football this season against the two eventual conference champions.  Yes, the Redskins smoked the Giants twice this year, something they haven’t done since 1999.  But the Week 14 loss to the Patriots at home was also a top team performance, and a game in which they could have tied and/or won.

Playing quality football against quality opponents makes you a quality football team.  Clearly, the Redskins did that this year.  The key to future success lies in their ability to do it with consistency.

Here are some bonus nuggets of truth about the NFC conference champion, courtesy of the fine Redskins public relations staff:

  • Looking back: In the last four seasons, the Redskins are a combined 4-1 against the eventual NFC conference champions, including both wins over the Giants this year.  The lone loss was to the New Orleans Saints in 2009.
  • Looking ahead: Somewhat obscure, but the eventual NFC conference champion in each of the last six years has played the AFC East during the regular season (Giants, Packers, Saints, Cardinals, Giants, Bears, respectively).  If this is the key indicator of success, then theoretically the 49ers, Cardinals, Rams or Seahawks will be the 2012 NFC conference champions.  You’ve been warned.

Next stop: Honolulu.  Redskins linebacker London Fletcher will be representing the team in the Pro Bowl this coming Sunday.

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