The Washington Redskins can reach Super Bowl XLVII.
Indeed, the Redskins may face their toughest NFC opponent in Sunday's opening round, the fifth-seeded Seattle Seahawks. Top-seeded Atlanta scares no one. No.?2 San Francisco is vulnerable. No. 3 Green Bay might get knocked off by No. 6 Minnesota, which fourth-seeded Washington already has beaten.
It's even plausible that the Redskins could host the NFC championship game at FedEx Field against Minnesota. Holy 1987 repeat!
Washington's victory over Dallas to secure the NFC East title reversed my pessimistic postseason thoughts. The secondary had seemed too weak to fend off the top teams. But then the Redskins proved against the Cowboys that the defense could rise to win a game. The Cowboys seemed ready to take a 14-7 lead and later threatened to rally, but the secondary played its best game of the season.
This team really can go all the way.
Of course, it appeared like it might in 2007, when Washington won its final four games after Sean Taylor's murder to reach the playoffs. The Redskins seemed like a team of destiny but lost to the Seahawks in the first round.
This time, Washington is the host. That's critical against Seattle. The Seahawks were 8-0 at home and have perhaps the NFL's biggest crowd edge. It's beyond deafening. But Seattle was only 3-5 on the road. Champions win on the road. Washington was 5-3 both home and away this season.
Both teams have momentum; the Redskins won their last seven and the Seahawks their final five. Seattle drilled Arizona 58-0 and Buffalo 50-17 in consecutive weeks. Who cares if those are bad teams? It's hard to score 50 points in a game, much less twice. The Seahawks' 42-13 victory over the 49ers was impressive, too.
But Washington's seven-game winning streak to close the season is more imposing. The Redskins returned from their bye to go 5-0 against division rivals, including a sweep of Dallas, plus beat AFC North champion Baltimore and Cleveland. Three of those were road victories.
The Redskins have the staple of their past championship teams -- a standout running back. John Riggins fueled the 1982 title run with four 100-yard plus efforts for 610 yards and four touchdowns overall. Rookie Timmy Smith gained 342 in the 1987 playoffs, including 204 in Super Bowl XXII. The Redskins used a trio of runners in the 1991 postseason, with Gerald Riggs scoring twice in all three games.
Alfred Morris gained a team-record 1,613 yards this season. He was Rigginsesque over the winning streak with four 100-yard plus games and eight touchdowns, including 200 yards in the NFC East clincher over Dallas. The Redskins will need to pound the ball against the Seahawks, and Morris has proved a hard-nosed runner.
The signs point to this: Washington's first Super Bowl in 21 years isn't out of the question.