It's been three decades since the Washington Redskins last won back-to-back division titles, and the NFC East is expected to once again be packed quite tightly in 2013, meaning it won't be easy for Mike Shanahan's squad to once again gain an automatic playoff berth and a home playoff game by grabbing the top spot in the NFL's most popular division.
Still, with franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III prepared to start the opener only 35 weeks after tearing the ACL and LCL in his right knee, the sky remains the limit for this 'Skins team. Here, before things get underway Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles, are our final 2013 predictions for Shanny, RG3 and Co.
Offensive MVP: Robert Griffin III
If he can stay healthy and avoid suffering ill effects from early-offseason knee surgery, Griffin should be in the league-wide MVP conversation throughout the 2013 campaign. There's a chance that doesn't happen and the knee holds him back this season, but the odds still favor Griffin being the primary difference maker on offense in 2013.
Defensive MVP: Brian Orakpo
Like Griffin, Orakpo will have to pass some unofficial health-related barriers before we can really get a feel for what he'll bring to the table in 2013. Still, he's by far and away the best defensive player on this team and could be on the verge of a massive season with third-year outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan complementing him in that front seven.
If his pectoral muscle can hold up, watch for Orakpo to make a run at the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year honor in 2013.
Best rookie: Bacarri Rambo
It's hard not to like what you see here. That's why Rambo will start from the get-go alongside Brandon Meriweather at the safety position. The sixth-round pick is strong in coverage and has improved quickly this summer.
He might miss more tackles than you'd prefer, but David Amerson and Chris Thompson are far more shaky at this stage and Brandon Jenkins and Jordan Reed might not see enough action as NFL freshmen.
Most improved player: Tom Compton
It wasn't easy to pinpoint one player who might have a breakout season for a team that really took off in 2012, but look for the offensive line depth to really take a step forward in 2013.
Compton, who was a sixth-round pick in 2012 and didn't see any action as a rookie, will work as a swing tackle behind Trent Williams and Tyler Polumbus. He was extremely steady in the preseason so look for him to gain some opportunities at some point. He, Josh LeRibeus, Adam Gettis and Maurice Hurt are all great backup options up front.
Biggest disappointment: Brandon Meriweather
Hope exists that he'll save the secondary after being sidelined while the entire unit struggled in 2012, but Meriweather isn't reliable both in terms of his health and his consistency as a starting-caliber safety. I don't trust him at all, and I'd imagine the 'Skins will have to turn things over to Reed Doughty sooner than later.
Why they can win the Super Bowl
Shanahan, RG3, Alfred Morris and that potent offense combined with expected improvements on D, especially with Orakpo returning from injury. This is a team that doubled its win total from 2011 to 2012 and looks to be even stronger in 2013. No reason it can't make a run at a championship.
Why they can't win the Super Bowl
That secondary is still a bit of a mess, and this isn't a good division to be in when your pass defense sucks. Additionally, we just don't know about Griffin's knee. That will remain a concern for some time.
2013 prediction: 10-6, second place in NFC East; lose divisional playoffs
It only makes sense that they'd take another step forward in the second year of this new era. I have them winning the same number of games but succumbing to the Cowboys, who are next up in the divisional rotation.
Still, I can see the NFC East sending two teams to the postseason for the first time in four years, and I can see the Redskins being that second team. I can also see them upsetting Seattle, San Francisco, Atlanta or New Orleans on the road on Wild Card Weekend.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!