The Washington Redskins paid a fortune to draft quarterback Robert Griffin III in April, believing he would lead them to the playoffs one day.
That day could be Sunday.
Thanks to a 27-20 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, Washington (9-6) will win the NFC East if it beats Dallas (8-7) next weekend. The Redskins still could make the playoffs as a wild-card team with a loss, but that involves a lot of messy scenarios.
This is reminiscent of the team's glory days, when defeating Dallas was so essential to reaching the postseason. Some Redskins fans would say that the two victories over the Cowboys in the NFC championship game were better than the ensuing Super Bowl victories.
Who knew a college passer with Texas roots -- who never liked the Cowboys, by the way -- could turn around the Redskins so quickly? Surely, that didn't seem like it would be the case midway through the season. The Redskins had lost top defender Brian Orakpo for the year because of an injury, were 3-6 heading into their bye week and had a defense that couldn't make a late stop.
Griffin promised the team would return from the bye as a contender. It seemed like rookie naivete. But like everything around the passer, things seem to go right.
Ironically, Griffin hasn't been the deciding factor in the last three games. He left the victory over Baltimore late with a knee injury that then kept him out against Cleveland. At Philadelphia on Sunday, Griffin seemed tentative while wearing a brace, running just twice for 4 yards. Yet Griffin still completed 16 of 24 passes for two touchdowns, a deflected pass for an interception and a 102.4 rating.
Griffin already has kept the franchise from losing its fan base, which was tired of two decades of losing. He may have saved coach Mike Shan?ahan's job and his chance at a Pro Football Hall of Fame election. He certainly kept alive the Redskins' chances to win the division.
And now it goes to the final game, which the past four years was simply a three-hour barrier to the offseason. This is what Washington fans love the most. FedEx Field will be filled with Griffin jerseys exactly as owner Dan Snyder and Shanahan envisioned when they traded three first-round picks and a second-rounder in March to St. Louis for the second overall pick.
Griffin isn't necessarily the key to beating Dallas, though he did throw four touchdown passes in the Redskins' 38-31 victory over the Cowboys on Nov. 22. The Redskins need to revisit the game plan that beat the Eagles. Give running back Alfred Morris 20-plus carries. Have Griffin get two touchdowns from receivers Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan and Santana Moss. Let this Roy Hobbs of a kicker, Kai Forbath, extend his NFL-record 17 field goal streak to start his career.
And then the Redskins have to hope the defense hangs on. It wouldn't feel right without the season coming down to the final minute, the defense with its back to the goal line. Washington survived that scenario against Philadelphia; it can outlast Dallas, too.
Griffin is the core of the Redskins' revival, but for them to make the playoffs, he will need to be just the start.
The defense likely will decide whether Washington reaches the postseason. After all, it wouldn't be fun without a classic finish.