Is this the end of a pretty good season for the Washington Redskins or the beginning of a great one?
The Redskins meet the Dallas Cowboys for the NFC East title in Sunday's regular-season finale at FedEx Field. Win and the Redskins host a first-round playoff game for the first time in 13 years. Lose and maybe they make the postseason as a wild card if Minnesota and Chicago fall earlier in the day.
It's the second biggest game since the Redskins moved to the suburban monstrosity in Landover in 1997, behind only the stadium's lone playoff game in 1999. Fans remember RFK Stadium fondly for the championship teams that largely have been absent since the Redskins relocated. When FedEx Field is demolished one day, not a tear will be shed by fans.
That hated rival Dallas is the opponent will make this game even sweeter should Washington win -- or more bitter if it loses. This showdown makes the Thanksgiving game seem like a preseason exhibition.
A Washington victory should seal the Redskins' return to the NFL's elite. It won't be just for reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2007 or for winning its first division crown since 1999. Washington saw its success vanish after both those seasons. Indeed, it hasn't reached consecutive postseasons since 1991-92.
But playing into January with such a young roster would show that the Redskins should be a factor for the next five years. Rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III is the team's best passer since Sonny Jurgensen in the 1970s. Rookie running back Alfred Morris has a chance at the team's single-season rushing record Sunday. First-year kicker Kai Forbath has converted his first 17 field goals, an NFL record.
It's not the most talented team. Sometimes the secondary seems held together by duct tape. The offensive line has one Pro Bowl player and four overachievers. A 37-year-old linebacker is the soul of the defense.
But the combination of young talent, solid chemistry and a good coaching staff has Washington not just the NFL's hottest team after six straight wins but a franchise only a few players away from seriously competing every year.
That is, if not this season. The New York Giants won the Super Bowl last year after a 9-7 regular season. Anything's possible in the postseason.
Washington probably would host Seattle in the first round. The Seahawks are vulnerable on the road. Washington then likely would head to Atlanta for the second round. The Falcons barely beat the Redskins earlier this season before Washington turned around its season. A trip to Green Bay for the NFC championship game is possible.
Anything is possible if the Redskins beat the Cowboys.
Of course, a late-night defeat probably would hurt more than the sudden playoff collapse by the Nationals in October, which was simply heartbreaking. A loss to the Cowboys would be debated throughout the entire offseason. It would be devastating to Redskins fans.
Until next season.