Life in the NFL is about to get a whole lot tougher for Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III.
The first six weeks weren't all that different from a college nonconference schedule. New Orleans, Tampa Bay and Atlanta care most about beating each other in the NFC South. St. Louis, Minnesota and Cincinnati are just occasional foes. There's nothing personal in these games, just business.
But that changes beginning Sunday at the New York Giants. The Redskins play six of their final 10 contests against NFC East opponents, games in which madness often exceeds mayhem. Facing bitter rivals nearly every week in hostile stadiums will make New Orleans, St. Louis and Tampa Bay seem like welcome centers.
Griffin will face higher decibel levels in all three cities. New York is brutal, with the insults coming like automated daggers. If Griffin jumps into the stands after a touchdown at MetLife Stadium, he won't come back. Philadelphia is so bad that Clinton Portis' mom once got in a fight in the stands. Eagles fans are simply brutal, perhaps second only to those in Oakland. And Dallas, for all its rich folks attending simply for status, is still the team's biggest foe.
Welcome to the Roman Coliseum part of the schedule.
Players keep their helmets on at all times, especially when they head into the tunnel at the end of the game. Everything from coins to batteries to bottles rains downward. Sonny Jurgensen wore his helmet in the 1960s to avoid projectiles. Nothing has changed in nearly a half century.
Don't think Giants, Eagles and Cowboys fans aren't eager to mess with Griffin. They know the rookie makes the Redskins dangerous, so taunting him becomes a priority.
Griffin surely will say it's just another game to him, but it's like joining Team Hatfield and suddenly Team McCoy wants a piece of you. It doesn't take long for it to become personal.
It would be easy to just tell Griffin to block it out. Unfortunately, it's not easy to do. Not when the booing is so deafening that he won't hear the plays on his helmet's speaker. Sure, Griffin handled a loud New Orleans crowd, but the Redskins also took the lead quickly. Giants fans won't surrender even if their team's behind. Indeed, New York considers Washington its biggest rival even though the Redskins view the Cowboys as their chief foes.
Redskins legends are forged in division and playoff games. Griffin can dance 76 yards for a touchdown against Minnesota, but doing so at New York will be much more memorable. Washington hasn't won an NFC East title since 1999 and last saw first place Oct. 16, 2011, so this is a chance to show the Redskins are for real behind Griffin.
There's just something about beating division rivals that makes the victory even sweeter. Griffin is about to learn Baylor's games vs. Texas schools were child's play compared to the NFC East.