Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 8.30.05 AM

Zach Britton Is A Magician

The recent Fangraphs post “Zach Britton’s 2016: An All-Time Great Season?” is as eye-opening as it sounds. The O’s closer hasn’t allowed an earned run since April. It’s August.

If he sustains his current ERA for the rest of the season, then this would be the best year ever for a reliever (min. 60 innings pitched) from a run-prevention standpoint. Not bad!

And not that further proof is needed, but I’m just curious: With Britton on pace for 50 saves, how does he stack up vs. other closers with massive saves?

Well, there have only been 15 50-save seasons in MLB history. Here’s how Britton compares (ranked by ERA):

Zach Britton, 2016 — 50 saves, 0.55 ERA
Eric Gagne, 2003 — 55 saves, 1.20 ERA
Craig Kimbrel, 2013 — 50 saves, 1.21 ERA
Trevor Hoffman, 1998 — 53 saves, 1.48 ERA
Bobby Thigpen, 1990 — 57 saves, 1.83 ERA
Dennis Eckersley, 1992 — 51 saves, 1.91 ERA
Mariano Rivera, 2004 — 53 saves, 1.94 ERA
Eric Gagne, 2002 — 52 saves, 1.97 ERA
Mark Melancon, 2015 — 51 saves, 2.23 ERA
Francisco Rodiguez, 2008 — 62 saves, 2.24 ERA
Mariano Rivera, 2001 — 50 saves, 2.34 ERA
Jim Johnson, 2012 — 51 saves, 2.49 ERA
Jim Johnson, 2013 — 50 saves, 2.94 ERA
Rod Beck, 1998 — 51 saves, 3.02 ERA
Randy Myers, 1993 — 53 saves, 3.11 ERA
John Smoltz, 2002 — 55 saves, 3.25 ERA

That’s not even close. And I know saves don’t really matter as a true measure of effectiveness, but it’s incredible.

Lowering the bar a bit brings in Fernando Rodney’s 2012 campaign and Dennis Eckersley’s 1990. They each amassed 48 saves with ERAs of 0.60 and 0.61, respectively.

Those were good seasons! They’re in the neighborhood of Britton’s 2016, and an earned run or two could knock him off course.

That’s okay, though. Saves aside, let’s close with another stat: Since becoming O’s closer in 2014, Britton’s ERA is 1.46 over 191 innings. Low by any measure.

635616760961681875-AP-Mets-Nationals-Spring-Bas

The Nats Are Still Real Good At Pitching And Just Okay At Hitting

Pretty sure I read somewhere that the Nats had the second-most regular-season wins in MLB from 2012 to 2015. Assuming that’s true, which I think it is, that’s pretty good.

I mean, the whole part about not winning a playoff series over that span is pretty rough, but 91 wins per year is not bad! How’d they do that?

The easy answer is with a) top-shelf pitching and b) upper-middle-tier hitting. Have a look:

Nats batting (as measured by runs per game)

2012: 10th (4.51)
2013: 15th (4.05)
2014: 9th (4.23)
2015: 10th (4.34)
2012-15 average: 11th (4.28)

Nats pitching (as measured by ERA)

2012: 2nd (3.33)
2013: 8th (3.59)
2014: 1st (3.03)
2015: 7th (3.62)
2012-15: 4.5th (3.39)

There you go — 11th in batting and fourth or fifth in pitching over the duration. That’ll do it.

So how’s it going this year? The Nats are 15th in batting (or scoring, whatever) with 4.32 runs/game and second in ERA at 2.86. They’re on pace to win 99 goddamn games.

This year’s lineup figures to improve a bit from the early going, but I’d be surprised if they jumped into the top 10. The pitching may regress, but, barring injury, they look like a top-five fixture.

It’s a familiar formula.

usa-today-9034481.0

Redskins 2016 Offseason Grade: B?

Old friend of the site Bill Barnwell is handing out offseason grades over at ESPN, and his NFC East batch gives the Skins a B. Solid.

The highlights? Franchising Cousins and swapping Culliver for Norman. The lowlight? Not improving the backfield, unless you think cutting FroMo is addition by subtraction.

I thought it was a good offseason, though so much of it comes down to the draft. And at least Dallas got a C.


Putting Strasburg’s Contract In Context

Stephen+Strasburg+Washington+Nationals+Photo+KgpFOOrSAyil

There’s been a lot said and written about Stephen Strasburg’s seven-year, $175 million extension, and much of it is very good. I recommend Fangraphs, Nats Baseball and SB Nation as goodreads, but I want to add something extra here, which is a quick look at the Strasburg deal relative to the top 10 pitcher contracts ever.

Note: The innings pitched and ERA+ and FIP columns here are averages of the four seasons leading up to the deal in question. So, for Strasburg that’s 2012-15.

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 10.29.48 AM

Four thoughts/takeaways that jump out:

1. Accounting for inflation, Strasburg’s $25 million/year isn’t much for this group. Consider Sabathia, who got $23 million/year starting in 2009. That season, only nine teams had $100 million-plus payrolls. In 2016, that number has more than doubled to 21.

2. Strasburg’s much-chronicled injury concerns show up here in the form of 28% fewer innings than the others. Of course, this was an extraordinarily healthy group leading up to their deals. Verlander, Sabathia and Tanaka haven’t held up.

3. Strasburg is slightly younger (28) than the average (29).

4. Stras’ ERA+ (which adjusts for ballpark effects) is slightly worse than the rest of the group (122 vs. 135). His FIP (fielding independent pitching), however, is slightly better (2.96 vs. 3.08). Overall, he’s right in line, effectiveness-wise.

Bottom line: Of course injuries are a concern, but that’s why Washington was able to get him at this price. It’s a reasonable deal, and putting it next to other big-time pitcher contracts confirms that. Scherzer’s is a little troubling, though.

A Caps Fans And A Pens Fan Walk Into A Bar …

Mr. Irrelevant Caps correspondent Brad Parker returns (!) to preview the Caps-Pens series. He’s joined by Ian Brinksman, a Pittsburgh native and devoted Penguins fan who had the misfortune of working with Brad once. Brad asked the questions and Ian answered. Enjoy watching them go snark-for-snark.

tumblr_ldwxpiHvJu1qc5r0f

1. Didn’t you guys suck a few months ago? What the hell happened? (Figured I’d lob you one first so you can tell us how amazing your coach is and explain how Sid saved Pittsburgh.)

The Pens didn’t suck as such, but they definitely plodded along in mediocrity. I don’t think there was much strategic difference between Mike Johnston and Mike Sullivan, but the team certainly responded after the former’s firing. Part of that transformation has to do with the coach, but it also coincided with call-ups, the trade for Carl Hagelin, and yes, Sidney Crosby waking up from his early-season doldrums and tearing the league apart.

With all due respect to Sullivan, I think the main difference in watching this team now and from the beginning of the season (and frankly from much of the last half dozen years) is its speed. How Washington deals with it will be an interesting match-up.

2. Do Pens fans hate the Caps as much as we used to hate you?

Used to? Almost as soon as the Caps finished up with the Flyers, my social media was flooded with the familiar frothy-mouthed anti-Crosby vitriol. I mean, your twitter handle is dedicated to mocking him. But in answer to your question, no, not quite.

The Caps are certainly a rival, but they pale in comparison to our cross-state friends from Philadelphia. And as you would probably guess, that’s because the Flyers actually beat us from time to time in the playoffs. So yeah, the relationship is a bit condescending, which I imagine is part of why Caps fans hate the Penguins so much. Maybe this is the series that changes that, but until the Caps actually beat the Pens in April/May that relationship isn’t going to change.

ovechkin-crosby

3. It’s obvious that we hate Sidney Crosby because he’s a whiner that dives and yet is treated as infallible by the incredibly biased Canadian media. Why do you guys hate Alex Ovechkin, who is the greatest goal scorer of his generation and plays the game with unbridled enthusiasm and infectious joy?

I’m glad to see your journalistic objectivity is intact. I’ll ignore the Crosby baiting, other than to say I wish the league protected him as much as is claimed. Maybe then he wouldn’t have lost a year of his career to concussions.

Anyway, I love how Ovechkin’s description has been updated over the years from “best player in the world” to “best goal scorer!” And I think that gets at the heart of the antipathy. Penguins fans view him as a threat and a massive talent, but (rightly) view Crosby as the superior player. So as the NHL rammed their “rivalry” down our throats, our tribal instincts took over and the need to defend Crosby translated into attacking Ovi.

Personally, I like Ovechkin. I have an affinity for all Russian players; I find them endlessly amusing. I don’t like a lot of his hits as some of them can be quite reckless, but I don’t have any burning hatred for the man.

4. Which Penguin, who we aren’t talking about now, will Caps fans hate in a week?

This might be a bit obvious, but I think it’ll be Phil Kessel. If you look at his stats alone, he had a solid season. But in typical Kessel fashion, he disappeared for large swaths of the year and started to hear some of the same complaints that marred his time in Toronto. After an especially ghastly game in March, Kessel was able to muster some consistency that carried over into the playoffs in a big way.

From my very unscientific eyes, he was the best player on either team during the first round. His speed and shot created havoc for the Rangers. And apparently this shouldn’t be all that surprising, as his performance in past playoff games and the Olympics shows a man who ups his game when the stakes are high. I don’t think it’ll be long before I hear Caps fans mocking our fat, balding winger.

5. Um, that goalie you have is pretty awesome, right?

Matt Murray is one of the most highly regarded goalie prospects and he’s absolutely playing like it. Even when Fleury is finally healthy enough to play, I’d rather keep rolling Murray out unless he starts to stumble. I like Fleury a lot, but this kid has been everything we could possibly ask for and I don’t want to upset that.

6. The schedule was clearly altered because Justin Bieber is playing at Verizon Center on Friday. What’s your favorite song by the Beebs? (I know you’re kind of a hipster and will try to pretend you don’t like him, but seriously.)

My favorite moment was when Bieber thought he was sufficiently street to rap “Lose Yourself” in Detroit.

Foghatnightshiftalbum

7. Will any games in Pittsburgh be moved because of a Foghat/Blue Oyster Cult double bill?

Scheduling a Penguins playoff game on the same day as the Steelers draft is yinzerpocalypse.

8. Would fans in Pittsburgh rather see the Pens win another Cup, the Steelers win another Super Bowl, or the Pirates win another World Series?

Ooof. As much as it pains me to admit it, probably another Super Bowl.

9. You guys always beat us in the playoffs, even when we’re up by two games. Do you have any fear playing the Caps this year?

It’s funny. If someone were to show me the Capital’s record, statistics, and a breakdown of their team’s makeup — but hid the name of the team/players — I’d be incredibly nervous. But as soon as the Capitals name was revealed, I’d relax immediately. I don’t think I’m alone either. As soon as the Flyers began to make a series of it, I watched as Capitals nation began to have a collective freak-out.

Look, I should be incredibly nervous. But the Capitals remain the Bengals of hockey. Incredibly good during the regular season, hilariously inept in the playoffs. Bungles are going to Bungle, and until they change it, Caps are going to Cap.

10. Does Sidney Crosby still live with Mario Lemieux?

Ha, no. Does Alexander Ovechkin still have a tramp stamp?

20130224-181329-pic-373772717_s878x550

11. In your opinion, exactly how many hats should be thrown on the ice after a player records a hat trick?

In the year 1389, the Kingdom of Serbia was overrun by Ottoman forces in the “Battle of Kosovo.” Despite an obvious military defeat, the Serbs spent the next 700 years viewing this battle as the ultimate victory as Prince Lazar’s sacrifice stopped the Ottoman advance (note: it didn’t).

I bring this up only because it’s the closest parallel to your insistence on always bringing up the 2009 playoffs, where Crosby made an ill-advised statement during the Capitals’ Game 2 victory. To follow Brad on twitter (@stopthehats) is to see this event mentioned in constant, triumphant joy!

But of course the Penguins would go on to win the series and embarrass the Capitals in game 7. Why this series would be remembered fondly by a Capitals fan can only be explained by some deep, horrifying psychosis.

12. The Penguins will win this series if …

The Penguins will win this series if they continue their season-long mitigation of Ovi (zero points), and not allow the Capitals’ lethal powerplay too many opportunities.

13. The Capitals will win this series if …

The Capitals will win the series if they find a way to slow the Penguins aforementioned speed, force them to make stupid penalties, and rattle the rookie goaltender.

14. Your prediction?

I don’t think any team will dominate. I’ll say Pens in 6, but I could just as easily imagine a scenario where it goes the other way.

15. If your prediction comes through which of the following will you enjoy more: the victory or my Twitter meltdown?

Your Twitter is a master class in trolling. The only thing that makes it bearable for me is when the Caps do lose, you seem to have a complete psychotic break. I especially enjoyed the series of cryptic Prince (RIP) lyrics during the game 5 loss. I’ll enjoy the victory more, but it’s really closer than it ought to be.

Caps Fans Get The Best Return on Investment During These NHL Playoffs

Here with a guest post about this Caps’ playoff run and league-wide ticket prices is Mr. Irrelevant tickets partner TiqIQ.

It’s that time of year again — intensity picks up, facial hair begins to grow and dreams of hoisting Lord Stanley swirl in the minds of 16 NHL teams. For fans, the harrowing experience of the NHL Playoffs brings forth a gambit of emotions, from the elation of a big win to the frustration of an overtime loss. Patience is certainly tested, but one question remains; which fan base is getting the best bang for their buck during the 2016 NHL Playoffs?

Looking at secondary market data for 2016 NHL Playoff tickets provided by online aggregator TiqIQ and VegasInsider’s Stanley Cup odds for each team, it appears that the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals provide the best value for the greatest return this postseason. At the other end of the spectrum sit the New York Rangers, whose exorbitant ticket prices at Madison Square Garden and long odds at the Stanley Cup make them one of the worst deals in the playoffs this season.

The above graphic depicts each team’s home ticket average during the first round on the secondary market as well as their odds of winning the Stanley Cup. Perhaps expectedly, the Rangers lead the list with a whopping home average of $518.50, though at 18/1 odds leave fans paying big prices for what will likely result in an early exit. Washington Capitals playoff tickets, however, are the ninth most expensive in the opening round of play at an average price of $234.72 at Verizon Center. With 11/4 odds to win it all, the Capitals serve as the best deal through the Quarterfinals.

Such a claim is better represented through the team-by-team value index, which can be seen below. These numbers illustrate which fan bases receive the best value by multiplying each team’s first-round ticket price average at home by their Stanley Cup odds and then dividing that number by 1,000. The lower the number, the better the value, and the Capitals lead the list with a .65 rating.

Interestingly enough, while the Rangers own a 9.3 rating on the value index, they aren’t the team with the worst value from a ticketing and competitive standpoint this postseason. That honor belongs to the Philadelphia Flyers, who typically post high ticket prices at Wells Fargo Center and have the worst odds of winning the Stanley Cup at 200/1. Their 48.7 rating is far-and-away the worst value in the league. That number is certainly impacted by their first-round opponent in the Washington Capitals as well, who are clear favorites to win their first Cup in franchise history this season.

Other notable teams on the value index include the Detroit Red Wings and Minnesota Wild. Prior to being eliminated by the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night, the Red Wings were second to the Flyers as the worst value in the 2016 NHL Playoffs with a 12.8 rating. That number is interesting considering the team’s continuous regular season success and record 25th consecutive playoff appearance, which didn’t seem to translate into a deep playoff run. Like the Flyers, the Wild typically own big ticket prices during the regular season and have the fourth highest average ticket price during the first round. Their 50/1 Stanley Cup odds make them the third-worst value at a 12.8 rating.

The Capitals may offer the best value to their fans, but several teams trail closely behind through the first round of play. Anaheim Ducks playoff tickets at Honda Center are the cheapest of the Quarterfinals at $145.11, and though the team has 12/1 odds at raising the Cup, they have the second-best value index with a .8 rating. The San Jose Sharks and Dallas Stars follow at respective ratings of 1.3 and 1.5.

Of course, plenty of hockey is left to play, and it remains to be seen if the Capitals have enough to win it all come June. For fans, however, they’ll gladly enjoy the ride – and the value that comes with the franchise’s potential first Stanley Cup.

30 Minutes of Ambient O’s Spring Training Stuff

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 9.39.47 AM

FTW OG Ted Berg is ripping through the Grapefruit League, airing “Facebook Live” videos at each stop. So far he’s done the Tigers, Astros and Orioles, and every time he’s worn the same burgundy sweatshirt. It’s very strange.

It’s also a very cool look at baseball in February and, as Ted would say, “baseball guys doing baseball stuff.” He just kind of watches the players go through the motions, providing color commentary from behind his iPhone.

It’s mesmerizing, in a way, and it’s a good wintertime companion, as you sit at your desk tapping the keyboard, or what have you.

Enjoy Saturday’s stop, where Ted watched the Orioles take fielding practice in Sarasota, Florida.

Screen-Shot-2016-02-18-at-10.09.29-PM

Are The Caps The Warriors Of Hockey?

The Caps have 88 points already. That’s seven more than any other team in the league and 15 more than any other team in their conference. They’re basically the Warriors of hockey, running away with the regular season.

Of course, this year’s Warriors already have a championship under their belt, so the Caps are more like last year’s Warriors, is what I’m saying. Or at least I hope they are.

Ovechkin is Curry and Backstrom is Klay. Kutzy is Draymond. Justin Williams is Iguadola? That’s about as far as I can go with this, except Trotz is Kerr and Holtby is Bogut, the protector.

Washington looks like a lock for the 1 seed in the East and will probably be the No. 1 team in all of hockey heading into the playoffs. Problem is the Ovi-era Caps have been the 1 seed a couple of times before, and it didn’t go very well. They were the top team in the East in 2009-10 and 2010-11, losing in the first and second rounds, respectively. (Sorry to bring up old shit.)

Is that unusual, though? For 1 seeds to bow out early? No. Over the last 10 years, here’s how the NHL’s 1 seeds have fared …

2015: Rangers and Ducks both lost in the conference finals
2014: Bruins lost in second round, Ducks lost in second round
2013: Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, Penguins lost in conference finals
2012: Canucks lost in first round, Rangers lost in conference finals
2011: Canucks lost in Stanley Cup finals, Caps lost in second round
2010: Caps lost in first round, Sharks lost in conference finals
2009: Sharks lost in first round, Bruins lost in second round
2008: Red Wings won the Stanley Cup, Canadiens lost in second round
2007: Sabres and Red Wings both lost in the conference finals
2006: Red Wings lost in first round, Senators lost in second round

As the emphasis shows, only twice in the past 10 years has a 1 seed hoisted the Cup. Twice in 10 years or twice out of 20 teams that have earned 1 seeds — either way, not great!

Over that decade-long period, the typical 1 seed won 1.5 series — advancing to somewhere between second round and conference finals. So only slightly better than the average playoff team in general? (Though significantly better than the average Caps playoff team.)

We all know the hockey postseason is a bit of a crapshoot — who’s got the hot goalie, who’s got grit, who gets lucky. But this is ridiculous.

The 1 seed is meaningless, and these Caps almost certainly won’t enjoy the happy ending Golden State did in 2015. Make it fun while it lasts.

Update: Boswell wrote about the Caps and found some similar-but-sunnier stats, as Boswell does. The key points I’ll share here are a) the team with the best regular season record has won the Cup in eight of the past 28 seasons, which is better than two of the past 10, and b) four of the previous five teams with a goal-differential about as good as the Caps (factoring in strength of schedule) have won the Cup, which is very Warriors.

(Image taken with love from old school D.C. Sports Bog.)

Redskins-Packers Predictions

vince-lombardi13

As ever, these are our crackerjack staff’s predictions for the Wild Card game. Make yours down in the comments. Whoever comes closest gets to make a guest post on this here weblog.

JP Finlay: Redskins, 34-20

This seems ridiculous to write, but I think the Skins roll. Rodgers has been sacked 14 times his last two games. Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan have five sacks just between the two of them in the last two. It’s bad math for Green Bay between their slumping O-line and the Skins surging D-line.

Oh yeah, the Redskins offense is cooking. They will score. Wild Card round is usually about the hot hand; few are hotter than Kirk Cousins.

Are there reasons to worry? Of course. Aaron Freaking Rodgers ranks No. 1. And certainly some part of Gruden/McVay/Cousins could get tight. I just don’t see it happening though.

When you’re at a hot blackjack table, don’t get up.

Matt Terl: Packers, 24-21

I can’t believe, after everything, that this team has a home playoff game in which they were somehow (however briefly) favored. Like Kevin Stroop noted here earlier this week, that’s a hell of an accomplishment all by itself. I still feel like Rodgers and the Packers will wind up winning the game, but good on Gruden and Cousins and the Skins for even making this a conversation at all.

Todd Davis: Redskins, 27-23

I’m completely with Finlay on this game. While it would be the most Washington thing to buck the very strong “hot teams win WC games” trend, Green Bay just can’t score consistently right now and the Skins shaky secondary really isn’t something the current group of Packers receivers looks capable of exploiting. Biggest concern is Turnover Cousins returning as playoff sphincters clinch, but he’s playing with house money and it would take an awful lot of disaster to knock this group’s confidence right now.

Andy Peden: Packers, 28-27

I said before the season I was no longer emotionally invested in the Skins. That probably wasn’t the right description. I think it was more like I’m not going to let the losses ruin my day, but I still care. So now that the unbelievable has happened (division champs) and I actually believe this team can win a playoff game, I will have my soul crushed Sunday.

Jack Kogod: Redskins, 27-21

BANDWAGON is out in full force. I’m still not on it though. My brother asked when I’d quit with the “don’t care about the Redskins” act, and I honestly don’t have an answer. I’m not sure what it would take to get me invested in this franchise again. The new GM is definitely a good start, but I still feel like it’s a long way off. That said, I would love for this team to make my friends and family happy again, even if it means Dan Snyder being happy.

Screen Shot 2016-01-08 at 9.20.15 AM

Chris Mottram: Packers, 34-31

The Panthers get the bye week they deserve (although you could argue Week 17 against the Bucs was one too lol) after proving to be the best team in football this season. I’m hoping they get to the play the Redskins in the Divisional Round cause that team SUCKS, but Carolina shouldn’t be afraid of whoever comes to town.

Jamie Mottram: Redskins, 30-20

Given how little was expected, I’m happy with this season no matter what. Just like 2005 and 2007. And 2012, too, if not for the franchise-crippling injury at the end there.

The Redskins hired a real GM, found their quarterback (we think) and won the NFC East. All good things. All great things. But that doesn’t mean I’m just fine with a loss on Sunday.

You don’t root for nine wins, or the division, or to be hanging from the bottom rung of the NFL’s upper class.

They have about a 50-percent chance of winning Sunday. Then maybe a 40-percent chance on the road against Carolina or Arizona next week. And then maybe another 40-percent chance should they make it to the conference title. After that, let’s take it back up to 50, because who knows. There’s about a four-percent chance Washington goes all the way, is what I’m saying. That’s four points better than Dallas, Philly and New York.

Beat Green Bay, make it to the elite eight. Then go win the whole fuckin’ thing.

Composite prediction: Redskins, 28-24

The Redskins Are Playing With Found Money

Guest writer and longtime Skins fan Kevin Stroop stops by to give thanks before Sunday’s Redskins-Packers playoff game at FedEx Field.

4.-NFC-East-Leaders-Washington-Redskins-8-7

This has to be one of the most unexpected division titles in Redskins history. As a fan, I am still in shock.

So how does this year feel different than the 2012 division title? Well, simply put, there were no expectations on this team this year. In 2012 there was a hint of optimism coming into the season. There was none of that this year.

We all remember the 2012 season and what that felt like. That second-half run to the playoffs and division title gave us a hint of what we thought was to come. The stadium in that week 17 game vs. Dallas was unlike anything I have ever felt. Euphoria doesn’t even begin to describe it.

We had invested so much in that team and expected so much that it felt like the payoff we deserved. We finally had a Super Bowl-winning coach and a game-changing franchise QB. Good times were ahead of us. Reality proved to be a lot different.

In 2015, we were still recovering from the aftermath of the 2012 season. The fans were apathetic. The team’s goals were simple: find out if they had a quarterback and show some improvement over last year’s four-win campaign.

Winning the division wasn’t even a consideration. For good reason, every single NFL prediction had the Redskins finishing in last place in the division. Vegas had them at 125-1 to win the Super Bowl and 15-1 to win the NFC East. Any sampling of NFL previews looked similar to this, from Bleacher Report:

This era of Washington football is dark and grim … General Manager Scot McCloughan has a long way ahead of him to rebuild this franchise, and [Jay] Gruden, while seemingly inept, appears to have job security heading into his sophomore season as the top dog. No one in Washington is thinking about laying it on the line for 2015. You shouldn’t be, either.

Earning the 2015 division title was a complete surprise. Clinching a division title in the NFL with eight wins is like finding $100 on the ground; you grab it and thank your lucky stars. Yes, the Redskins were fortunate to play in a bad division and they were fortunate to play only three teams with a winning record. But let’s not discount the team as pushovers.

They are 6-2 in their last eight games and also 6-2 at home. Kirk Cousins has put together an impressive string of games. The defense has come together and the Redskins have their key players on both sides of the ball playing well and staying healthy.

It’s not uncommon for a home team to defeat a team with a better record in the playoffs. And for all the talk about how bad the NFC East is, the Redskins were a respectable 5-5 out of the division.

Looking ahead, we do not know what 2016 will bring to this team. I think it is reasonable to assume the core will be back in Burgundy & Gold and we will eagerly anticipate the start of the season. There is no guarantee of a carryover to next season, though.

Occasionally, teams have this kind of year only to fade the next season. Look no further than the NFC East, where each team has won exactly two division titles in the last eight years, and no team has repeated as division champ since Philly in 2004.

In 2016, we may find out that Cousins is not a franchise QB. The team’s running woes may prove fatal. The defense may stink. The first-place schedule may bury them.

However, the NFC East should be there for the taking. Dallas should be better, but the Giants are doing Giants things, and the Eagles are recovering from the dumpster fire that is (was) Chip Kelly, so there is hope.

As for me, I am going to enjoy the ride this time, unburdened by expectations. I will be at the game on Sunday hoping for a win, but more than satisfied with the team if they lose. The enjoyment I’ve gotten from watching them this year has been found money, and I’m spending it without any regrets.

'