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Redskins win division by ignoring preseason doom and gloom

PHILADELPHIA -- The preseason picks stuck with his players for a little while, which is why Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden brought them up again this week. He rattled off the names of publications that picked his team last and likely missed a dozen more that did the same.

Here they are: champions of the NFC East after beating Philadelphia 38-24 Saturday night. Go ahead and scoff at the bad play of the division, but remember this: In 2011, the division champion won only nine games, and the Redskins still lost 11, so just because the division was bad did not mean the Redskins would contend -- not after the team lost double-digit games in five of the past six seasons, not after a 7-25 record the past two years combined, and not after losing key players and switching to a turnover-prone quarterback to open the season.

Say what you want, but most of the people who say they saw this coming -- beyond ever-optimistic fans -- are lying. That the Redskins won eight games is quite good; the division title just happened to come with those wins.

To win this division title, the Redskins used strong veteran leadership. The culture is infinitely better than it was the past two seasons: stronger and more mature, and those who goofed around fell in line.

The Redskins played for one another as much as any recent team did. Also, that turnover-prone quarterback, Kirk Cousins, stopped turning the ball over.

Here they are: After two of the worst Decembers in team history, the Redskins turned in one worth remembering.

What it means: The Redskins won the NFC East for the first time since 2012 and will host a playoff game, most likely against Seattle, which has eliminated Washington in the team's past three playoff appearances. Amazingly, the Redskins, a team picked by many to finish last and as one of the worst in the NFL, can, if they so desire, rest their starters in the season finale next week at Dallas. The win also means Cousins will receive a hefty raise in the offseason after he threw 19 touchdown passes with only three interceptions in his final nine games. The pending free agent “will be taken care of,” one member of the organization said recently. The price, though, has increased.

What were they thinking: That statement could be applied a few times to punt returner Jamison Crowder. He just hasn’t had the anticipated impact in this area, and he flirts with danger too often. His decision-making Saturday wasn’t his best.

One reason to be excited: If a division title isn’t enough, just look at the Redskins' skill position players: They’re mostly young, which gives the team a chance to develop a good, young core for a few seasons.

One reason to panic: The inconsistency of the run game and the big plays allowed by the defense -- the Eagles would have had two more touchdown passes, had it not been for an overthrow and a drop.

Fantasy watch: Tight end Jordan Reed once more reminded everyone of his talent by catching nine passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns. At times, he was the best player on the field.

Game ball: Cousins committed a major gaffe at the end of the first half and cost Washington a chance at three points, at the very least. But he finished with 365 passing yards and four touchdowns, and he became the first quarterback in franchise history to throw for more than 300 yards and four touchdowns in consecutive games.

Ouch: Redskins safety DeAngelo Hall exited with a calf injury late in the game.