Though it didn’t appear to be a chance of this occurring just a couple of weeks ago, the Washington Redskins are very much “in the hunt” for a playoff spot. At 5-6 though they would either need to win all five of their remaining games, or finish no worse than 4-1. In a tough NFC this year, the idea that an 8-8 team could make the playoffs is highly unlikely. Here’s a quick look at the Redskins two playoff paths:
This was made quite a bit tougher with the Giants beating the Green Bay Packers Sunday Night, as New York now has a 7-4 record, and would basically have to finish 2-3 for the Redskins to have a shot. The Redskins though can help their cause with a win at home Monday Night against New York, that would put them just one game behind the Giants, and would ensure the Redskins finish with at least a 3-3 division record. The Giants are at 2-2 in the division right now, and a loss to the Skins Monday Night would mean they could finish no better than 3-3. So if the Redskins beat the Giants, and beat either Dallas or Philly later in the year, they will have a better division record, giving them the advantage. The key is to ensure Washington beats New York. If they were to have the same Division record, the Giants will likely have the next tie-breaker in common games, though that is not set in stone yet.
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If the Redskins can win this game it is easy to see how New York could only win two of their final four games, to finish 9-7.
While it would obviously be nice for the Redskins to win their division, they stand a better chance of winning a wild card spot. Though there is more competition for those two spots there are a lot of scenarios that favor the Redskins. In the division they need the defending Super Bowl champs, and a team that has blown out both the 49ers and Packers to really struggle down the stretch, and lose next week to the Redskins. That is probably a tougher scenario then hoping a couple young teams with multiple holes falter. Though there really are two wild card spots, it would be an absolute shock if one of them didn’t go to either the Bears or the Packers (whomever doesn’t win the division), given how strong those teams are, and the fact that they both have at least 7 wins. That leaves basically the Cowboys, Vikings, Saints, Buccaneers and Seahawks for that other wild card spot.
The Saints and Cowboys are both tied right now with the Redskins, but both teams have pretty rough schedules going forward, and if the Redskins can beat Dallas in week 17, they will have the tie-breaker over both of those teams. Both teams could of course go on runs, but they also face each other week 16, which will likely eliminate one of these two.
The Vikings may have a game lead on the Redskins, but their schedule is brutal down the stretch. Even if you give them the win on the road over the Rams, figuring out where they get their final two wins to get to 9-7 is tough. They face the Packers twice, the Bears and the Texans, in those other four games so the idea that they can win three of those 4 (to go 10-6) is highly unlikely, and even splitting those games would be a shock. If they do end up tied with the Redskins, Washington does hold the head-to-head edge.
The Buccaneers appear to have a tough schedule down the stretch with road games against the Broncos, Saints and Falcons, but really it might not be as bad as people think. Their other two games are home versus the Eagles and Rams, two very winnable games. That would give them 8 for the year, meaning they’d need to take just one to tie the Redskins 9-7 projection. Redskins do hold the tie breaking edge by beating Tampa earlier this year. Don’t count out Tampa from picking up a 10th win though. The Buccaneers already almost beat the Saints this year, and with the way they are playing could easily go into the Super Dome and steal a game. Also, that Atlanta game is the final game of the season, and it’s very likely that the Falcons will have wrapped up not just the division, but the number 1 seed at that point. If they don’t have anything to play for, Tampa could get a win if Atlanta rests their starters.
Seattle is the toughest team to figure out. They are perfect this season at home (5-0), but just 1-5 on the road. If they win out at home that would give them nine wins, which would tie the Redskins. Two of those home games are versus the Cards and Rams, so they are likely wins, but the third is against the 49ers so that one is up in the air. As for their road games, it’s unlikely they beat Chicago, but Buffalo is a game they can win. Which would give them either 10 wins, or a 9th to replace a home loss to San Francisco.
Seattle also represents a wrinkle for the Redskins because unlike Minnesota, Tampa or New Orleans, the Redskins don’t have a head-to-head advantage. So if there is a three way tie at 9-7 between Tampa, Washington, and Seattle, it negates the Redskins head-to-head advantage over Tampa. The Redskins do have an advantage in the next tie-breaker though, as they currently only have 4 conference losses. Tampa currently has 5 conference losses, and if they finish 9-7 would have at least 6. Seattle has 4 conference losses like the Redskins, but if they end up 9-7, would be guaranteed to have at least 5. If the Redskins only loss from here on out is to either the Ravens or Browns, they will have a better conference record. As for the other teams, Dallas would be decided in the division, if the Saints and Vikings go 9-7 they will have at least 5 conference losses, giving the Redskins the edge.
The Redskins control their own destiny in a number of ways, but it’s not an easy road. They can only afford to lose one more game, and if they are to lose it really needs to be to one of their AFC opponents. The Division, especially with beating the Giants next Monday, is plausible, but the wild card spot is more probable. Seattle and Tampa are the two teams that really need to trip up. Both teams have easier roads than the Redskins, and while Washington has the tie-breaker advantage that won’t matter if either of those teams has 10 wins at the end of the year.