What follows is a comprehensive, exhaustive, exhausting and mind-numbingly acute look at the playoff situation for the Redskins in the NFC.
|TEAM||RECORD||DIVISION||V. NFC||REMAINING OPPONENTS|
|Falcons||11-1||South||7-1||@ CAR, NYG, @ DET, TAMPA|
|49ers||8-2-1||West||6-2-1||@ STL, MIA, @ NE, @ SEA, ARI|
|Bears||8-3||North||5-2||SEA, @ MIN, GB, @ ARI, @ DET|
|Giants||7-4||East||6-2||@ WAS, NO, @ ATL, @ BAL, PHI|
|Packers||7-4||North||5-3||MIN, DET, @ CHI, TENN, @ MIN|
|Seahawks||6-5||West||4-4||@ CHI, ARI, @ BUF, San F, STL|
|Buccaneers||6-5||South||3-5||@ DEN, PHI, @ NO, STL, @ ATL|
|Vikings||6-5||North||4-4||@ GB, CHI, @ STL, @ HOU, GB|
|Redskins||5-6||East||5-4||NYG, BAL, @ CLE, @ PHI, DAL|
|Cowboys||5-6||East||4-5||PHI, @ CIN, PITT, NO, @ WAS|
|Rams||4-6-1||West||4-3-1||SF, @ BUF, MIN, @ TB, @ SEA|
|Saints||5-7||South||3-5||@ NYG, TB, @ DAL, CAR|
|Lions||4-7||North||3-5||IND, @ GB, @ ARI, ATL, CHI|
The Falcons and 49ers in great position and must be favorites to win the NFC South and West respectively. The Bears are in good position in the North, with a weak remaining schedule, but the Packers get one more shot at the Bears, though they'll have to win it in Chicago. Green Bay has already beaten the Bears once, so if they win their rematch and end with an identical record, the Packers will win the North.
For the Redskins in the East, they have tough games remaining against the Giants and the Ravens, though both games are at home. The Skins will be favored in road games in Cleveland and Philadelphia and then finish with a home game against the Cowboys, a team they beat in Dallas. The Giants have to go on the road to Washington, Atlanta and Baltimore -- all very tough games. They get the Saints and Eagles at home and will probably win those games handily. Washington's best bet to win the division will be beating the Giants on Monday night and then hoping New York loses to Atlanta and Baltimore. That would leave the Giants with a 9-7 record, 8-4 in the conference. The Redskins could match that by beating the Giants, Browns, Eagles and Cowboys, while losing only to the Ravens.
The wild card situation is, as you might expect, considerably more complicated. By virtue of beating them in the regular season, Washington owns tiebreakers with Minnesota, Tampa Bay and New Orleans, should they finished with a record identical to that of any of those teams. The Skins can assure themselves of the same with Dallas by taking care of business at home and beating the Cowboys in week 17. The Bears already have eight wins and will probably be favored in all their remaining games [see above] so it is unlikely Washington could catch Chicago if that team fails to win the NFC North. The Packers are two wins ahead of Washington and will probably be favored in all their remaining games [see above] apart from the matchup in Chicago, so it is unlikely the Skins will be able to catch either of the top two NFC North teams. So that's one wild card that is almost surely out of reach.
That leaves one wild card left for the Redskins if they cannot rally to win the NFC East. Washington's main competition for that one spot will be the Minnesota Vikings [6-5], Tampa Bay Buccaneers [6-5], Seattle Seahawks [6-5], Dallas Cowboys [5-6] and St. Louis Rams [4-6-1]. The Rams beat Washington in week two so they have the tiebreaker advantage. On the other hand, the Rams are half a game behind the Skins and have tough games against the 49ers, @ Tampa, @ Seattle and @ Buffalo, in addition to a home game against the Vikings. It is difficult to see the Rams beating the Niners [they tied last time] or the Seahawks in Seattle, so St. Louis is probably looking at a minimum if 8 losses, but them out of the playoff race.
There are no head-to-head tiebreakers between the Redskins and Seahawks so it will come down to overall records and records within the conference. The Seahawks are 6-5, but will almost surely fall to 6-6 this Sunday when they play the Bears in Chicago. [Seattle is 5-0 at home, 1-5 on the road.] The Seahawks will almost certainly win home games against Arizona and St. Louis, putting them at eight wins. They also have a home game against the 49ers that will be difficult because the Niners are very good. Finally, the Seahawks have a road game in Buffalo that will be difficult because it's across the country and the Seahawks are terrible away from their home field. The Seahawks are 4-4 in the conference and likely to be 6-5 with wins over St. Louis and Arizona and a road loss to the Bears. If the Seahawks can defeat the Niners at home and go on the road to Buffalo and win there, too, they will claim that final playoff spot with a 10-6 record. They'll finish 8-8 if they lose those two very lose-able [also win-able] games. In many ways, Seattle is Washington's toughest competition for that final playoff spot.
As noted above, the Redskins have a tiebreaker advantage with the Vikings and Buccaneers, but they must at least equal the records of those teams to use that advantage. However, the Vikings have the toughest schedule in the league going down the stretch, with road games against Green Bay, St. Louis and Houston, and home games against Chicago and Green Bay. The only game the Vikings are likely to be favored to win will be against the Rams and since that is a road game they might not be favored to win that one either. It looks like the Vikings are probably headed for an understandable late season swoon -- particularly with QB Christian Ponder continuing to struggle -- and a 9-loss season. That puts them out of the playoff race.
The Buccaneers have a 6-5 record and a plausible path to 9 wins, but they also have a not-so-hidden weakness. The Bucs are an improving team, but they have dropped 5 of 8 games in the conference, the worst such record of any of the top NFC playoff contenders. They will almost certainly fall to 6-6 this Sunday when they play the Broncos in Denver. That leaves them with two very winnable home games against Philadelphia and St. Louis, as well as road games in New Orleans and Atlanta. The Falcons would seem a good bet the deal the Bucs a loss, but since that game is in week 17 and the Falcons may have home field wrapped up by then. If Atlanta is more concerned with resting and protecting its starters than beating Tampa in week 17, which seems very possible, that would help the Bucs get to 9 wins -- adding in home victories over the Rams and Eagles. The Bucs can get to 10 wins by beating the Saints in the Superdome -- difficult, but certainly not impossible this year. A 10th win by the Bucs would probably doom Washington's playoff chances. If the Bucs are held to 9 wins and the Skins can somehow get to 9 wins, too, that tiebreaker advantage the Skins hold would prove decisive and ending Tampa's season after 17 weeks.
That brings up Washington's oldest and most loathed rival, the Dallas Cowboys. Washington beat the Cowboys in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day and will host them in week 17. The Cowboys will almost certainly win a home game against the Eagles this week, improving their record to 6-6 [5-5 in the NFC] by Sunday night. It gets tougher after that, though. Dallas mus travel to Cincinnati to play the 6-5 Bengals, a team that has won three straight games in blowout fashion -- including an 18-point win over the NY Giants. Then Dallas must defend its home turf against the Steelers. The Cowboys should win that game easily if Ben Roethlisberger does not play, but if he does play and is relatively healthy, the Cowboys could easily lose. They follow that up with a home game against the Saints that they will probably win and finish on the road in Washington. If the Cowboys can manage to split against Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, while defeating inferior opponents like the Eagles and Saints, they will go into the final week of the season 8-7 [and 6-5 in the NFC] with a chance to steal the final playoff spot from Washington.
The Saints are 5-7, with a 3-5 record in the conference and have road games coming up in New York and Dallas. Chances are overwhelming the Saints will lose 8 or 9 games and not be a playoff team. Should they somehow manage to run the table -- and that would be good for the Redskins because it would involve wins over the Giants, Cowboys and Buccaneers -- they still lose the tiebreaker to the Redskins because of Washington's week one win in the Superdome. So the Saints are out.
I do not consider the 4-7 Lions realistic playoff contenders, with 5 losses in the conference already and upcoming games in Green Bay and home against the Bears and Falcons. The Lions will probably win in Arizona because the Cardinals are awful and may not win another game all season. The Lions also have a good chance to win at home this weekend against the Colts. That gets the Lions to six wins, but they will likely be favored to lose the rest of their games. Detroit looks like a 6-10 team to me, 7-9 if they get lucky. So they're out.
In other words, the Redskins could make it easier on us by running the table -- starting with the Giants on Monday night -- and just taking the division with a respectable 10-6 record. That's probably not going to happen, though, which means they need to win at least four of their five remaining games -- with that one loss being out of conference to the Ravens -- and hope other teams help them out a bit, particularly anyone playing the Seahawks or Buccaneers.no comments