Another Sunday without a Redskins game allows us to closely monitor how other results impact their position in the NFC playoff race.
The Redskins (5-6) begin Sunday facing a best-case scenario that would vault them into playoff position by late Monday night. They would occupy the NFC’s second and final wild card spot if Seattle, Tampa Bay and Minnesota (each 6-5) lose Sunday AND they beat the Giants on Monday night.
Of course, four weeks remain on the schedule after this one, and a lot can change in a quarter of the season. It’s important to keep that in perspective. But the scenario described above would be quite remarkable, considering the hole the Redskins dug for themselves by dropping to 3-6 with a home loss to Carolina on Nov. 4.
Before we look at Sunday’s games involving other NFC contenders, let’s re-emphasize how critical it is for the Redskins to beat New York on Monday night. Their main goal of an NFC East title is realistic only if they beat the Giants. The Monday night game is essentially a must-win, then, which is what coach Mike Shanahan told his players on Thursday.
A loss would leave Washington three games behind the Giants (7-4) with four to play – a deficit almost impossible to overcome. A win would put Washington one game back with four to play, and the Redskins would assume the tiebreaker over the Giants by virtue of a superior record against divisional opponents.
With a win, the Redskins would improve to 3-1 in the division, and the Giants would fall to 2-3. Both teams’ remaining schedules are as follows (HOME GAMES in CAPS):
REDSKINS: BALTIMORE, Cleveland, Philadelphia, DALLAS
GIANTS: NEW ORLEANS, Atlanta, Baltimore, PHILADELPHIA
Meanwhile, several results last Sunday involving NFC wild card contenders significantly increased the possibility of Washington qualifying for the postseason without winning the division.
The Redskins need more help Sunday, so let’s look at whom they should root for, in order of importance.
Here’s the current playoff picture, as presented by NFL.com. Keep in mind tiebreakers are going to change during the course of the final five weeks.
(Home teams are displayed IN CAPS, and TV listings are for the D.C. area.)
CHICAGO BEARS (8-3) over Seattle Seahawks (6-5), 1 p.m., DirecTV 704
The Seahawks currently occupy the NFC’s last playoff spot, so they are the current target for any Redskins push toward a wild card berth.
Record against NFC opponents is the tiebreaker that would apply if Washington and Seattle were to tie in the standings by themselves. Entering Week 13, the Redskins have the advantage because they’re 5-4 in the NFC, and Seattle is 4-4.
Not only would a loss Sunday drop the Seahawks to 6-6 overall, it also would hurt their conference record.
DENVER BRONCOS (8-3) over Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5), 4:05 p.m., DirecTV 713
Tampa Bay is the first team out of the playoffs entering Week 13. The Redskins own the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Bucs by virtue of their 24-22 victory in Tampa on Sept. 30.
In general, it helps the Redskins for any AFC team to beat an NFC team because they aren’t competing with the AFC team for a playoff spot.
GREEN BAY PACKERS (7-4) over Minnesota Vikings (6-5), 1 p.m., FOX5
The Redskins need help catching Minnesota. They own the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Vikings by virtue of their 38-26 victory over Minnesota on Oct. 14.
This game ranks third on the importance scale because a small silver lining would exist if Minnesota were to win.
Green Bay currently occupies the NFC’s fifth seed and first wild card spot. If the Vikings and the Redskins win this weekend, the Redskins would enter Week 14 only one game out of that first wild card spot.
In that scenario, the Redskins would have a head-to-head tiebreaker advantage over Green Bay by virtue of a superior record against NFC opponents. Washington would be 6-4 and Green Bay would be 5-4.
Philadelphia Eagles (3-8) over DALLAS COWBOYS (5-6), 8:20 p.m., NBC4
The Cowboys are tied with Washington at 5-6, but the Redskins have a head-to-head tiebreaker advantage by virtue of their 38-31 win in Dallas on Thanksgiving. Of course, they play again on Dec. 30.
Enjoy the games and your scoreboard watching.