- The Washington Times - Monday, December 4, 2017

The creeping reality for the Redskins is that Jay Gruden’s team will miss the playoffs for the third time in his four seasons as coach. Gruden is 26-33, at this point, in large part because of a 4-12 first season. There are numerous caveats to this season’s results, mainly a consideration of the vast injuries to a team that otherwise appeared in the hunt, but that discussion is for another day.

Here, we’ll take a look at where everyone in the NFC stands following Seattle’s defeat of Philadelphia on Sunday night in the Pacific Northwest. The Redskins still have a chance to make the playoffs. It’s just extraordinarily slim.

No. 1
Minnesota Vikings (10-2):
At 10-2, and owning the tiebreaker with the Eagles, the Vikings are the No. 1 seed after 13 weeks. What a pivot for them. Case Keenum has played well at quarterback and a two-pronged rushing attack has backed him to produce the league’s fifth-best offense. The Vikings play just one team over .500 the rest of the way. That’s Carolina next week. Afterward, they close with Cincinnati, Green Bay and Chicago. Minnesota is currently in line for a bye.

No. 2
Philadelphia Eagles (10-2):Seattle snapped the Eagles’ nine-game winning streak Sunday night, simultaneously pushing the Eagles down a spot and solidifying its playoff chances. Philadelphia is still in good shape. At 10-2, it can clinch the NFC East next Sunday in Los Angeles. That will be an important game. The upstart Rams are 9-3, and now just a game back of the conference leaders.

No. 3
Los Angeles Rams (9-3): The aforementioned Rams continue to be this season’s stunning participant. Young Sean McVay has led the Rams to their first winning season in 14 years. If not a lock for coach of the year, McVay is one of the prime candidates. Los Angeles quarterback Jared Goff, in his second season, has numbers in line with those of Kirk Cousins. Los Angeles has three rock fights on its hands before the season closes with ease. It hosts Philadelphia on Sunday, goes to Seattle the following week, then goes to Tennessee (8-4) the week after that. Game 16 is a reprieve at home against the ineffective San Francisco 49ers.

No. 4
New Orleans Saints (9-3): Drew Brees and the Saints are back near the top of the NFC. They play Atlanta (7-5) twice in their final four games. Those games could push the NFC South in three directions: Atlanta’s favor, Carolina’s favor or New Orleans could take command.

No. 5
Seattle Seahawks (8-4): Guess who’s back? Even without Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, reducing The Legion of Boom by two-thirds, the Seahawks handled the league’s most potent offense — belonging to the Eagles — on Sunday night. That win elevated Seattle to 8-4 and put its chances to make the playoffs at 74 percent, according to The Upshot’s simulator. Seattle is just a game behind the Rams in the NFC West, with a head-to-head home game against the Rams coming in two weeks. First, Seattle goes to Jacksonville, which is on a path for the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Its final two games of the season come at Dallas and vs. Arizona, two games against middling teams. If Seattle gets to 10 wins, it will be its sixth consecutive season hitting at least that mark.

No. 6
Carolina Panthers (8-4): Carolina could take the “Guess who’s back?” label, too. The Panthers are 8-4, in good shape for at least a wild-card spot (69 percent) and in position for a shot at the division title. The Panthers close the season in Atlanta with a game that could decide anything from the division title to who is going to make the playoffs.

In the hunt:
Atlanta Falcons. They are 7-5 and the only team over .500 in this group.

Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys. They are all 6-6. The simulator gives the Lions the best odds to make it, a distant 11 percent.

Redskins, Cardinals. Both are 5-7. Washington’s chance of making the playoffs? Less than one percent. Even if it wins out against a — at least in appearance — soft remaining schedule, the Redskins would have to leapfrog five teams in four weeks to enter the playoffs.

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