- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 4, 2018

They’ve lost both Alex Smith and Colt McCoy for the year with broken legs. The defense suddenly can’t stop anyone. Yet the Washington Redskins are in the thick of the playoff hunt.

It’s still difficult to prognosticate forward with four games left to play, but the three-quarters mark of the regular season is a good time to begin studying the playoff scenarios in the NFC. Purely from a record standpoint, the Redskins are contenders in both the NFC East and the conference’s wild card race.

For now let’s exclude the top two seeds, the dominant Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints, and look at positions three through nine in the standings after Week 13:

  • 3. Chicago 8-4
  • 4. Dallas 7-5
  • 5. Seattle 7-5
  • 6. Minnesota 6-5-1
  • 7. Carolina 6-6
  • 8. Philadelphia 6-6
  • 9. Washington 6-6

Even though Washington has beaten Carolina head-to-head, the procedures change when three or more teams are tied with the same record. The Eagles push Washington to the back of the line and Carolina beat Philadelphia head-to-head.

In the division, the Redskins would be best off finishing with a better record than the Cowboys and Eagles, not the same record. Because they split their head-to-head series with Dallas, the hypothetical tiebreaker between those teams moves to record against division opponents. Washington now has two strikes against it while Dallas and Philadelphia are 3-1 so far.

We’ll have a clearer picture of this after Week 14, when Dallas plays Philadelphia and the Redskins host the Giants in what’s suddenly a can’t-lose game.

Put simply, if the Redskins win out and finish 10-6 — which would require a win over the Eagles at home Week 17 — they’ll win the division as long as Dallas loses twice. The Cowboys’ remaining schedule features the Eagles, Colts, Buccaneers and Giants. The Eagles have to face the Rams and red-hot Texans in Weeks 15 and 16, which could prove helpful to Washington’s cause.

In the wild card race, Seattle and Minnesota — the No. 5 and 6 seeds if the season ended today — are squaring off next Monday. For Redskins fans, it will be worth rooting for Kirk Cousins and company to win on the road. A Vikings win would keep all wild card contenders at seven wins or fewer, and if the Redskins move up to 7-6 next week they’ll be right in contention.

One thing to keep an eye on: The Redskins would win a two-team tiebreaker over the Panthers thanks to their Week 6 over Carolina. If there’s a three-way tie with Seattle, Washington and Carolina, the Panthers would be eliminated first because the Seahawks have also beaten them head-to-head.

Redskins‘ chances to make playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight: 26 percent.

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