- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 6, 2018

At 6-6, the Redskins face a tough path to the playoffs. ABC’s Five-Thirty-Eight pegs Washington’s postseason chances at 26 percent. And historically, teams with a .500 record after 12 games have made the playoffs just 25.9 percent of the time (43 of 166) since the league switched to a 16-game schedule in 1978.

But it’s not impossible.

“We have a position to go 10-6 if we can win all four of these (games left),” cornerback Josh Norman said. “No one is giving us a chance. … We’re going to continue to keep fighting because that’s the kind of guys we got in here, man.” 

The Redskins return Sunday to face the New York Giants. Here’s what has to go right for Washington to make the playoffs.

New heights

Coach Jay Gruden was mystified after Monday’s 28-13 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, saying the team’s defense has too much talent to be playing poorly. And they are playing poorly. 

Over the last five games, the Redskins have given up an average of 430.4 yards per game — trailing only the Cincinnati Bengals in that span. They’ve also allowed opponents to complete a staggering, league-high 54.1 percent of their third downs in the last five games. That’s a dramatic falloff from earlier in the season.

“We have to do everything better on defense — we have to step up our game to heights that we never have before and it just has to be done in order for us to get where we want to get,” Gruden said.

Steady Sanchez

It might be too much to ask of Mark Sanchez, the Redskins’ third quarterback of the season, but the team needs him to play well if it has any shot of making the postseason.

Sanchez was 12-of-21 for 100 yards and one interception on Monday against the Eagles. He finished the game with a 53.7 quarterback rating. In 72 career starts, Sanchez is 37-35 with more interceptions (87) than touchdowns (86). 

Eagles and Cowboys lose games

Five-Thirty-Eight projects the Redskins’ odds of winning the NFC East at just seven percent. They’ll need the Cowboys and the Eagles to lose games.

Between those two, the Eagles have the tougher slate — with games against the Cowboys, Texans, Rams and Redskins left. Dallas, which leads the division by a full game, has the Eagles, Colts, Buccaneers and Giants left.

Cousins does Redskins fans a favor

Technically, the last wild-card spot could also be a possibility for the Redskins. And at the moment, that’s held by Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings by a half-game.

Let’s just say the Redskins most likely wouldn’t mind if Cousins melts down in the last four games to help increase Washington’s odds.

They control the clock

The Redskins used running back Adrian Peterson and a strong running game early in the game to help out quarterback Alex Smith.

Through its first seven games — when the Redskins were 5-2 — Washington had the third-best time of possession. Since then, it has had the second-worst in the league. Washington’s run game has dropped from averaging 128 to 100.6 yards per game.

“Guys have got to understand that, ‘Hey, this is bigger than what everyone else thinks,’” Peterson said. “I’ve been through way bigger adversity than losing quarterbacks and losing offensive linemen. It’s all about how you respond to that adversity.” 

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