- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 24, 2020

You don’t need NBC’s Steve Kornacki or CNN’s John King to understand how the Washington Football Team can make the playoffs this week. The scenario is pretty straight forward: If the team beats the Carolina Panthers and the New York Giants lose to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, Washington will clinch a postseason spot for the first time since the 2015 season.

But if Washington loses to Carolina, the Giants beat the Ravens or some other variation? Well, you might need a polling expert.

Luckily, we’ve got you covered. Here are some scenarios and what they would mean for Washington’s postseason chances:

What happens if Giants beat the Ravens and Washington beat the Panthers?

Washington would still have a one-game lead in the NFC East, but if New York upsets Baltimore, then the playoff race will come down to the final week of the regular season, which concludes next week.

From there, at least one of two things needs to happen for Washington.

The first: If Washington beats the Eagles in Philadelphia, the team will clinch no matter what. That’s simple enough.

But there’s a possibility that even if Washington loses to Philadelphia, it could still make the playoffs. For that to happen, the Giants would need to lose their Week 17 matchup with the Dallas Cowboys. A loss would put New York at 6-10, while Washington would finish 7-9.

But if the Giants beat the Cowboys in Week 17 and Philadelphia wins, then Washington will miss the playoffs. That’s because New York and Washington would finish each at 7-9, and the Giants hold the season tiebreaker after sweeping the team earlier this year.

OK, so what if they both lose in Week 16. Then what?

Good question. It’s complicated. If Washington beats Philadelphia in Week 17, they’re in no matter what. That’s the easy part. If they lose to Philadelphia, Washington is out — and who wins the division depends on how everything else shakes out.

What If Washington and the Giants both lose in Week 17? Well, the NFC East would come down to the Eagles. Because the Eagles have a tie in their record, under this scenario, they could make the playoffs as long they beat Dallas in Week 16.

If Philadelphia loses to Dallas in Week 16 and the Giants and Washington each lose out, then the Cowboys — yes, really — would make the playoffs. This is what the division would look like:

1. Dallas 7-9

2. Washington 6-10

3. Philadelphia 5-10-1

4. New York 5-11

The Giants could make the playoffs at 6-10 if the Eagles lose to the Cowboys on Sunday and if they beat Dallas in Week 17.

Pfft. Washington’s got this. Forget the division nonsense. Who would it play in the wild card?

Putting that confidence aside, the Los Angeles Rams (9-5) would be the fifth seed if the season ended today. But that race is still very much in flux as well. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-5) and the Arizona Cardinals (8-6) are right behind them.

Other teams in the mix for that spot include the Seattle Seahawks (10-4) and even Chicago Bears (7-7). The Seahawks are ahead of the Rams in the NFC West, but there are scenarios in which they could still lose the division and slide back to a wild card spot. The Bears, currently out of the playoffs, could jump to the five seed if they: Win both their remaining games, the Buccaneers lose out and the Rams lose out.

It’s still way too early to tell where the dust will settle for the fifth seed. Have fun playing around with ESPN’s playoff machine.

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