You hear it from coaches and players all the time—of the 16 games on the schedule the most important are the six games against the teams in your division.
The Redskins are about to demonstrate the truth of that adage over their last five games.
They have three division games left with tonight’s game against the Cowboys and their last two games of the regular season at Philadelphia and at Dallas. Those are three very important games.
How important? If the Redskins sweep those games they will be virtually assured of winning the division no matter what they do in their other two games at Chicago and against the Bills at home. Going 3-0 in those division games would give the Redskins the division title unless the Giants, who are 5-7 and a half game behind Washington, run the table in their remaining four games.
The reason the division games are so big for the Redskins is the tiebreaker system. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head record. So far the Redskins have split with the Giants and have beaten the Eagles, who like the Giants are 5-7, once. If the Redskins beat the Eagles in Week 16 they would hold that tiebreaker over them. That would essentially eliminate the Eagles if the Redskins can take care of business against Dallas twice.
Here are the current NFC East records:
If the Redskins run the table in the division they would have only one division loss and at least eight wins overall. Should the Giants and/or Eagles get to eight wins the Redskins would hold the tiebreaker in this scenario, division record over New York and head-to-head against the Eagles.
If the Redskins finish 8-8 and the Giants run the table, New York would be 9-7 and then, of course, tiebreakers don’t matter.
Even two division wins could get the job done for the Redskins as long as one of them is against the Eagles, giving Washington the head-to-head sweep. That would mean that the Redskins would have two division losses Giants would have at least three.
Of course, the best way for the Redskins to get this done would be to win all of their remaining games and not have to get involved in tiebreakers. But it is good to have some margin for error and the Redskins likely have that if they can beat some familiar foes.