Yeah, it’s getting late. The Redskins need some help to get to the playoffs and here is my weekly Redskins-centric look around the NFL to tell you where they might get it from.
Before we get started, here is where the teams with legitimate wild card hopes stand and their remaining schedules:
Giants (9-4): Lions, @Eagles, @Redskins
Bucs (8-5): @Cowboys, @Saints, Panthers
Redskins (7-5-1): Panthers, @Bears, Giants
Vikings (7-6): Colts, @Packers, Bears
Packers (7-6): @Bears, Vikings, @Lions
—Let’s start with the end of the day, the Sunday night game with the Buccaneers at Dallas. The debate has ranged all week over who really is a Redskins fan and who is not depending on whether a person is going to root for the Cowboys to win or refuses to do so. I’m not a judge of who is a fan and who isn’t. But whether you choose to pump your fist when Dallas scores a touchdown or not, the Redskins are much better off if the Bucs lose. That would give the Redskins an opportunity to regain control in their push for the playoffs by putting them a half-game ahead of Tampa Bay with two games left to play.
—The Packers head to frigid Chicago. The Redskins don’t have to worry about the Packers if they win out but a Green Bay loss could give them some breathing room. Aaron Rodgers is pretty used to the cold so the projected temperature of four degrees shouldn’t bother him. The Redskins head to Chicago next Saturday but according to the long-term forecast the weather conditions will be better.
—The Vikings, who also are a half game behind the Redskins at 7-6, host the Colts in Adrian Peterson’s return to the field. It remains to be seen how much Peterson will play but the Vikings’ rushing game sure could use a boost. They are averaging 2.95 yards per rushing attempt. If that holds for the season it would be the fourth-lowest team rushing average since the merger.
—Those who just can’t even bear to root for the Cowboys’ opponent to lose, hope for the 49ers to pull off the upset at Atlanta. The Falcons have the same 8-5 record as the Bucs but they are ahead on the better record in common games tiebreaker. If the Falcons falter the Redskins could pull back into playoff position with a win on Monday night. An Atlanta loss seems unlikely given the Niners’ 1-12 record but it seems like a big spoiler upset like this would be happens every year.
—A loss by the Giants to the Lions also would give the Redskins control over whether or not they make the playoffs. Washington would still be a half game behind New York but they could catch up in the season finale on New Year’s Day. There could be some advantages to a Lions loss if it is the start of them losing out the rest of the way (after tomorrow @Cowboys, Packers) but that’s a little complex. The more straightforward route is to have the Giants lose.
—So your Sunday rooting guide is: Cowboys (if you choose, I’m not judging), Bears, Colts, 49ers, and Lions.
—Some think that the Redskins will benefit if the Panthers are eliminated from the playoffs on Sunday. The Panthers could come out deflated if their defense of their NFC championship is officially over 24 hours before kickoff. The Panters will be out of the playoffs if either the Packers or the Vikings win. So even though Redskins fans should be rooting for the opposite outcome in those games, there may be some small consolation there if it doesn't happen.
—I split last week, winning with the Falcons giving six to the Rams and the Redskins giving one to the Eagles and losing outright with favorites Cowboys and Seahawks. I have five games this week with the Patriots -3 at Denver, the Ravens -6 at home against the Eagles, the Packers giving 5.5 at Chicago, the Texans -6 at home over the Jaguars, and the Raiders -3 at San Diego.