The Redskins are holding onto playoff hopes, but they necessarily will be scoreboard watching as soon as their game in Chicago concludes. As the number of contenders shrinks here is my weekly Redskins-centric look around the NFL.
Let’s pull up the wild card contenders and relevant division leaders and their remaining schedules to get a perspective on what’s going on.
Lions (NFC North leaders, 9-5): (@Cowboys, Packers)
Falcons (NFC South leaders, 9-5): (@Panthers, Saints)
Giants (10-5): @Redskins
Packers (8-6): Vikings, @Lions
Bucs (8-6): @Saints, Panthers
Redskins (7-6-1): @Bears, Giants
- Taking a look back first, the Giants’ loss came a week too late to help the Redskins. They couldn’t catch the Giants going into the game anyway. The only negative is that the loss means that the Cowboys have clinched everything they can clinch, so they won’t have much incentive to beat the Lions on Monday night. That is a game the Redskins may need Dallas to win. But the fact that Dallas is locked into its playoff position might not matter much as you’ll see when we get to that game.
- One route the Redskins have to the playoffs if the win out involves having the Buccaneers to lose one of their two remaining games. They are three-point underdogs at the Saints. New Orleans has not checked out, despite being out of playoff contention, and they probably are going to want to show that their miserable offensive performance in Tampa a couple of weeks ago was a fluke. That said, the Bucs play some tough defense, and it won’t be easy for Drew Brees and company. This one kicks off at 4:25 p.m., so the Redskins will be monitoring it and pulling for the Saints as they head to the airport.
- If the Bucs don’t lose this week or next, the Redskins need the Falcons to lose twice. That would make Tampa Bay the NFC South champions and leave the Falcons at 9-7, behind a 9-6-1 Redskins team if they win out. Atlanta plays the Panthers, who are facing the same short Monday night-Saturday turnaround that the Redskins are. The Redskins hope that the Panthers put up every bit of the fight at home against the Falcons as they did at FedEx Field. The visiting Falcons are favored by 2.5.
- That takes care of the NFC South contenders. Now let’s turn to the NFC North. If the Packers lose to the Vikings and the Bucs lose, the Redskins will have their playoff fate back in their own hands going into Week 17. Green Bay has been on a roll lately while Minnesota has been struggling. Fortunately the Redskins aren’t relying on a Packers loss entirely; it seems like a long shot with the Pack sitting as 6.5-point favorites.
- The final game with Redskins playoff ramifications comes Monday night when the Lions are at the Cowboys. If the Bucs lose Sunday and the Lions lose Monday, the Redskins will be win and in on the last Sunday of the regular season if they beat the Bears. The Lions host the Packers in Week 17. If Detroit loses and the Packers win, that game will be for the NFC North title. The loser would be 9-7 and would lose out to a 9-6-1 Redskins team for the last wild card. If you don’t want to root for the Cowboys, that’s fine, but a Lions loss helps the Redskins.
- For those of you concerned about the Cowboys having no incentive to win against the Lions, look back two years ago. In 2014 Jason Garrett and the Cowboys came in to Washington in Week 17 with the NFC East and the No. 3-seed locked in. Garrett didn’t rest anyone, and he didn’t let up on the gas. Even though Tony Romo had been banged up during the season, he played the entire game. So did DeMarco Murray, who carried 20 times to add to the heavy workload he had pulled all year. Dez Bryant and Jason Witten played extensively. The Cowboys didn’t let off the gas, posting a 44-17 win over the Redskins. There is no reason to think that Garrett will be resting starters with Week 17 plus a bye week to go before the playoffs start.
To sum it up, the Redskins get into the playoffs with a Bucs loss or two Falcons losses AND a Packers loss or two Lions losses. Redskins fans should be pulling for the Saints, Panthers, Vikings, and, well, you know who.
It is possible that the Redskins will qualify for the playoffs if they split their last two games, but they are very remote and I’m sure you don’t want to hear it.
The good news is that I picked five teams that won last week. Unfortunately, the Patriots were the only team that covered. I’m already down one as I had the Giants -2.5 over the Eagles. My other picks are the Ravens +5 over the Steelers, the Cowboys -7 over the Lions and Atlanta -2.5 over the Panthers.