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NFC wild card race gets tighter but Redskins still in control

NFC wild card race gets tighter but Redskins still in control

The objects in the Redskins’ rearview mirror really are as close as they appear.

With one relevant game to go in Week 12, the 6-4-1 Redskins are still in the driver’s seat for the sixth and final NFC playoff spot. But they need to keep their foot on the gas as their margin for error is slim.

With a win over the Seahawks on Sunday the Buccaneers moved to 6-5 and the Vikings dropped to 6-5 after they lost to the Lions on Thanksgiving. Both of those teams are a half game behind the Redskins. The Eagles could join that group if they win at home over the Packers on Monday night.

Meanwhile, the Giants won over the Browns to move to 8-3. Nobody has clinched anything but New York is very much in control of the top wild card spot. Their schedule gets considerably tougher in the coming weeks, and they could falter, but for the time being we will put them into fifth seed, the top wild card spot, and look at what’s happening with the race for the sixth seed.

Here are the non-division leading NFC teams who have at least six wins plus the Eagles and their remaining schedules.

Redskins (6-4-1), @Cardinals, @Eagles, Panthers, @Bears, Giants
Bucs (6-5), @Chargers, Saints, @Cowboys, @Saints, Panthers
Vikings (6-5), Cowboys, @Jaguars, Colts, @Packers, Bears
Eagles (5-5), Packers, @Bengals, Redskins, @Ravens, Giants, Cowboys

—Wins in their last five games to move to 11-4-1 would clinch a playoff spot for the Redskins. No other team in the wild card picture can get to more than 10 wins. If the Redskins go 4-1 the rest of the way either the Bucs, Vikings, or Eagles would have to sweep their remaining games to knock the Redskins out of the No. 6 spot.

—While the Redskins are capable of getting hot and winning four or all five of their remaining games a 3-2 finish seems more realistic. If they finish 9-6-1 a team would have to go 10-6 to finish ahead of them. The Bucs or Vikings would need to win four out of five pass Washington and the Eagles would need five wins in their last six starting tonight.

—The only team the Redskins play that currently has a winning record is the Giants in the season finale. The Bucs and Vikings also play just one team over .500 each while the Eagles’ last four games are all against winning teams who are either leading their division or in a wild card position.  

—The Redskins and Bucs has three of their last five games on the road. Both the Vikings and Eagles have three of their final five at home, plus the Eagles are at home tonight.

—The wild cards in the wild card races are the games in Weeks 16 and 17. Will the Giants have their playoff position locked in when they come to FedEx on January 1? Will the Cowboys want Tony Romo to knock off some rust in the season finale in Philly? How badly will the Packers want to play spoiler to the Vikings’ hopes?

MORE: Questions mounting for Dustin Hopkins, but he's not making excuses

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'It's a house divided': The Redskins-Cowboys rivalry is affecting these 'Skins' families

'It's a house divided': The Redskins-Cowboys rivalry is affecting these 'Skins' families

Zach Brown is a fearless player. Turns out, Zach Brown's dad is pretty fearless, too.

That first statement is one you can confirm by watching the Redskins linebacker play each time he takes the field, often times hurt.

The second statement, on the other hand, was confirmed earlier this week in an interview between Brown and JP Finlay about the Washington-Dallas rivalry.

"It got under our skin, knowing we got swept by them [last year]," the defender told Finlay after a weekday practice. "You just hate to go back home and hear them talk so much trash."

The leader of the brave "them" who actually taunt a 250-pound LB following a loss? Oh, just Brown's father, who's a diehard Cowboys supporter.

"My dad was giving it to me," he said while looking back on the 2017 season. "I said, 'Don't worry about it. Next year's gonna be a different movement.'"

"I'm gonna talk trash at the end of this season," Brown added. "It's a house divided."

Adrian Peterson knows what Brown's talking about. The Texas native even went as far as to break down exactly how his own house is divided.

According to him, 75-percent of his family are all about the Cowboys, 10-percent are looking for him to put up good numbers in a 'Boys victory and the final 15-percent have converted to the burgundy and gold.

Rookie corner Greg Stroman can relate as well. The Virginia kid who'll be making his debut in the series he's very familiar with said his grandma and her relatives fall on both sides of the matchup.

Stroman does have one advantage over Brown and Peterson, though. Unlike the two veterans, he was able to get his entire family's rooting interests in order for Sunday, at least.

"They all bought in now," he said.

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Redskins-Cowboys Week 7 preview: A storyline, a stat and a player to watch

Redskins-Cowboys Week 7 preview: A storyline, a stat and a player to watch

This Sunday, for the 117th time, the Redskins and Cowboys will meet. 

Dallas will bring its 3-3 record into FedEx Field and face off with a 3-2 Washington squad. The winner of the contest will guarantee themselves a share of the NFC East lead heading into Week 8.

Here's a storyline, stat and player to watch for the next installment of this rivalry. Once you're done reading those, you can officially start preparing yourself for some sketchy fourth down decisions by Jason Garrett. 

Biggest storyline

Since his tidy but effective game vs. the Packers, Alex Smith turned in a disconcerting performance in New Orleans and a lukewarm effort (albeit a winning one) against the Panthers. Overall, Smith has looked very in control at times but also uneasy and ineffective at others so far in 2018.

So, the biggest storyline in this edition of the series has to do with Smith. If this game calls for it, can he lead the 'Skins to a victory?

That could be difficult vs. the Cowboys. The QB will be without Jamison Crowder again, and on Friday, Jay Gruden listed Paul Richardson as doubtful. Chris Thompson, meanwhile, is questionable.

So, it's likely Smith will be without two of his most talented weapons and possible that he'll be missing three. And on top of that, he'll be operating behind an offensive line that's had issues, which is contributing to his sometimes shaky feet in the pocket.  

To make things even harder, the Dallas defense allows the second-fewest points-per-game in the league and boasts a defensive line that Gruden is very worried about because it employs a scheme that involves a lot of movement. The Colts D-line uses a lot of stunts and movement, too, and they held the 'Skins to just 9 points in Week 2.

Smith has yet to top 300 yards this season or throw for more than two touchdowns in a single outing. He's had no problem winning when the team jumps to an early lead and the running game is going, sure, but he can't count on that each time he starts. 

At some point, his right arm is going to have to be mainly responsible for a Redskins W. And there'd be no better time for that to happen than in his first shot against his new franchise's most-hated opponent.

One key stat

Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott don't know what it's like to play an NFL game vs. Washington and leave that game as the loser. Prescott is 4-0 in his four starts, while Elliott suited up in three of those triumphs. 

Elliott has been a big-time problem for the Redskins in their run-ins. The RB has scored five times against the burgundy and gold and averages 110 yards per appearance. 

Come Sunday around 7:30 or 8 p.m., when Elliott's day is done, odds are you'll be able to look at his stat line and judge the outcome of the game solely based on it.

If Greg Manusky and his defense, particularly his young stars up front, are able to bottle up Zeke, you have to like the Redskins' chances of beating the Cowboys for the first time since the 2015 season finale.

The Redskin to watch

Charley Casserly identified Fabian Moreau as a key Redskin for Week 7 (full video above). Another one worth watching is DJ Swearinger.

Swearinger terrorized Cam Newton last week and really flew around the entire field. He'll need to be as active against the Cowboys and, most importantly, be a sure tackler.

Elliott is going to churn out a few seven- and eight-yard runs. It'll be on Swearinger, plus fellow safety Montae Nicholson, to not let those become 20- or 30-yard gains. 

A lot of the attention, and deservedly so, will go toward what Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Matt Ioannidis are doing on Sunday. But if Swearinger can take smart angles, get Elliott to the ground and make a few plays in pass coverage, that'll go a long way vs. a limited Dallas offense.

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