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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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In addition to being an NFL player, Bryce Love can now call himself a Stanford graduate

In addition to being an NFL player, Bryce Love can now call himself a Stanford graduate

Bryce Love hopes he'll have the opportunity to carry many footballs in his NFL career. But this past weekend, the running back picked up something that'll be just as, if not more, valuable than the attempts he'll be getting on Sundays.

How's a college diploma from Stanford sound? Pretty solid, right?

Oh, how about a college diploma from Stanford in human biology? Yeah, probably something worth hanging up on the ol' fridge, huh?

Well, that very hard-earned and impressive degree is what Love is now in possession of:

Drafted by the Redskins in late-April and walking across the stage at Stanford in mid-June, Love is doing well for himself recently. He passed up the chance to enter the draft early to ensure he graduated, and now he has.

His college GPA isn't known, but once you find out his high school GPA was 4.5 (that's apparently possible) and add that to the fact that he was able to finish up school out west while also churning up yards for the Cardinal, you can imagine it was very, very good. And if his yards-per-carry average as a pro matches or exceeds it, then the Redskins will be thrilled.

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There's a competition brewing among the Redskins defensive linemen, per Daron Payne

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There's a competition brewing among the Redskins defensive linemen, per Daron Payne

If you find yourself looking for Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen, and Matt Ioannidis, you really just need to find one of them. Odds are, if you locate one, the other two will be close by.

The second-year pro, third-year pro, and fourth-year pro have forged quite a bond on the Redskins' defensive line, which is easily the team's most promising unit going into 2019. The three guys share an appreciation for lifting really heavy weights and dropping opposing quarterbacks. 

As it turns out, that latter love is actually part of the inspiration behind a bet Payne, Allen and Ioannidis have queued up for the 2019 campaign. Payne revealed that while with Larry Michael on a recent episode of Redskins Nation.

"Me and Jon and Matt got a little competition right now on sacks and tackles," he said with a smile, but he ultimately didn't shed any light on what the competition's compensation will be.

Whatever the trio is playing for, it should be a close race.

Ryan Kerrigan led the 'Skins in sacks in 2018, but Allen (8), Ioannidis (7.5) and Payne (5) were second, third and fourth respectively. In terms of tackles, meanwhile, it went Allen (61), Payne (56) and then Ioannidis (31). 

Allen and Payne saw a ton of snaps last year while Ioannidis was used more in a rotational role, which limited his tackles. He's an insanely productive pass rusher, though, so he can make up some ground in the sacks/tackles bet by keeping that trend going. Any of them are a solid pick if you're trying to project who'll capture their title.

Payne, for one, expects to generate better numbers in his second go-round in the league.

"Of course," he responded when Michael asked if he left some sacks out there as a rookie. "Definitely did. I want to get a couple more."

In the team's offseason practices, he's already noticed that things are "coming easier," so perhaps he'll be able to record those extra takedowns he's looking for.

As mentioned earlier, you can make an easy case for Payne, Allen or Ioannidis to win their competition, but you won't know who that winner is until late December.

One thing you can already say, however? That the QBs and running backs they'll be chasing down are the losers in this thing. That much is already known.

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