During their last three runs to the playoffs the Redskins have been in desperate straits in December. In 2007, 2012, and 2015 they put themselves into early holes and had to spend the stretch run climbing out of them.
By no means are the Redskins on Easy Street as they make a run at this year’s playoffs. But they are not playing catch-up. A loss would be damaging, no doubt, but not fatal as December losses in previous years may have been.
For the next few weeks, the shoe is on the other foot as the Redskins face three potentially desperate opponents. On Sunday, they face the Cardinals, who were in the NFC title game last year. They are currently 4-6-1, two full games behind the Redskins for the sixth seed in the NFC playoffs. A loss to the Redskins would put them three games out with four to play, plus Washington would hold the tiebreaker edge with the head-to-head win.
But a Cardinals win would keep them alive—still desperate and facing long odds but nonetheless alive.
Redskins linebacker Will Compton was with the Redskins during their run last year and he knows that the game on Sunday will have a different sort of vibe.
“I guess you feel more of that playoff environment, that, I don’t want to say effort and say that guys take plays off earlier in the year,” said the defensive captain. “There’s just more urgency, you get teams’ best shots, there’s some different wrinkles in their system, things like that. We know we’ve got a big game coming up with Arizona this week and they’re in a must-win situation.”
“We just know we’re going to get their best shot, whatever that is. We know that they’re more desperate, so to speak, than us. We’re desperate as well, if we want to continue to control our own destiny, we’ve got to win, we’ve got to win out . . . They’re where we were.”
After Sunday, there are two more games against teams who could be fighting for their playoff lives. A road game against the Eagles, who are a game and a half behind the Redskins at 5-6, comes in Week 14. If they beat the Bengals they will be looking to make a stand in Philadelphia and the Redskins will be trying to put another nail in the coffin of their division foes.
The following Monday night the Panthers come to FedEx Field. At 4-7 the defending NFC champs’ playoff hopes are on life support. The plug could be pulled if they lose to either the Seahawks or Chargers in between now and that game. But if they get on a roll and win those two games they will believe that they are very much alive and will be the desperate opponent.
Meanwhile, the Redskins will do everything they can to win games and play the role of spoiler. If they can do that they will find themselves in the playoffs for a second straight year for the first time since 1992.