With three games to play, the Redskins’ playoff picture is clear in some ways but quite muddled in others.
What is clear is the optimal scenario. If the Redskins, who are 6-7, win their remaining three games they are in (Bills, at Eagles, at Cowboys). They are tied for the lead in the NFC East now with the Eagles and, if they win in Miami tonight, the Giants. At 9-7 the Redskins would have the tiebreaker edge over the Eagles with a head-to-head sweep (they play in Philadelphia in Week 16). They would have a 4-2 division record which would put them ahead of the Giants, who have three division losses, in that tiebreaker.
But things get muddled if the Redskins drop a game or two. A loss would not necessarily eliminate them but it could move them from first to third in the division depending on how the other teams do.
There are still a lot of ways that things can play out but let’s look at one scenario that would lead to an occurrence that nobody expected before the season began or even a month or so ago—the Redskins resting their starters.
It’s really not that complicated or implausible. The Giants would have to lose two of their next three games, which are tonight at Miami, at home against the undefeated Panthers, and at Minnesota. The Redskins would have to beat the Bills on Sunday and then go into Philly and come out with a win.
That would make the Redskins 8-7 with a game to play. At best the Eagles would be 7-8 and a game back. Washington would have the head-to-head sweep in its pocket so Philadelphia would be eliminated. The Giants would be at best 6-9, at least two games back with one to play. The Redskins would clinch the NFC East.
Not only that, the final game in Dallas likely would be rendered meaningless. If the Packers win just one more game the winner of the NFC North will have at least 10 wins. Since no team in the East can finish better than 9-7 the winner of the division would be locked into the No. 4 seed in the playoffs.
That means that Jay Gruden could treat the Dallas game as a preseason game, getting some rest for his banged-up team while being able to look forward to a playoff game at FedEx Field on January 9 or 10.
There is a long way to go before that happens. But it is definitely in play.
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