After two straight victories, postseason a possibility
The Redskins started evaluating players after the Carolina game, trying, in the coach's words, to see who would be part of their future. Two games later the Redskins can evaluate something else: their playoff chances.
It's an improbable turn and one that still requires a tremendous winning streak -- and perhaps a leap of faith.
Only three teams since 1990 have accomplished what the Redskins are trying to do -- go from 3-6 to the postseason (and none since 1996). But the Redskins have won two straight in part because of turnover differential -- a key ingredient to any turnaround. When they lost three straight, they had a minus-2 differential. In the last two games they're plus-5. That must continue.
|Giants at Redskins|
|When » Dec. 3, 8:30 p.m.|
|Where » FedEx Field|
|TV » ESPN|
"There's a sense of urgency when you know you can't stumble," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. "The bottom line is you have to be playing your best football and your guys have to believe, especially your veterans, that they will take games over and they won't be denied."
And now it's also about evaluating their playoff chances.
Can the Redskins win the division? Of course. But they don't control their fate -- not yet at least. However, that could change by late Sunday night depending on the outcome of the Giants' game vs. Green Bay. If the Giants lose, then the Redskins would be one game back but in control of their fate. If the Redskins, improbable as it sounds, and Giants both finish 10-6, then Washington would win the NFC East based on a better division record.
Of course, this means the Redskins would have to win seven straight games, something they haven't done since 1996.
If the teams ended up tied after splitting their two games, then it would come down to the record in the NFC East. The Redskins are 2-1 in the NFC East, while the Giants are 2-2.
Here's the hope for Washington: The Giants' remaining six opponents have a combined 37-24 record compared with the Redskins' final five teams, which are 24-27. Washington's toughest games (the Giants and Baltimore) are at home. The Giants also have road games at Atlanta (9-1) and Baltimore (8-2).
The Redskins also will be hosting New York on Dec. 3 and have an easier schedule the rest of the season.
Could they threaten as a wild card? Yes, but that's the tougher path. It not only requires others to stumble but for the Redskins probably to win the rest of their games. That's asking a lot for a team that just won consecutive games for the first time since the first two weeks of the 2011 season.
There are nine teams with a .500 record or better entering Sunday's games. But the Redskins have beaten the three teams directly ahead of them: New Orleans (5-5), Minnesota (6-4) and Tampa Bay (6-4).
The Bucs have a tough road ahead with two games vs. Atlanta (9-1) and games at New Orleans and Denver. Meanwhile, the Vikings play Chicago twice, Green Bay twice and at Houston. The Saints play four teams currently with winning records: San Francisco, at Atlanta, at the Giants and Tampa Bay. They also play at Dallas.
Seattle (6-4), currently the sixth and final seed, has only two games left vs. teams with a winning record (at Chicago, San Francisco). But they're 1-4 on the road this season and have three away games remaining (at Miami and Buffalo in addition to the Bears).