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The Redskins playoff scenario nitty-gritty, Week 15

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The Redskins playoff scenario nitty-gritty, Week 15

The NFC East playoff picture remains a muddled mess.

There was a chance to have some degree of clarity added to it on Monday night in Miami but the Giants broke open a tie game with an 84-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Odell Beckham Jr. early in the fourth quarter. New York beat the Dolphins 31-24 to stay tied with the Redskins and Eagles atop the NFC East.

Here are the three teams, their NFC East records, and their remaining games:

Redskins (2-2)—Bills, @Eagles, @Cowboys
Eagles (2-2)—Cardinals, Redskins, @Giants
Giants (2-3)—Panthers, @Vikings, Eagles

At the moment the Redskins have the edge in the tiebreakers over the Giants with a better division record and half of the tiebreaker with the Eagles by virtue of their Week 4 win over Philly. In order to make that first win over Philadelphia matter, however, the Redskins have to beat them again on the road in Week 16. That means that if the Redskins win out, they win the division at 9-7.

But a team that has yet to win two in a row this year seems unlikely to finish the season with what would be a four-game winning streak counting their win over the Bears last Sunday. If they do drop a game they will need help in the form of a Giants loss to make it. If they lose two, they need a lot of help.

Looking at the schedules, help could be on the way. Both of the Redskins’ rivals are underdogs at home on Sunday with the Panthers favored by about four points over the Giants and the Cardinals are being called about a field goal better than the Eagles.

Washington is slightly favored over the Bills. If the lines hold, the Redskins would be in a position to clinch the NFC East with an 8-7 record in Week 16 with a win over the Eagles and a Giants loss at Minnesota.

The Redskins would not be out if it they lost that game in Philadelphia to the Eagles to fall to 7-8. If they win in Dallas in Week 17 they would look to the scoreboard to see what happens in MetLife Stadium. If the Eagles beat the Giants they would be 8-8 with a head-to head split against the Redskins but they would take the division with a 4-2 record in the NFC East compared to 3-3 in the division for Washington.

But if the Giants win (after having beaten the Vikings in Week 16) they would be 8-8 and tied with the Redskins. The will have split head to head and they both will have 3-3 division records. The next tiebreaker is record in common games. If it plays out this way, both the Giants and the Redskins would be 5-7 in their 12 common games.

That would send it to the next tiebreaker, which is conference record. Right now the Redskins are 6-4 in the NFC while the Giants are 3-6. A win over Dallas would be Washington’s seventh conference win while the Giants can get to no more than six. That would send the Redskins to the playoffs.

There are some who are saying that the Redskins’ upcoming game against the Bills is their least important remaining game. That may be true, but Buffalo is a common opponent that the Giants beat already. Losing that game could drop the Redskins a game behind in that category and that could come into play under some scenarios.

A rough estimate shows about 35 possibilities for how the three teams currently tied at the top could finish. The possible scenarios will narrow considerably after Sunday’s games. For now, just know that the Redskins control their destiny if they win out, and that if form prevails the Redskins might be able to take the division with two wins in their last three.

But, of course, if form had prevailed this year the Redskins would have been eliminated from the playoffs long ago and we’d be watching the Cowboys, who aren’t even relevant at this point, try to wrap up the division before Christmas. So anything can happen.

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Jay Gruden disappointed by firing of Scot McCloughan, yet optimistic for 2017

Jay Gruden disappointed by firing of Scot McCloughan, yet optimistic for 2017

It's never easy to say goodbye to a well-liked coworker, especially when that employee has been fired. In the NFL, that's no different. Redskins head coach Jay Gruden opened up about the departure of former GM Scot McCloughan while speaking with reporters at the NFL Owners Meetings in Phoenix.

"I was disappointed. I liked Scot. I liked working with Scot. He’s a good person, and a great talent evaluator," Gruden said.

The highly publicized demise of McCloughan as Redskins general manager made plenty of headlines, but as far the organization goes, Gruden believes the team is still in good shape.

"Any time you lose somebody that you become close with, whether it’s a coach or a GM or a player it's disappointing but at the end of the day in pro football, anybody that’s been around it long enough understands, change is going to happen and you have to react and adjust to it and move forward with a positive outlook," Gruden said.

Part of that positive outlook stems from moves the team has made this offseason.

Offensively the franchise brought in a big new weapon in receiver Terrelle Pryor. Paired with 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson, assuming he's healthy, the Redskins could have two dynamic pass catchers to offset the loss of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon. On the defensive line, Gruden thinks new players Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee can emerge as solid players with high upside. Further, Gruden made clear he thinks new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula will make the players on the 'Skins roster into better defensive linemen.

For many fans it's hard to remain optimistic after the controversy that surrounded McCloughan's ouster, but on the field, there's little reason to expect the 'Skins to slide.

In 2016, the team finished one game out of a playoff berth, losing a disappointing final game to the Giants to seal that fate. In 2017, Gruden expects to be right back in the playoff hunt.

"I think everybody in this organization has a positive outlook," Gruden said. "We are going to miss Scot, obviously, but we’re also positive that we can get things we need to get done to be successful."

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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Peter King, Ian Rapoport say Redskins can't afford to let Kirk Cousins get away

Peter King, Ian Rapoport say Redskins can't afford to let Kirk Cousins get away

After he signed the franchise tag a couple of weeks ago, the speculation, rumors and, for some fans, panic around Kirk Cousins has largely quieted down.

The Redskins can ink their quarterback to a long-term deal any time between now and July 15, but talks may not pick up until summer rolls around. A trade can also occur, but no recent reports have indicated that one is in the works.

Therefore, it currently looks like Cousins and the franchise that drafted him back in 2012 will be together for at least one more season. And according to Sports Illustrated's Peter King, that's a wise choice by the Burgundy and Gold.

"I think they did the absolute right thing in making sure Kirk Cousins is gonna be their quarterback this year," King told CSN Redskins Insider JP Finlay at the NFL owner's meetings in Phoenix. "I absolutely, unequivocally would not trade him. That's a white flag." 

As for why King wouldn't move on from No. 8, his explanation was very simple.

"You don't get rid of a guy who's got the second-most passing yards in football over the last two years," he said.

MORE REDSKINS: WILL JAY GRUDEN'S ROLE IN DECISION-MAKING EXPAND THIS YEAR?

Finlay also gathered input on the Redskins' and Cousins' relationship from the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, who's another major voice in the league's media. Rapoport first stated that he would be "beyond stunned" if the 28-year-old was not in D.C. for the 2017 campaign and then laid out how he envisions the year unfolding.

"I do not believe he will sign the extension before the season," he said. "So, he's going to go out there, play on another one-year deal, bet on himself like he did last year. You hope it's the same thing. And then we'll see, because I know there's some talk about him not signing an extension — I'm not so sure about that. Everyone has a price, right?"

"If they offer him $25 [million] a year, Andrew Luck's deal, I would imagine plans would change pretty quickly, right?" Rapoport continued. "So you get to the end of the season, assess where you are, assess the value and see if you can make a business deal. It's terrible to have to pay so much money to your quarterback. The only worse thing is not being able to pay so much money to your quarterback." 

King and Rapoport are clearly both in agreement that losing their rising signal caller would be a huge blow to the Redskins. But while King says Washington should keep Cousins because of his production, Rapoport took a different route when concluding how the negotiations will end up.

"Really good quarterbacks never leave their team. It just never happens," he said. "So I would think there's a way to work this out."

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