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Will 10 wins get in?

Will 10 wins get in?

In 2005 and again in 2007 the Washington Redskins faced strings of must-win games in December. They lost to San Diego in the last game of November of '05 to fall to 5-6. They then reeled off five straight wins to grab a Wild Card spot. Last year they were 5-7 after a December 2 loss to the Bills and it took four wins in a row to pull out another postseason berth.

This year, the Redskins sit at 7-5 going into the final month of the season. While they are third in their division and fourth among the four teams with realistic Wild Card aspirations, their situation for making the playoffs is difficult, but not as desperate as it was three years ago or last year.

A repeat of last year's four-game run would almost certainly lead to a trip to the playoffs. Here are the four teams currently in contention plus Tampa Bay, with the same record as Carolina and leading the NFC South on tiebreakers:

TB 9-3: @CAR @ATL SD OAK
CAR 9-3: TB DEN @NYG @NO
ATL 8-4: @NO TB @MIN STL
DAL 8-4: @PIT NYG BAL @PHI
WAS 7-5: @BAL @CIN PHI @SF

At first glance, this looks rather bleak as the Redskins will have to pass two teams in order to make it in. That's difficult, but not as daunting as it may seem.

To set this up, let's say that the Redskins are able to get to 10 wins with wins over Philly and San Francisco as part of the mix. That would give them a division record of 3-3 and a conference record of 8-4.

Look at Dallas' remaining schedule. It's the hardest of any NFL team. The Cowboys will do well to go 2-2 against that gauntlet. Should one of those losses come against the Eagles or Giants they would be at 10-6 but with five conference losses. The Redskins would win the tiebreaker based on conference record.

The Bucs, Panthers, and Falcons have something of a round robin going on in the next couple of weeks as Tampa Bay plays at Carolina this Sunday and Atlanta hosts the Bucs the next week. There are way too many possible outcomes of those three games to go into all of them but the best thing for the Skins is for the Bucs to sweep the two games and take command of the NFC South. Then Carolina would have four conference losses and would have to win two of their last three to get to 11 wins and stay out of a tiebreaker with a 10-win Redskins team. The Redskins would win that tiebreaker since Carolina would have five NFC losses if it finished 1-2 at that point.

The Falcons are 5-3 and all of their remaining games are against NFC teams. That means that if they finish 10-6 they will automatically have five conference losses and would finish behind the Skins in a tiebreaker.

The Redskins want to stay out of a tiebreaker with the Bucs, who have only two conference losses with two NFC games left.

But all the Redskins need to have a good shot at making it a 10-6 is to have no more than one non-division winner to finish at 11-5.

What it boils down to here is that while this Sunday night's game against the Ravens is important in a lot of ways, it's not vital to the team's playoff chances. If they lose, it's a non-conference game and they would be facing three games (I hate to label those last three as "very winnable" as everything has been a struggle lately but they are games the Skins should be able to win without playing at their absolute peak) that they would have to sweep to get to 10.

The picture will become clearer after this week's games and we'll have solid must-win and must-lose games after Week 15. But for now, 10 seems to be the number that will have the Redskins playing into January.

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Enemy Intel: Yes, Redskins fans, you need to root for the Cowboys again

Enemy Intel: Yes, Redskins fans, you need to root for the Cowboys again

Here is my weekly Redskins-centric spin around the NFL:

Before we get going, let’s line up the NFL wild card contenders by current seed and their remaining four games.

Giants (8-4): Cowboys, Lions, @Eagles, @Redskins
Bucs (7-5): Saints, @Cowboys, @Saints, Panthers
Redskins (6-5-1): @Eagles, Panthers, @Bears, Giants
Vikings (6-6): @Jaguars, Colts, @Packers, Bears
Packers (6-6): Seahawks, @Bears, Vikings, @Lions
Cardinals (5-6-1): @Dolphins, Saints, @Seahawks, @Rams
Saints (5-7): @Bucs, @Cardinals, Bucs, @Falcons
Eagles (5-7): Redskins, @Ravens, Giants, Cowboys

—The Redskins can knock the Eagles out of any practical chance of making the playoffs with a win on Sunday. An Eagles loss would mean they could finish no better than 8-8 and that is highly unlikely to get it done this year.

—For a second straight week, Redskins fans need to root for Cowboys to win. Or for their opponent to lose. Some wanted to make that distinction last week when Cowboys played the Vikings and the optimal outcome for the Redskins was a Dallas win. However you want to look at it, a Giants loss to Dallas could move the Redskins to within a half game of the No. 5 seed.

MORE REDSKINS: Assessing the four remainig opponents

—There should be no hesitation about pulling for the Saints to beat the Bucs. A Washington win and a Tampa Bay loss puts the Redskins back into playoff position with the No. 6 seed. The Bucs are 2.5-point favorites at home. They are the hot team, coming in with four straight wins while New Orleans has lost three of four. The Saints are on the fringe of contention but Redskins fans need to pull for the teams ahead of Washington in the standings.

—The Redskins can’t look for much help when it comes to the team immediately behind them in the standings. The Vikings visit the Jaguars, who are locked in to yet another season of double-digit losses. You might be tempted to look for the home underdog to put up a fight and they might. But Blake Bortles has thrown three pick sixes this year and the Vikings have returned two interceptions for TDs this year. Look for such a play to be decisive and for the Vikings to remain tight with Washington in the standings.

—The other team a half game behind the Redskins is the Packers. They host the Seahawks in what could be very snowy conditions in Green Bay. Seattle is a three-point favorite but if the weather gets crazy anything could happen. Redskins fans need to root for the Seahawks, for obvious reasons.

RELATED: Three Redskins out on Sunday, Reed questionable

—The Cardinals creeped back into contention with their win over the Redskins. That win and the fact that they have a tie on their ledger means that the Redskins do not want to finish with the same record as Arizona. This is one of the few situations where a tiebreaker would matter. It’s an easy call to pull for them to fall to the AFC Dolphins.

—I went 2-1 last week, winning with the Patriots over the Rams and the Seahawks over the Panthers. I have four NFL picks this week, all of them road favorites: the Redskins -1 on the road over the Eagles, the Cowboys -3 at the Giants, the Falcons -6 over the Rams in L.A., and the Seahawks giving three to the Packers.

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Need to Know: Assessing the Redskins' four remaining opponents

Need to Know: Assessing the Redskins' four remaining opponents

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, December 10, one day before the Washington Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles.

Timeline

Today's schedule: No media availability

Days until: Panthers @ Redskins 9; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 14; Giants @ Redskins, New Year’s Day 22

Injuries of note:
Out:
G Long (concussion), S Blackmon (concussion), DE Lanier
Limited: TE Reed (shoulder), G Scherff (ankle), DE Jean Francois (knee/foot), DE Baker (ankle), G Shawn Lauvao (groin)
Final injury report

Around Redskins Park

The Redskins have four games remaining on their schedule. Three wins would give them a record of 9-6-1 and a very good shot at the playoffs. Four will almost certainly get them a ticket to keep playing; two wins or fewer will have them needing a whole lot of help to make the postseason

Let’s take a look at the Redskins’ remaining four opponents and revisit the confidence level on the Redskins’ chances of beating each one of them. (I first did this exercise a few weeks ago).

@Eagles, 5-7, weighted DVOA via Football Outsiders, 15.3% (ranked 5th)
The Eagles looked like playoff contenders for about half of the season but they have taken a tumble back to earth, losing five of their last six. Right now the Redskins are the better team, although their long injury list is an area for concern. The Eagles appear to be in some degree of disarray after their coach accused some unnamed players of giving less than full effort. Confidence that the Redskins will win: High

Panthers, 4-8, DVOA -7.5% (25th)
They won’t be able to defend their NFC championship much longer. By the time this game comes around they could be either eliminated or on the verge of being mathematically out of the playoffs. Their problems are numerous including big issues at cornerback (too bad they didn’t have a guy who could have helped franchise tagged) and an offensive line that has been injury-wracked all year. Still, Cam Newton is a scary quarterback and he still has tight end Greg Olsen and receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Ted Ginn Jr. If the Redskins get into a shootout they could be in trouble. Confidence: Moderately high

@Bears, 3-9, DVOA -3.0%, (24th)
Matt Barkley is the Bears’ third starting QB this season and in most statistical categories he’s the worst of the three. The Bears have been hit by injuries as hard as any NFL team with multiple starters on injured reserve. They probably would have struggled even with those players healthy; without them they are one of the five worst teams in the NFL. The one thing to beware of is the late December weather in Chicago, which could randomize the outcome to an extent. Confidence: Very high

Giants, 8-4, DVOA 5.0%, (12th)
The new players on the Giants’ defense were just starting to gel when end Jason Pierre-Paul’s season ended after sports hernia surgery. Their defense, with the No. 7 DVOA (-9.6%), won’t collapse but it won’t be as strong. Eli Manning’s stats are down a tick from last year but as long as he has Odell Beckham to throw to the Giants won’t be totally stymied on offense. This one is hard to get a good feel for this far out, not knowing what might be at stake for either team. Confidence: Moderate

For comparison purposes, the 6-5-1 Redskins have a DVOA of 9.8% (10th)

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