Dec 13, 2005, 8:22 AM EDT
Other than the most important result, their own win in Arizona, not much went right for the Redskins this weekend in their hunt to make the playoffs. The three teams immediately in front of them in the NFC standings–Dallas, Minnesota, and Atlanta—all won.
The chances of Washington getting in with nine wins, as outlined here last week, are not gone but they became a considerably longer shot than they were before. Now Dallas, Minnesota, and Atlanta all need to lose two out of three to wind up with nine wins instead of two out of four. I’m sure that there is some statistical formula where you could work out the odds of decent teams going .500 in four games compared to the chances of them posting a .333 winning percentage in three games. Without Googling that formula, it’s safe to say that the odds are for the latter are considerably worse.
All was not lost for the Redskins, however. The losses by the Bears and the Panthers opened the door just slightly to a very tantalizing possibility—a first-round bye.
All scenarios with three games left are pretty complex, but this one isn’t all that hard to figure out. What has to happen first is for the Redskins to win out and for the Giants to stumble either this week when they host Kansas City or in the season finale in Oakland. That gives the Redskins the division championship at 10-6 based on what would be a better division record than Dallas and the Giants should either of those teams also finish at 10-6.
The other part, the help, is not likely to happen but it’s possible. Seattle has 11 wins so the NFC West winner is excluded from this discussion. The first thing that has to happen is that the winners of the South and North finish with no more than 10 wins. That means that Chicago, Tampa, and Carolina can win no more than one more game and Minnesota can win no more than two. You can look at their finishing schedules below and see what you think the chances of that happening are before you read on.
The edge that a 10-6 Redskins team would have would be its conference record. All 10 wins would be against NFC teams and none of the other potential division winners could have a better conference record. That would give them a week off should Carolina win the South at 10-6 regardless of who wins the North (at 10-6, of course).
If Tampa Bay wins the South at 10-6, Washington would get the bye only if Chicago won the North. Yes, Tampa Bay did beat the Redskins but that wouldn’t matter because they didn’t play the Bears and in a three-way tie, head to head only comes into play if one team beat both of the other teams. It would then go to conference record and that would be advantage, Washington.
The only combination that would have the Redskins playing in the first round of the playoffs would be if Tampa Bay won the South and Minnesota won the North. The Bucs beat both the Skins and the Vikings so that would hand them the #2 seed and Washington and Minnesota would host the Wild Card teams in the first round.
The chances of all of this happening are quite slim, starting with the chances of the Redskins finishing 10-6. But this if this weekend the Panthers, Bucs, and Bears all lose and the Redskins win, you’ll start hearing about this possibility elsewhere. You will have heard it here first.
One other scenario to be cleared up here is the question of how a 10-6 Redskins team could miss out on the playoffs. First, the Giants would have to win their other two games, giving them the division at 11-5. Then it’s a matter of whether or not two or more of the other contenders gets to 11 wins. The issue of the loss to Tampa Bay could also come into play should they and/or the Vikings finish in the tiebreaker pool.
The playoff contenders with their overall, conference, and division records and their remaining games.
1. Seattle: 11-2, 10-1, 6-0Schedule: @Titans, Colts, @ Packers2. Chicago: 9-4, 8-1, 4-0 Schedule: Falcons, @Packers, @Vikings3. New York: 9-4, 8-3, 4-1Schedule: Chiefs, @Redskins, @Raiders4. Tampa: 9-4, 7-3, 3-1Schedule: @Pats, Falcons, Saints5. Carolina: 9-4, 6-3, 2-2Schedule: @Saints, Cowboys, @Falcons6. Minnesota: 8-5, 7-4, 4-1Schedule: Steelers, @Ravens, Bears7. Dallas: 8-5, 6-3, 3-2Schedule: @Skins, @Panthers, Rams8. Atlanta: 7-5, 4-4, 1-2Schedule: Saints, @Bears, @Bucs, Panthers9. Washington: 7-6, 7-2, 2-1Schedule: Cowboys, Giants, @Eagles
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