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Will 10 wins get in?

Dec 3, 2008, 9:35 AM EST

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.

  1. Jeff - Dec 3, 2008 at 11:20 AM

    Great post Rich. I’m breathing just a little bit easier.

  2. Anonymous - Dec 3, 2008 at 12:49 PM

    I’ll be surprised if 10 wins gets you in this year. I hope the ‘Skins make it, but I think they may have to win out. Too much depending on other teams. They win out, they’re in. They win 10 and maybe – maybe not. Let’s go for the sure fire thing. If they get in with ten wins, don’t worry, I’ll be PLEASANTLY surprised. But they still need to step their game up.

  3. Jeff - Dec 3, 2008 at 1:01 PM

    Reading on Redskins Insider the drug-related suspension against the Saints and the Vikes, which make our wild card competitors’ lives easier.

    Do you still think 10 wins gets in? It’s not looking good.

  4. Anonymous - Dec 3, 2008 at 3:45 PM

    Three more wins? Hey, what say we get ONE win first and then talk about getting more. We haven’t had a win in weeks and we haven’t had a win against a quality opponent since the leaves were still on the trees.

  5. Rich Tandler - Dec 4, 2008 at 12:12 AM

    Jeff, it does make Atlanta’s road a bit easier, but I still don’t see them finishing better than 2-2.

    And I do see the poster’s point about needing to win one first. But the Skins have played well on the road (4-1) and have taken care of business against the bad teams (with the exception of the Rams).

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