For once, I think most Redskins fans are looking forward to the coming games, and future seasons. After being left for dead after the loss to Carolina, two straight wins have gotten the Redskins back into the playoff race. We currently sit one game behind the Seahawks for the final wild card spot, and still are very much alive in the division race. (As I write this, the Giants look like they will beat the Packers and stay two games ahead, but their upcoming schedule will be difficult.)
What to hope for? First, if the Redskins are to have any real chance of making the playoffs, they have to beat the Giants on Monday night. With a loss, the playoffs are still mathematically possible, but the odds would be astronomical. The following teams are in the hunt. One wild card is almost certainly going to be either the Bears or the Packers, so I'm not bothering looking at their schedules. For reference, the Redskins remaining schedule is Giants, at Browns, Ravens, at Eagles, Cowboys.
New York Giants, currently 6-4, likely 7-4 after the game tonight. They are playing the best half of football I have seen out of anyone this year, bar one bad coverage that allowed a long touchdown pass. But we all know how inconsistent they can be. The Giants remaining schedule: at Redskins, Saints, at Falcons, at Ravens, Eagles. A Redskins win on Monday night would leave the Redskins a game back in the division, but, by winning out, the Redskins would hold a tiebreaker on division record. The Redskins certainly have the easier schedule, and the Giants have a habit of performing poorly late in the year. The clearest path to the playoffs for the Redskins is simply to win out, and hopefully have a home playoff game in January. But realistically, at least one loss (Ravens) is probable. Can we count on the Giants to lose three of five games?
Minnesota Vikings, currently 6-5. The Vikings have been good at home, but play only 2 of 5 games there. Their remaining schedule: at Packers, Bears, at Rams, at Texans, Packers. A real murders-row. Other than the game in St. Louis, and a possible home finale against the Packers (who might be resting players), I don't see the Vikings winning any of these games. Plus, the Redskins hold a tie-breaker. The Vikings aren't really a concern at this point.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers, currently 6-5. The Buccaneers have been a surprise team this year. Their remaining schedule: at Broncos, Eagles, at Saints, Rams, at Falcons. The Redskins could be able to make up the game on the Buccaneers, and hold a tie-breaker. Tampa will surprise at least one team in the stretch run, but are still likely to lose two of the remaining games.
New Orleans Saints, currently 5-6. The Saints have done well to climb into the playoff race after a 0-4 start, but as Redskins fans know all too well, it is hard to come back from that. The schedule isn't exactly friendly either. At Falcons, at Giants, Buccaneers, at Cowboys, Panthers. Win out, and the Saints will be looking good, but even one slip-up, and they are on the outside looking in. The Redskins hold a tie-breaker here, as well.
Seattle Seahawks, currently 6-5. The Seahawks are great at home, but struggle no end on the road. Fortunately, they only have two road games left on the schedule. At Bears, Cardinals, at Bills, 49ers, Rams. The Redskins currently hold the tie-breaker (5-4 conference record vs. 4-4.)
I foresee these teams finishing as follows, but will probably be wrong.
Redskins: best case scenario, 9-7. Worst case, 7-9. I feel reasonably certain the Redskins beat the Browns and at least one out of the Eagles and the Cowboys. I don't see them beating both the Giants and the Ravens.
Giants: best case scenario, 12-4. Worst case, 9-7. There's not a team the Giants can't beat, on their day. But they are prone to having good days and bad days. I think they'll probably lose a game they would normally win (hopefully against the Redskins) and might drop two games. But I think they'll probably finish at least 10-6.
Vikings: best case scenario, 8-8. Worst case, 6-10. The Vikings have been surprisingly good, but run into a tough schedule. If they finish .500, I think that's an accomplishment. I wouldn't be surprised if they don't win a game from here on out.
Buccaneers: best case scenario, 10-6. Worst case, 8-8. The schedule shapes up kindly for the Buccaneers. Games against the Eagles and Rams, plus a game against a Falcons team that will probably be resting players, means they have the best chance right now to get into the playoffs.
Saints: best case scenario, 10-6. Worst case, 6-10. The Saints could win out. They have the talent to do so. But they could also lose most of their remaining games, as their defense just doesn't have it. The big indicator will be how they do on Thursday in Atlanta; the Saints normally beat the Falcons, but if they lose this one, I don't see them making the playoffs.
Seahawks: best case scenario, 10-6. Worst case, 8-8. The Seahawks are great at home, and have three of five games there. But one of those games comes against the 49ers, who don't care where the game is played, and will probably be looking to wrap up a chance at a bye.
The Redskins, unless they win out, are probably on the outside looking in. The Buccaneers will likely finish 10-6, and the Seahawks might as well. If the Redskins finish 10-6 they will almost certainly be in, as they will hold a tiebreaker with all of the above teams, unless the Seahawks beat either the Bears or the 49ers. Lose a game, though, and the Redskins will probably stay at home for the postseason, again.