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The 5 O'Clock Club: Wildcard Watch - Week 11

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It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

The 5 o’clock club aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

Game Result - Vikings

The Redskins lost a high-scoring affair at home in Week 10, with the defense delivering their poorest outing of the season.

Week 10 overall summary

The loss to the Vikings hurt the Redskins wildcard chances, but it didn’t kill them entirely. Each remaining game on the schedule will take on increasing importance.

Because the final 6 games on the schedule are against teams with significantly poorer won-lost records than those of the opponents from the first 11 weeks, the Redskins will have the opportunity to make up a lot of ground quickly at the end of the season, however, the team might be required to win out from here to actually get a wildcard berth.

It’s beginning to look as though it will take at least a 10 win season, and possibly an 11-5 record to get a wildcard bid from the NFC this season, and the Redskins already have 5 losses.

The team could play well down the stretch, finish with 9 or 10 wins, and still find themselves watching the postseason on TV, and — like last year — regretting a handful of plays that might’ve earned them an extra win or two.

The 4 division leaders - the Eagles, Saints, Vikings and Rams — all extended their division leads this week. The Eagles were on a bye week, but all three of the other NFC East division teams lost on Sunday, and the Saints and Rams both put up huge wins, with the Saints destroying the Bills 47-10 and the Rams walloping the Texans 33-7. The Redskins were the only team to put up any resistance in a game against a division leader this week.

At the bottom of the conference, the Bears lost to underdog Packers, while the Tampa Bay Bucs picked up a win in a low-scoring affair against the Jets.

The Giants and Niners played each other. The 49ers won, becoming the last NFC team to win its first game of the season, and (for the moment, at least) ceding the first overall pick in the draft to the Browns of the AFC.

The Wildcard contenders

In Week 10, there were 2 games between wildcard contending teams, plus the Redskins’ game against the division leading Vikings, accounting for 5 of the 8 teams in competition for the two wildcard spots. All three games went pretty much as expected:

The other wildcard contenders, all won, with the Packers & Lions both winning games against weaker opponents on Sunday, and the Panthers beating up on the Dolphins on Monday Night Football.

This is what the NFC looks like now:

7-3

Carolina Panthers

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Week 10 result: The Panthers hammered the Dolphins 45-21 on MNF.

Week 11: The Panthers are on a BYE week

For at least a week, they won’t lose a game.

Heath Evans on NFL Total Access this week projected the rest of Carolina’s games and predicted an 11-5 season. Hmmm...

Key games remaining: Carolina plays the Saints, Vikings, Packers & Falcons in 4 of their last 5 games.

If the Panthers are going to hold onto the first wildcard spot, then it would be nice if they could beat the Packers and Falcons along the way.

6-3

Seattle Seahawks

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Week 10 result: beat the Cardinals in Arizona on TNF.

Another team has lost another star player — Richard Sherman popped his Achilles tendon and is out for the rest of the year. I found his comments after the game almost astounding. He basically said that he knew the Achilles injury was coming, because it had been bothering him all season, but that you just play on it till it goes, then take care of it after that. He sounded like my neighbor explaining that he was trying to get another 5,000 miles out of the tires on his car before he replaces them ahead of the winter snows.

Can the Seahawks win enough games to get into the playoffs without their shutdown corner?

Week 11: This week the Seahawks play the Falcons in Seattle on Sunday Night Football, with 3 extra days’ rest, while the Falcons will be coming off a victory in the first Zeke-less Cowboys matchup of the season, which took place in Atlanta.

With both the Seahawks and the Falcons ahead of the Redskins in the wildcard race, the actual winner & loser of this game doesn’t much matter. However, Atlanta looks to have the tougher remaining schedule, and is one game behind Seattle, so I think I’ll be rooting for a Falcons victory in this week’s game.

Key games remaining: Eagles, Jaguars, Rams, Cowboys, (Cardinals)

5-4

Dallas Cowboys

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Week 10: Dallas lost on the road to the Atlanta Falcons by a score of 27-7.

Week 11: Dallas, without their star running back for the second week in a row, takes on the red-hot, division-leading and league-leading Philadelphia Eagles . Look for the losing streak to go to 2 games.

I have a hard time imagining any way that the Cowboys get a win against a rested and talented Eagles team who are smelling home field throughout the playoffs. I think the Cowboys will come out of Week 11 at 5-5 before taking on the Chargers on Thanksgiving and the Redskins a week later on TNF.

The Cowboys may be without Tyron Smith for a second consecutive game on Sunday. His absence may be more critical overall than Zeke’s.

The Thursday Night Football game between Dallas and Washington will probably result in the winner staying alive in the playoff race, and the loser being eliminated, as the Eagles are unlikely to be resting any starters in Week 17 against the Cowboys, as they fight to keep home-field advantage.

Key games remaining: Redskins, Seahawks, Eagles

5-4

Detroit Lions

NFL: Preseason-Cincinnati Bengals at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Week 10: The Lions punched their free-pass against the Browns this week.

Week 11: On the road against division rival, Chicago Bears.

Key games remaining: Vikings, Ravens, Packers

The Lions probably have the softest remaining schedule of the eight teams. It’s still possible that they could overtake the Vikings (whose remaining schedule includes Rams, Lions, Falcons, Panthers and Packers) for the NFC North division championship, though the Vikings win against the Redskins leaves them with a 2 game lead in the divison race, and the likelihood that they can hold on for the championship.

5-4

Green Bay Packers

NFL: Preseason-Oakland Raiders at Green Bay Packers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Week 10: Beat the Bears, in something of an upset.

Week 11: The Packers host the Ravens, who are coming off a bye week, at Lambeau Field.

The Ravens boast the #7 overall team defense, that is 3rd in pass defense. The Packers offense is ranked 21st in Passing, 21st in Rushing, and 21st overall. It could be a long, low scoring, and frustrating game for the home team. With a very tough remaining schedule that includes two division leaders, a loss to the Ravens could mark the beginning of the end for Green Bay’s playoff hopes.

Key games remaining: Ravens, Steelers, Panthers, Vikings, Lions

Without Aaron Packers, Green Bay had lost three games in a row (Vikings, Saints, Lions) scoring 10, 17, and 17 points respectively, before putting up 23 points to beat an inconsistent divisional foe in Chicago. Personally, I don’t think the Packers can survive the loss of their quarterback, and are likely to be the second team to get pushed out of the wildcard race, shortly behind the Cardinals. We’ll probably be able to stick a fork in ‘em around Week 13 or 14.

And then there’s this:

Aaron Rodgers doesn’t act like a man ready to shut it down for the season. The Packers quarterback took snaps from a trainer ... during Wednesday’s practice, Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

It marked the first time Rodgers did something during the portion of practice open to the media in the four weeks since he fractured his right collarbone. He worked on cardio and agility drills and simulated snaps from under center and in the shotgun.

Some of his rehab work involved his throwing motion in his attempt to maintain range of motion.

The Packers placed Rodgers on injured reserve Oct. 20, five days after his injury. He becomes eligible to start practicing six weeks from that date and eligible to play again two weeks after that.

5-4

Atlanta Falcons

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Week 10: Beat the Cowboys at home.

Week 11: The Falcons will play the Seahawks in Seattle on Monday Night Football.

Seattle will be at home, with an extra 4 days’ rest, while the Falcons are reeling. Despite winning against a Zeke-less Cowboys, the Falcons have lost 5 of their last 7 games, with several tough games remaining.

I see this week as an absolute ‘must win’ for the Falcons.

With the Vikings and two games against the Saints remaining on their schedule, it’s hard to see the Falcons finishing above .500 if they lose to Seattle on Monday. In fact, on NFL Total Access this week I saw Shawn O’Hara project the rest of the season for the Falcons, and he has them finishing 7-9. D’oh! That would be a huge fall for a team that started 2017 as NFC Champs.

I’ll be rooting for the Falcons against the Seahawks on Monday, but if they fall to 5-5 this week, I see at least 3 losses remaining on their schedule, meaning that they aren’t likely to finish with more than 8 wins.

It might take a while, but if they don’t lose to the Seahawks this week (which would, in my mind, close the door on their playoff hopes) then I think we’ll still be able to stick a fork in the Falcons by Week 14.

Key games remaining: Vikings, Saints (twice), Panthers

4-5

Washington Redskins

NFL: Preseason-Washington Redskins at Atlanta Falcons Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Week 10: Lost at home to the Vikings

Week 11: On the road against the New Orleans Saints, who are currently in first place in the NFC South.

The Redskins have a history of struggling at home, but playing well on the road against good teams, but, after opening the season with two losses, the Saints have the NFL’s longest winning streak at the moment, and they have dominated every game, both at home and on the road, winning by scores of 34-13, 20-0, 52-38, 26-17, 20-12, 30-10, and 47-10. It’s hard to imagine how the Redskins can come away from this road game with a victory.

Personally, I see the Redskins falling to 4-6, necessitating a 6-game run against non-division leaders to finish the season if they want to get to 10 wins and have any shot at a wildcard berth.

Even 10 wins may not be enough this year. I’m beginning to think that both NFC wildcard teams are going to need at least 11 wins to get into the postseason, depending on how the tie-breakers work out; that’s one reason we can’t afford to lose to the Cowboys a second time this season.

Key games remaining: Cowboys, Cardinals, Broncos

4-5

Arizona Cardinals

NFL: Preseason-Denver Broncos at Arizona Cardinals Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Week 10: Lost to division rival Seattle Seahawks on Thursday Night Football.

Week 11: Playing at the Texans.

The Cardinals have fallen to 4-5. If they lose to the Texans this week, then I will drop them out of the WIldcard Watch.

If not for the injury to Deshaun Watson that leaves the Texans with an unsettled QB situation I’d drop Arizona now, but they’ve shown a pesky ability to hang around .500 by getting well-timed games.

A win against Houston will keep the Cardinals on the watch list... for a little while.

Key games remaining: Jaguars, Rams, Titans, Redskins, Seahawks

Key games in Week 11

  • Rams @ Vikings, Sunday 1:00 pm **big game between 2 division leaders that could open the door for Seahawks or Lions**

Redskin rooting interest here would be for Vikings to win, as the Redskins lose the tie-breaker with Minnesota. It is best for the Redskins if the Vikings win the NFC North rather than compete for a wild card.

  • Redskins @ Saints, Sunday 1:00 pm **big game**
  • Ravens @ Packers, Sunday 1:00 pm (AFC - NFC)
  • Cardinals @ Texans, Sunday 1:00 pm (NFC -- AFC)

Redskin rooting interest in the inter-conference games if to back the AFC teams (Ravens and Texans) to add losses to our wildcard competition.

  • Eagles @ Cowboys, Sunday Night Football **big game**

Redskin rooting interest is to cheer for the Eagles (or perhaps, more correctly, against the Cowboys). The Redskins have no hope to surpass the Eagles and take the division title, so it would be best for Washington if Philly can slap two more losses on the Cowboys in the regular season.

  • Falcons @ Seahawks, Monday Night Football **big game**

Redskin rooting interest is probably a coin-flip here, but since the Falcons are likely to lose at least three other games this season, I think I’ll be pulling for Atalanta to down the Seahawks this week, though there is truly no ‘bad’ result for the Redskins from this game.

The Redskins situation

Generally speaking, the best outcome for the Redskins is to have division leaders win their games against our seven wildcard rivals; that is, we should be cheering for the Eagles, Rams, Vikings & Saints whenever they play against the Panthers, Seahawks, Cowboys, Falcons, Cardinals, Packers and Lions — unless the division leaders change.

A strong early & mid-season lineup of opponents for the Redskins

The Redskins have already played the toughest schedule in the NFL, and this week’s game against the Saints only adds to that. The Redskins’ first 9 opponents have a combined record of 52-30 (roughly a 10-6 season), which is a winning percentage of 63.4%.

Adding the Saints brings the opponents for the Redskins first 11 weeks to 59-32 (64.8%). Brutal.

A soft landing ahead

But the Thanksgiving game, and the 4 games in December (5 games total) look a lot easier. The records of the teams in those 5 games are: 1-8, 3-6, 4-5, 3-5, 1-8. That adds up to 12-32 for the Redskin opponents in those 5 games.

Winning those 5 late season games will be key to any post-season hopes that the Redskins have.

The roadmap to a wildcard berth

  1. Get through the next game without any significant new injuries. Win if possible. Don’t panic if the ‘Skins lose.
  2. Get as many currently injured players healthy and back on the field as possible by Thanksgiving.
  3. Beat Dallas, in Dallas, on 30 November
  4. Win the 5 games against the Giants, Chargers, Cardinals and Broncos.
  5. Chill and enjoy with your favorite snack food.

The Playoff Predictor

Week to week, my accuracy in picking winners & losers is only about 10/16, so I have no illusions about my ability to accurately pick the winners and losers in 8 games per week for 7 weeks.

That said, I have built a little spreadsheet to try to predict what the playoff picture will look like when Week 17 comes to an end.

Prior to the Week 10 game, I projected a win for the Redskins against the Vikings. At that time, my model projected an 11-win season and a wildcard berth for Washington.

Following that loss to Minnesota, my model now projects a 10-win season for the Redskins, keeping alive their playoff hopes, even if they lose to the Saints in New Orleans this week.

Based on my projections, the four current division leaders (Eagles, Rams, Saints, Vikings) will finish as the 4 division champs, with the Panthers going to the postseason as wildcard teams at 12-4. Right now, I have the Seahawks, Redskins and Lions all with 10 wins apiece. The Redskins would win the tiebreaker with the Seahawks, so it would come down to tie-breakers between the ‘Skins & Lions.

This far out, I’m not gonna try to figure out those tie breakers. If we get to Week 15 with the same situation, then I’ll start looking that deeply.

Poll

What will be the Cowboys’ record in the next three games that they play without Zeke? (opponents - Eagles, Chargers, Redskins)

This poll is closed

  • 35%
    0-3
    (40 votes)
  • 53%
    1-2
    (60 votes)
  • 10%
    2-1
    (12 votes)
  • 0%
    3-0
    (1 vote)
113 votes total Vote Now