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The 5 O'Clock Club: Wildcard Watch - Week 10

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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.

The Redskins won in Seattle on a freezing, icy day in the Great Northwest

And they needed to, because -- aside from the Seahawks, who were victimized by the Redskins’ passionate and stifling defense — every other team in the wildcard watch who could have won in Week 9, did win in Week 9 (with the Panthers & Falcons on Sunday, and the Packers & Lions playing each other on Monday night, one team on the watch list had to take a loss in each of those games).

Week 9 offered some separation among the teams in the NFC

The rich got a little richer and the poor definitely got poorer, while the 8 teams in the middle fighting for a wildcard spot mostly just maintained their positions.

The leaders - The Eagles, Saints, Vikings and Rams all won, and now all 4 of them have at least a half-game lead inside their divisions. The Vikings have the biggest cushion, with a 2-game advantage over the Lions.

The losers - At the bottom of the conference, the Bears, Bucs, Giants and Niners all lost, and are each now more focused on the 2018 season than on 2017 — the news from Tampa Bay this week, for example, is that Jameis Winston will be ‘shut down’ for a few weeks, while the 49ers are in no hurry to rush Jimmy Garoppolo into action, but are content for him to learn the playbook while the team loses behind CJ Beathard.

The Wildcard contenders

In Week 9, there were three games between wildcard contending teams, accounting for 6 of the 8 teams in competition for the two wildcard spots:

  • The Redskins won a huge victory against the Seahawks.
  • The Panthers defeated their division rivals, the Falcons.
  • The Lions beat division rival, Packers, on Monday Night Football.

The other wildcard contenders, Dallas & Arizona, both won. Dallas played well and defeated a quality AFC opponent, the Chiefs, in Dallas, while Arizona was granted a temporary reprieve by facing the winless 49ers, who are still hoping to end up with the number one pick in the draft.

This is what the NFC looks like now:

6-3

Carolina Panthers

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

Week 9 result: beat the Falcons on Sunday.

Week 10: play on MNF at home against the AFC Dolphins, so there’s not much chance that Carolina falls off the pace. They actually remain in the hunt for the NFC South title, chasing after the Saints.

Key games remaining: Carolina plays the Saints, Vikings, Packers & Falcons in 4 of their last 5 games. For at least a week or two, they are likely to maintain their position as the top wildcard contender.

5-3

Seattle Seahawks

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

Week 9 result: of course, lost to the Redskins on Sunday, meaning that Washington holds the key tie-breaker with Seattle, if it comes down to that at the end of the season.

Week 10: This week the Seahawks are on the road, playing the Cardinals on Thursday Night Football.

I suspect the Seahawks are going to be angry, and aiming to take it out on their Western Division rivals. This is really a no-lose proposition for the Redskins wildcard hopes, as one of our wildcard rivals will lose a game. My guess is that the Cardinals take the home loss, and fall a game back in the wildcard race, while the Seahawks stay a game ahead of the Redskins, and remain in the hunt for the NFC West division title.

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

Dallas Cowboys

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

Week 9: surprised me by beating Kansas City pretty convincingly in Dallas on Sunday.

Week 10: Their next game is in Atlanta — another no-lose proposition for the Redskins, who benefit regardless of the outcome, though I confess that I’ll be rooting for Atalanta for three reasons:

  1. Well, I just hate Dallas
  2. The Redskins play Dallas again this season, so we can take care of business on our own. Week 7 we lost a must-win game against the Eagles required to stay alive for the division title. The Redskins will have to win the Week 13 game in Dallas to stay alive for the wildcard; they would be very unlikely to get to the playoffs without winning that game.
  3. Atlanta has the more daunting remaining schedule when compared to Dallas, and is more likely to stack up losses against other wildcard contending teams.

Key games remaining: Eagles (twice), Redskins, Seahawks

4-4

Atlanta Falcons

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

Week 9: Lost to the Carolina Panthers

Week 10: Home against the Cowboys

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

Washington Redskins

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

Week 9: won a mighty victory over the Seahawks in Seattle

Week 10: At home against the Vikings, who are currently leading the NFC North

The Vikings have a very tough remaining schedule, while the Lions remaining schedule is relatively soft. A Redskin win against the Vikings this weekend, while the Lions pick up an automatic win against the Browns, would put those two NFC North teams within a game of each other. It’s quite possible that the Lions could end up winning the division, and this Week 10 game could end up as a tie-breaker between the ‘Skins and Vikings for a wildcard berth. While it would be great to win this game, a loss would not spell the end of the Redskins’ chances for a playoff berth.

Key games remaining: Saints, Cowboys, Cardinals, Broncos

Detroit Lions

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

Week 9: Beat division rival Packers on Monday Night Football

Week 10: Home against the Browns (put one in the “W” column for Detroit)

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 Redskins, Rams, Lions, Falcons, Panthers and Packers) for the NFC North division championship.

Green Bay Packers

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

Week 9: Lost to division rival Lions on Monday Night Football

Week 10: at Chicago Bears

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

Without Aaron Packers, Green Bay has lost three games in a row (Vikings, Saints, Lions) scoring 10, 17, and 17 points respectively. Personally, I think the Packers can’t 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.

Arizona Cardinals

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

Week 9: Picked up a win against the Niners, the worst team in the NFC.

Week 10: Playing at home on Thursday Night Football against the Seahawks, an angry division rival. I think this week will spell the beginning of the end for the Cardinals’ playoff hopes (and if not — that’d be great! I’d love to see the Seahawks lose again this week).

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

To me, the Cardinals look like dead men walking, in terms of their playoff hopes. They have 7 tough games remaining on their schedule. They looked bad when they had Carson Palmer; without him, I just can’t see them keeping pace with their rivals.

Key games in Week 10

  • Seahawks @ Cardinals - Thursday Night Football
  • Vikings @ Redskins - 1:00 pm Sunday
  • Cowboys @ Falcons - 4:25 pm Sunday
  • Dolphins @ Panthers - Monday Night Football

The Redskins situation

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

In the first 8 games of the season, the Redskins have played an impressive lineup of opponents. The Week 10 Power Rankings from NFL.com are listed below (1 - 10). By Week 11, the Redskins will have played 7 of the current top 10 teams (Eagles twice).

  1. Eagles
  2. Rams
  3. Steelers
  4. Patriots
  5. Saints
  6. Vikings
  7. Jaguars
  8. Cowboys
  9. Chiefs
  10. Seahawks

The Redskins have already played the teams ranked 1st, 2nd, 8th, 9th and 10th. We’re the only NFL team to have played the #1 ranked Eagles twice so far. After this brutal run, the Redskins have a respectable 4-4 record, yet the schedule doesn’t get any easier in November.

In the next two weeks the Redskins face the teams ranked 5th and 6th on that list, and we play Dallas again on 30 November.

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: 1-7, 3-5, 4-4, 3-5, 1-7. That adds up to 12-28 for the Redskin opponents in those 5 games.

The roadmap to a wildcard berth

  1. Get through the next two games without any significant new injuries. Win a game or two if possible. Don’t panic if the ‘Skins lose both games.
  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.

Poll

Which game is most likely to result in a Redskins loss?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    Wk 12, NY Giants
    (10 votes)
  • 46%
    Wk 14, @ Chargers
    (82 votes)
  • 9%
    Wk 15, Cardinals
    (16 votes)
  • 21%
    Wk 16, Broncos
    (37 votes)
  • 17%
    Wk 17, @ Giants
    (30 votes)
175 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which game is most likely to result in a Redskins win?

This poll is closed

  • 80%
    Wk 10, Vikings
    (155 votes)
  • 19%
    Wk 11, Saints
    (38 votes)
193 votes total Vote Now