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Only five teams matter for the Redskins as the end of the regular season approaches

While a lot of fans have moved on to 2019 already, Redskins coaches and players know that they are in the thick of the playoff hunt, and need a win this week on the road against the Tennessee Titans if they want to stay there

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Washington Redskins v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

Welcome to SB Nation FanPulse — a survey of fans across the NFL, powered by SurveyMonkey. Each week, we send 32 polls to 100+ plugged in fans from each team. Redskins fans, sign up HERE to join FanPulse.

The Redskins 2018 season has narrowed to a small universe of teams that matter, beyond themselves, of course. That universe includes five teams: three teams ahead of them for playoff contention and two opponents remaining on their schedule.

Dallas Cowboys

The only way the Redskins can win the division title — which is still possible, though not likely — is for the Cowboys to lose the final two games of the season while the Redskins win theirs. If the Cowboys get a win this week or next, then they will be NFC East champs.

How are the Dallas fans feeling?

Well, they had been feeling pretty good lately, with confidence rising weekly as the Cowboys notched five straight wins. By the time they had beaten the Eagles for the second time in five weeks, the fan confidence level had reached 68% — its highest level since prior to the Week 1 loss to Carolina, a game in which the Cowboys put up just 8 points.

Of course, the Week 15 game saw the Cowboys shut out by the Colts in Indianapolis.

Dallas Cowboys v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Now, Zach Martin is limited in practice, there are articles discussing “coaching staff revamps” on Blogging the Boys, and questions are again being asked about the Dallas offense, which had appeared so puny early in the season as the Cowboys limped out to a 3-5 start.

Following the loss to the Colts, which Zeke Elliott termed an “embarrassment” after the game, the Cowboys fans’ confidence level has fallen to 38% — not horrible, but surprisingly low for fans of the team that is leading the division and just one win away from qualifying for the playoffs.

The Cowboys face the streaky and unpredictable Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week in Arlington, Texas. The Bucs scored early wins against the Saints and Eagles to open the season 2-0 before going through a crisis at quarterback and watching their season unravel. They have since that time beaten only the Browns, 49ers and Panthers, and sit at 5-9. They seem unlikely to be up to the task of traveling to Texas and upsetting a pissed off Dallas team looking to lock up a division title.

Dallas fans, for their part, are predicting a 5-point win per this week’s FanPulse survey.

Seattle Seahawks

One of the two paths to a wildcard seeding for the Redskins lays with the Seattle Seahawks, who need to lose their final two games, while the Redskins win out. If the Seahawks win this week or next, then they will lock up one NFC wildcard spot.

How are Seattle fans feeling?

Pretty good, all things considered. Aside from a huge fall in confidence coinciding with their Week 5 loss to the Rams, the Seahawks fans have felt pretty good most of the season. And why wouldn’t they? This is a team that seemed to be “under renovation” as the off-season progressed and roster changes were a regular occurrence. No more “Legion of Boom” and, it appeared then, no more run game to help Russell Wilson.

Well, Pete Carroll and his team have laid all that to rest with a strong season that included a 4-game winning streak that was shockingly broken last week when the Seahawks lost a road game to the San Francisco 49ers — a loss that opened the door to the possibility of the Redskins sneaking past Seattle for a playoff seeding.

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

This week, Seattle faces a huge challenge at home versus Kansas City, who were also defeated on the road last week. The Chiefs fell to the Chargers, whom KC had beaten to open the season, when the Chargers scored a TD at the end of the game and successfully converted the 2-point attempt to win 29-28 and bring the two teams even at 11-3, tied atop the AFC West and battling for the #1 seeding in the AFC playoffs.

The game between Kansas City and Seattle in the Great Northwest in prime time Sunday night looks to be a huge game for both teams, each needing the win to keep pace with their competitors. According to the FanPulse survey, Seattle fans and Kansas City fans both agree that the Chiefs will win on the road, with Seattle fans predicting a 1-point loss and Chiefs fans expecting a 5-point victory.

Minnesota Vikings

The Redskins’ most likely path to the playoffs relies on the Vikings losing a game either this week or next, while the Redskins win out. The Vikings face two division rivals, the Lions and the Bears, in the final two weeks. The Lions don’t look particularly scary, but then, neither do the Vikings, and every NFL fan knows that W-L records can often be thrown out the window when divisional rivals meet — especially late in the season.

How are Vikings fans feeling?

Given that 99.9% of Minnesota fans thought, at the beginning of the season, that they had won the super bowl already on the day that they signed Kirk Cousins to a 3-year, $90m contract, with $84m guaranteed, they seem surprisingly relaxed, given that their team sits at 7-6-1 and on the precipice of being eliminated from the playoffs.

Somehow, with the team injured and massively underperforming against expectations, 54% of fans surveyed remain confident in the direction of the franchise. The Vikings were supposed to field the league’s most fearsome defense this season, yet they currently sit 12th in the league in points allowed. The Vikings were widely tipped in preseason to be the team that would lead the NFC North from pillar to post.

Instead, it is the Bears who have played the better defense, ranked 3rd in the NFL for both total yards and points allowed. The Bears have recovered 9 fumbles and lead the league with 26 interceptions in 14 games. It is the Bears who are leading the NFC North with a 10-4 record, and it is the Bears that the Vikings have to face in Week 17.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

This week, Minnesota fans feel pretty confident about the Vikings’ chances on the road against the Detroit Lions, who are 5-9 and in last place in the division. The Vikings beat the Lions 24-9 to start the month of November, but have gone 2-3 since then, losing to the Bears, Patriots and Seahawks.

Vikings fans are predicting an 8-point victory against the Lions this week, and they may be right. But next week’s season finale may see the Vikings hoping that the Bears will be resting starters ahead of the playoffs, though Kirk Cousins knows a thing or two about what happens in Week 17 when a team with a tie in its win-loss record and a chance to seal a wildcard seeding with a win faces a team that has already locked up a playoff spot. It doesn’t always go as planned.

Tennessee Titans

Every path to the playoffs for the Redskins depends on one thing — a victory against the Tennessee Titans on Saturday in Nashville.

How are Titans fans feeling?

Well, pretty good, actually. Music City Miracles readers tallied a 69% confidence rate in this week’s FanPulse survey.

Why wouldn’t they feel good? The Titans have won three straight games against three weak opponents: the Jets (4-10), the Jaguars (4-10), and the Giants (5-9). Who could blame them for feeling as though the Titans were invincible?

Tennessee has lost some games this season, but mostly to good teams: Texans, Colts, Chargers and Ravens, along with a couple of ‘uh-oh’ losses to the Dolphins and Bills.

But, to the Titans fans, the Redskins must look like another easy meal to extend their three-game win streak against teams with a combined 13-29 record.

I get it. They see the 7-7 Redskins, just past their recent 4-game losing streak that came at a time when the Redskins were forced by injury to play 4 different quarterbacks in 13 quarters of football. They see a 16-13 win against the Jaguars, who the Titans dominated a week earlier in prime time. They see Josh Johnson listed as the starter, and they think: easy pickins.

Tennesee has the second-ranked scoring defense in the league, and the Redskins haven’t shown any consistent ability to score touchdowns this year. Offensively, however, the Titans are ranked alongside the Redskins in points-per-game, averaging 19.1 compared to Washington’s 18.9.

This week is likely to see a game for the Redskins not significantly different from last week’s matchup against the Jaguars, except that the Titans have a recently-resurrected running attack in Derrick Henry. Saturday afternoon is likely to see two teams trying to play ball-control offense, featuring a lot of running from Henry on one side, and Adrian Peterson on the other. The two defenses are likely to play tough, with the Redskins likely to surrender more yards, but also more likely to win the turnover battle, as Washington is still ranked 4th in the league at +9, despite the recent quarterback turnstile and rash of turnovers, while Tennessee is ranked 21st at -2 turnover differential.

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

This game, featuring a lot of running, will likely see a quick clock and a limited number of possessions. Winning the turnover and field position battles, which were keys to Washington’s early season success behind Alex Smith, may prove to be the difference in this game. This Saturday game against the Titans seems tailor-made for the Redskins.

NFL: Washington Redskins at Jacksonville Jaguars Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

With a win this week, the Redskins would go into the Week 17 game against the Eagles with the playoffs on the line.

According to the FanPulse survey, there is no disagreement about the projected outcome, only the point spread, as Tennessee fans are predicting an 8-point victory and Redskins fans a 4-point loss.

Philadelphia Eagles

The only way the Week 17 Eagles game will matter for the Redskins, barring an unlikely set of mathematically possible but practically unlikely game outcomes, is if the Redskins beat the Titans this week. The Eagles are basically in exactly the same position as the Redskins with regard to a division championship or wildcard seeding, so they have a lot to play for.

Frankly, I was shocked when they beat the Rams in LA last week.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Los Angeles Rams Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

This week, they face another stiff test when they host the 10-4, AFC South leading Houston Texans. A loss to the Texans will do what I thought the Rams would have accomplished last week: it would effectively end the Eagles’ playoff hopes. The Texans, meanwhile, are playing for a playoff bye, and are not yet out of contention for the top seeding and home-through-the-playoffs advantage, so they have a lot to play for.

Backup Nick Foles will start for the Eagles again this week, after the super bowl MVP led the team to victory last week in LA. Philly has had a difficult, Redskins-like year, hovering around .500 or a game below all season. They’ve won back-to-back games only once all year, while suffering consecutive losses on two occasions. They come into the game at 7-7, having been outscored 318-311 this season.

The Texans started out the season in an alarming fashion, losing their first three games. Since then, they have won 10 of 11, including 9 in-a-row. They’ve outscored opponents 352-281. The Texans defense is ranked 19th overall and 22nd in scoring but they bring the 11th best scoring offense with them to Philly, having scored at least 19 points in every game since Week 3, and averaging 25.1 ppg overall.

How are Philadelphia fans feeling heading into the Week 16 contest?

Well, after trending downward most of the season, there was a surge in fan confidence following last week’s upset win against the Rams. The confidence level of Bleeding Green Nation readers sits at 67%, after reaching 18% just a week earlier.

Because the people who run the FanPulse survey stuck a fork in the Eagles’ playoff chances a month ago when the Redskins were leading the division and the Eagles were mired in 3rd place, we don’t know what point spread the Eagles’ fans would have predicted this week, but we do know what the Texans fans think. The readers of the Battle Red Blog have predicted a 1-point loss to the Eagles.

Washington Redskins

After plummeting through the 4 game losing streak and the 4 different starting quarterbacks in 5 weeks, Redskin fan confidence rebounded slightly following the win against the lowly Jaguars this past Sunday. Still, fan confidence measures just 20% going into Saturday’s game against the Titans, and as mentioned above, Hogs Haven readers are predicting a 4-point loss to the Titans.

NFL: Washington Redskins at Jacksonville Jaguars Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Might an upset win do wonders for fan confidence? We may know the answer to that question next week.