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The Redskins, Monday night football, and the NFC playoff picture

I’m shocked to see people marking the ‘Skins season down as lost while they remain in a strong position to either win the division or get a wildcard berth in the playoffs. Monday Night Football in Philly is an important first step.

NFL: Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday and Sunday in the NFC

There were some significant and some... unexpected... outcomes in the NFC this week. Let’s look at some of the important ones:

  • Cowboys beat the Saints — shocker. This increased the pressure on the Redskins. Cowboys have to continue playing well; they have the Eagles, Colts & Giants still ahead, and Tampa Bay showed on Sunday that they still have some fight left.
  • Packers lost to the Cardinals — removing any possibility that Green Bay could factor in the playoffs except as a spoiler
  • Giants beat the Bears — aside from opening the door a crack for the Vikings to take the NFC North and moving the Giants further from the #1 draft pick, this game was insignificant
  • Vikings lost to the Patriots — the Vikings aren’t dead... yet. But a loss to Seattle in Week 14 would seriously dim their playoff hopes
  • Seahawks over the 49ers — changed nothing for San Fran, but was a huge win for Seattle, who is close to locking up a wildcard if they beat the Vikings, but they still have Kansas City on the schedule

The Redskins season and situation

Washington has gone through a tough stretch, losing Alex Smith for the season in Week 11, and having to show up in Dallas for a difficult division game 4 days later, on Thanksgiving.

The Redskins are facing a lot of adversity with the loss of Smith, Brandon Scherff, and other injuries. At the same time, the team is coming off 12 days’ rest; Colt McCoy has had a week and a half of work with the first team offense, and the defense is likely to be refocused and renewed this week. The poor tackling that plagued the team in Dallas is unlikely to be repeated.

The team can stay in first place in the NFC East, where they’ve been all season, with a win on Monday night.

The Eagles are 2-3 in their last five games, and 3-5 in their last eight, squeezing out a narrow victory over the Giants last week. They have not won consecutive games yet this season. Philly’s roster has been heavily affected by injuries, and it has impacted the team’s on-field play.

The Redskins are likely to see Chris Thompson back on the field. Trent Williams’ thumb has had another 12 days to recover. The offensive line has had time to develop more chemistry, and the defensive backfield has had time to review and get back on the same page. The Alabama Wall has had time to rest and recover enough that they should be able to limit the running threats posed by Josh Adams and Corey Clement.

In short, this is hardly a hopeless task facing the Redskins. They are going into Lincoln Financial Field on Monday night as a squad that should be healthier and more prepared than the one that lost by 8 points to Dallas on Thanksgiving, while the Eagles are wounded and struggling.

A look at the NFC

This summary was published several hours ago by Pro Football Talk.

As you can see, the Redskins currently qualify for a wildcard seeding in the playoffs, and, with a win, will be tied for the 4th best record in the NFC, which is pretty much where Washington has been all season long.

How will Monday night’s game affect the Redskins playoff chances, which look pretty damned good at the moment?

If the Redskins win on Monday night

A win against the Eagles on Monday night keeps the Redskins alive for the NFC East division title, tied for W-L record with Dallas. In the final four games, both teams play the Eagles & Giants, but the Redskins face the Titans & Jags, while the Cowboys play the Bucs & Colts.

A win versus the Eagles would leave the Redskins a half-game ahead of Minnesota in the wildcard race, but the Vikings have to play Seattle this week and the Bears in Week 17. It’s hard to see the Vikings getting to 9 wins, which they will likely need for a playoff seeding.

The Redskins would be a game ahead of the Panthers, but effectively TWO games ahead, since they would have the tie-breaker.

Washington would be TWO games ahead of the Eagles, and would — for the moment — have the head-to-head advantage.

Bottom line
Basically, a win on Monday night would put the Redskins in the driver’s seat for a playoff berth — either as the division winner, or as a wildcard team — and potentially leaves them room to still get into the playoffs with a 3-1 record in the final four games of the season.

If the Redskins lose on Monday night

If the Redskins lose on Monday night, they would drop to 6-6, and into a tie with the Eagles, a game behind the Cowboys. At that point, the Redskins would need to root for the Eagles to beat the Cowboys in Week 14 while Washington took care of the Giants. That would result in a 3-way tie between the Redskins, Cowboys and Eagles at 7-6 going into the final three weeks of the season. At that point, the Redskins would hope for the Colts to beat the Cowboys, the Rams to beat the Eagles, and the Redskins to win out, resulting in a 10-win season and division championship for the ‘Skins.

Much better to win on Monday night, pretty much eliminating the Eagles (remember that upcoming Rams game) and putting pressure on the Cowboys with a ‘must win’ versus Indianapolis.

A loss on MNF drops the Redskins out of wildcard seeding, at least temporarily.

The Redskins would be a half-game behind the Vikings, and would have to win a 4-way dogfight for the final playoff seeding between Seattle, Minnesota, Philadelphia and the Redskins that would last all the way to Week 17.

Bottom line
A loss to the Eagles on Monday night would not end the Redskins hopes for a division title or a wildcard seeding, but it would mean that — to achieve either one — the Redskins would need to go 4-0 versus the Giants, Titans, Jaguars and Eagles (in Week 17).

Final word

If the Redskins lose to the Eagles, it would mark 3 consecutive losses, and would probably lead to a total loss of confidence among the fan base, though the Redskins would still be reasonably well-positioned for a wild card seeding.

A win against the Eagles should fill the fan base with confidence, as it will leave the Redskins in a prime position to qualify for the playoffs as either a division winner or a wildcard team.

Monday night will have repercussions beyond the division. Fan bases across the NFC will be watching with great interest.

Here’s what Eagles fans think:

It should be a great matchup!