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Optimism runs rampant in Washington ahead of Niners game

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Washington Football Team v Detroit Lions Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Washington fan confidence rose to its highest level of 2020 after the Football Team went on the road to Pittsburgh and came away with a 6-point victory, ending the winning streak of the NFL’s last remaining undefeated team at 11 games.

Coming as it did on the heels of a huge win in Dallas on Thanksgiving day, bringing the overall Turkey Day record for Washington in Dallas to 2-8, and securing a sweep of the Cowboys in the 2020 season, the win in Pittsburgh provided as much of an uplift in confidence as it did surprise.

With three consecutive wins, Washington now has the third-longest fourth-longest active winning streak in the NFL behind the Saints (9), Chiefs (7) and the Giants (4).

Washington fans have responded in the SB Nation Reacts poll this week, with 94% of respondents answering positively when asked if they were confident in the direction of the team. Interestingly, New York Giants fan confidence is at the exact same level of 94%.

Meanwhile, the confidence of Dallas fans rose slightly from 21% following the Thanksgiving day loss to 24%. I’m not sure whether the poll responses came before or after the Tuesday night loss to the Ravens by a score of 34-17.

Eagles fans have thrown in the towel. Confidence sits at just 5%, and a perusal of Bleeding Green Nation will show that the crowd has turned swiftly on the Philly front office and coaching staff. Prior to the start of the regular season, many Eagles fans, knowing that their franchise had the only returning head coach in the division, were praising Howie Roseman as a roster-building savant and predicting that Doug Pederson and a healthy Carson Wentz would lead them back to the super bowl glory of 2017. Now, based on what I read on BGN, the fans are just short of burning the QB, HC and GM in effigy in the parking lot of Lincoln Financial Field.

If you’d like to become part of the process, you can sign up to NFL Reacts by clicking here.

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Playoffs?.... PLAYOFFS?!

With four weeks left in the regular season, the Football Team suddenly finds itself with two potential paths to the playoffs. The first and most straightforward path is to win the NFC East division title. To do that, however, the Football Team will need to win one more game than the New York Giants, who hold the tie-breaker by virtue of having won both head-to-head matchups this season.

Washington’s 2-game lead on Dallas is, in effect, a 3-game lead (with 4 games remaining) due to a similar tie-breaking advantage held, in this case, by the WFT.

The Eagles would need to match the win total of any other team in the division to win the NFCE title. That would mean Philly getting two more wins in the remaining 4 weeks than the more successful of New York and Washington.

Considering just the head-to-head race between the current co-leaders in the division, it appears as if the Giants face the tougher schedule based solely on the won-loss records of opponents. New York faces two teams with winning records from the AFC, plus a game this week against the .500 Cardinals, ending the season at home against Dallas.

Washington’s remaining foes include only one team with a winning record — the Seahawks, who fell to the Giants this past Sunday in Seattle. All of Washington’s remaining games are NFC teams, but the WFT is on the road for two games, while the Giants travel only once, to Baltimore.

In December, records matter less than the health of the roster and the quality of football being played. Looking at the remaining games, I don’t find it difficult to imagine Washington getting one more win than New York to win the division, but, at the same time, I don’t think it’s anywhere close to a certainty.

Wild card opportunity

But, as of this week, following the upsets of Seattle and Pittsburgh, both Washington and New York can realistically be considered “in the race” for the final wild card spot, which could go to a team with 8 or 9 wins.

If the season ended today, the NFC division winners would be the Rams, Saints, Giants and Packers.

The teams that are in contention for the three wild-card spots over the final four weeks of the season are:

  • Washington has the chance to go a game up (plus tie-breaker) on the Niners this Sunday.
  • Assuming that the WFT gets the road win against SF, then the game between the Giants and Cardinals offers a potential win-win for Washington. If the Giants win, then Arizona drops back a game in the wildcard race. If Arizona wins, then Washington takes sole possession of first place in the NFC East.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that the Football Team will win on Sunday, but just about any path to the post-season will require 3 or 4 wins in the final four games, so any talk of paths to the post season assumes more winning than losing.

Ultimately, while a playoff berth would be nice, it is far from certain. However, I think most Washington fans are encouraged by the way the team is pulling together, the way a number of unheralded players have emerged during the season, and the tough defensive football being played on the field. Even if the team ultimately falls short of a playoff berth, if the team plays each remaining games with the determination and spirit that they’ve demonstrated in recent weeks, it will go a long way towards setting the stage for a promising future in the current RivEra.

In this 2020 season when not very much was expected of Washington, the team may have already accomplished as much as, or more than, most of its fans had thought likely. In a season that will be remembered largely for the adversity the coach and team faced and overcame, any success we enjoy in the final four weeks is likely to be whipped cream and a cherry on top of an effort Washington fans can all already be proud of.