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Wildcard watch: Week 12

Playoffs? Are you kidding me?

I intend to publish the Wildcard Watch as a weekly series for as long as Washington has a reasonable chance of earning a playoff spot.

Three losses by Washington at any point will bring the series to an abrupt end.

Until then, I’ll keep my eye on the playoff prize and ignore the 2022 draft for as long as there’s a chance at the postseason.

If you aren’t interested in this kind of article, now would be a good time to return to the front page and look for some discussion of mock drafts and rookie quarterbacks.

The thoughts in this article are my own, and do not represent the views of Hogs Haven, its other writers or its managing editor.

No redwolves were harmed in the creation of this post.


Let me get all my caveats out of the way up front

Yes, this is an article that attempts to look forward from here to Week 18. Yes, I realize that players need to worry about “one game at a time” and not overlooking an opponent. I am not a player.

My purpose here is not to predict what will happen between now and Week 18. Instead, my purpose is (a) to demonstrate to skeptical fans that it’s still possible for Washington to earn a playoff spot; and (b) to assess, weekly for as long as playoffs are a feasible outcome, who the competition is and what Washington’s chances are.

I absolutely understand that Washington needs to play very well in order to win enough games to make the playoffs. If they play as they did for the first 6 weeks of the season, they will not win enough games to make the playoffs, and they won’t deserve to make the playoffs. This article is built on the underlying assumption that the Football Team will play good football — similar to its wins against Tampa Bay and Carolina — for the remainder of the season. I understand that many fans want to “see it” before they believe it. That’s fine. This article isn’t built on the premise of ‘wait and see’ but on the assumption that the team will play well enough to win a majority of its remaining games.

A common theme among commenters is that they don’t want the team to make the playoffs just to lose in the wildcard round. Trust me when I say that I want to see the team get to the playoffs so that they can win games. If they play well enough to achieve, say, a 9-8 record and get into the playoffs, then they will have gone 7-2 in the nine games after the bye week. If they can do that, then I don’t see why they wouldn’t be a legitimate playoff team with the opportunity to win games in the postseason.

With 7 weeks left in the season, the permutations and possibilities in forecasting the playoff race for the NFC are sufficient to keep a quantum computer busy. To achieve my purpose of demonstrating a path to the playoffs for Washington, I will project the outcomes of dozens of games. I will be generally assuming something like the most optimistic outlook for WFT. Let me say two things about my projected outcomes:

  1. I will ignore pessimistic outlooks or even realistic outlooks for the WFT that do not demonstrate a path to the playoffs for the Football team since those outlooks undermine the very purpose of the article.
  2. I have, in the past, participated in competitions to predict game outcomes on a weekly basis. I learned over time that I typically get about 9 or 10 right (out of 16 games) on any given weekend. I don’t pretend to be able to predict outcomes of multiple games over multiple weeks, but for the purposes of this article, I have made predictions nonetheless. My purpose is to show what could possibly happen, and I have made an effort in my projections to aim for a reasonable and likely outcome. The potential futures will narrow week-by-week as we go forward, and the projections will become more meaningful. Right now, in Week 12, they are certainly filled with predictions of game outcomes that will never eventuate. Again, my purpose is only to approximate what could happen in an attempt to demonstrate how Washington could end up in the playoffs. You may be tempted to point to specific games and point out that a single win or loss projection for a particular team would knock Washington out, imagining that this undermines the integrity of the article. Feel free to do so, but since this is a hypothetical model designed for the purpose of showing WFT’s path to the playoffs, little will be accomplished by pointing out what is already obvious to everyone.

To make the playoffs, Washington probably needs to win between 4 and 6 of their remaining 7 games. In my mind, 6-1 will get them to the playoffs; 5-2 is probably about a 50/50 playoff chance, depending on what happens with a lot of other teams; 4-3 would result in an 8-9 record that will probably not be good enough for a playoff seeding in the NFC this year. Personally, I think a 4-3 record in the remaining 7 games is most likely at this point, but I am working with a 5-2 projected finish in this article in order to show a reasonable path to a possible playoff spot.

Okay, let’s get to the projection itself

I’ll keep this part fairly short.

I have projected the outcomes of games for 9 NFC teams (including WFT) the final 7 weeks of the season, giving Washington a 5-2 record in those weeks. My goal is to convince skeptical fans that there is a reason to root for wins, and that a playoff seeding is not out of the realm of possibility.

Personally, I don’t want to root for losses and draft position. If you do, then this is probably not the best article for you to spend your time on. You probably want to look for a mock drafting application to play with for the next five months.

  • Blue highlights are used to show NFC wildcard candidates that are playing each other (so, a W & an L).
  • Yellow highlights identify games where the Eagles, Giants or WFT play each other (so, a W & an L).

When you put all this together, my projected outcome at the end of 18 weeks looks like this:

I’ve got 5 teams finishing at 9-8 to fill two wildcard seedings, with the other 4 teams clearly out of the playoff picture.

The Saints, having beaten Washington, would hold the tie breaker, putting the #6 seeding out of reach of WFT.

In my model, I have WFT splitting its two games with the Eagles, so the tie breakers get complex.

At this point, it’s useless to use tie breakers to project who would get the playoff seeding since the outcomes of these games are not real. Suffice to say that there is a very realistic scenario that could see a 9-8 Washington team competing for a playoff seeding in its final game of the season on the road against the Giants.

In future weeks, I will spend some time analyzing the other teams competing with Washington for a wildcard seeding, and offering updates about what’s happening with those teams. This week is simply about explaining the premise and setting the baseline.


NFC East

I got curious about the possibility of Washington actually winning the division rather than getting to the playoffs via wildcard seeding.

I used the outcomes in the table above, and then projected the other games for the Cowboys. Here’s what I came up with:

Even with the Cowboys going 3-4 to end the season while Washington goes 5-2 and Philly finishes 4-2, I have the Cowboys winning the crown. Of course, in the scenario above, a WFT win in Week 16 or a Philly win in Week 18 changes the outcome. In any event, it will take a genuine collapse on the part of Dallas for Washington or Philly to get to the playoffs by way of a division championship. If they lose a bunch of games then we’ll look at the possibilities here more seriously.


Tie breaking rules for those who are interested

To Break A Tie Within A Division (ie. WFT / Philly)

If, at the end of the regular season, two or more clubs in the same division finish with identical won-lost-tied percentages, the following steps will be taken until a champion is determined.

Two Clubs

  1. Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games between the clubs).
  2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the division.
  3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games.
  4. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
  5. Strength of victory.
  6. Strength of schedule.
  7. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
  8. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
  9. Best net points in common games.
  10. Best net points in all games.
  11. Best net touchdowns in all games.
  12. Coin toss

To Break A Tie For The Wild-Card Team

If it is necessary to break ties to determine the two Wild-Card clubs from each conference, the following steps will be taken.

  1. If the tied clubs are from the same division, apply division tie breaker.
  2. If the tied clubs are from different divisions, apply the following steps.

Two Clubs

  1. Head-to-head, if applicable.
  2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
  3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.
  4. Strength of victory.
  5. Strength of schedule.
  6. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
  7. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
  8. Best net points in conference games.
  9. Best net points in all games.
  10. Best net touchdowns in all games.
  11. Coin toss.

Three or More Clubs

(Note: If two clubs remain tied after third or other clubs are eliminated, tie breaker reverts to step 1 of applicable two-club format.)

  1. Apply division tie breaker to eliminate all but the highest ranked club in each division prior to proceeding to step 2. The original seeding within a division upon application of the division tie breaker remains the same for all subsequent applications of the procedure that are necessary to identify the two Wild-Card participants.
  2. Head-to-head sweep. (Applicable only if one club has defeated each of the others or if one club has lost to each of the others.)
  3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
  4. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.
  5. Strength of victory.
  6. Strength of schedule.
  7. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
  8. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
  9. Best net points in conference games.
  10. Best net points in all games.
  11. Best net touchdowns in all games.
  12. Coin toss

(There are additional tie breaking procedures, but they are quite arcane. If you want to know more than what is published above, you can click on this link and read them)


My intention is to publish the Wildcard Watch weekly for as long as Washington has a reasonable chance of earning a playoff spot.

The list of contenders will be whittled down week by week, as will the range of possible outcomes. For example, I fully expect to drop the NY Giants out of the article next week (I wrote it this week before knowing the outcome of the MNF game). Assuming Washington beats Seattle this Monday, the Seahawks will not be showing up in the Week 13 edition either.

Three losses by Washington at any point will bring the series to an abrupt end.

Until then, I’ll keep my eye on the playoff prize and ignore the 2022 draft for as long as there’s a chance at the postseason.