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Wildcard Watch - Week 14 - 2021

If the season ended today...

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.

A total of 9 losses on the season 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.

Related articles:

Wildcard Watch - Week 13 - 2021

Wildcard Watch Simulation: Week 13 - Vegas Edition

Wildcard Watch - Week 12 - 2021

Who’s in right now?

Let’s start with the “If the season ended today” game. The current NFC playoff seedings — based on records and results through the end of Week 13 — are:

  • 1 Seed (West) Arizona 10-2
  • 2 Seed (North) Green Bay 9-3
  • 3 Seed (South) Tampa Bay 9-3
  • 4 Seed (East) Dallas 8-4
  • 5 Seed (Wildcard) LA Rams 8-4
  • 6 Seed (Wildcard) Washington 6-6
  • 7 Seed (Wildcard) San Francisco 6-6

What’s notable is that, on the strength of Washington’s win against the Raiders and San Francisco’s loss to the Seahawks, WFT moved up from the 7th seed to the 6th seed this week. Washington holds the tiebreaker over SF on the strength of Washington’s 5-2 mark in the NFC vs 5-5 for the Niners.

This arrangement of playoff teams will not last. With five weeks remaining in the season, teams will move up and down the rankings.

This is the weekly caveat that the season doesn’t end today, and all that matters is the rankings at the end of Week 18.

That said, Washington has helped itself immensely with its 4-game winning streak.

Week 13 results for Wildcard contenders

Let’s look at what happened to the teams in wildcard contention this week:

Rams (8-4)

The Rams, who had been winless in November, had a “get right” game at home against the Jaguars, which they won handily, 37-7.

The Rams have a division game against the Cardinals in Arizona in Week 14. If they win that game, then I’ll take that as a sign that the slump is over. However, if the Rams lose to the Cardinals, then I don’t think anyone could consider a 8-5 team that still has to play the Seahawks, Vikings, Ravens and 49ers to be a playoff lock. The #5 seed in the NFC playoffs is still open for the taking for the moment.

49ers (6-6)

The Niners had been on a 3-game win streak before traveling to Seattle and losing 30-23. I’m afraid I didn’t see the game, but this was the result I wanted.

The Niners have 4 tough games remaining on their schedule, with the only ‘easy’ game being a Week 17 game against the Texans. While San Fran is one of only two teams with a 6-6 record, I don’t think the Niners can take anything for granted as far as playoffs are concerned (similar to Washington).

Eagles (6-7)

I watched the Eagles game this week (or 3 quarters of it anyway), thinking that without Jalen Hurts in the game, the Jets had a chance at the upset, and for about 2 12 quarters, it looked like it might go that way, but Philly ended up putting the game away in the 4th quarter, winning 33-18.

I’ve watched almost every Eagles game of the season, and, after a shaky start, they are playing like a team that belongs in the playoffs, despite their 6-7 record. The Eagles have a bye in Week 14, and then finish their season with 4 NFC East games — two of them against Washington. The math here is easy; Washington can kill the Eagle’s playoff hopes by beating them twice. If that happens, then we don’t have to worry about what happens against the Giants (Wk 16) and the Cowboys (Wk 18).

Vikings (5-7)

I followed the Vikings’ Week 13 game against the Lions on Red Zone. The Lions got up early and stayed in the lead for most of the game. A late scoring drive by the Vikings put the pressure on Detroit, but the underdogs managed to score at the end of the game, getting their first win of the 2021 season and driving a stake into the hearts of Vikings fans.

The tiebreaker that would apply between Washington and the Vikings is record against NFC opponents. Right now, Washington is 5-2 while the Vikings are 4-4. While that can change, for the moment, Washington has an effective 2-game lead on Minnesota in the wildcard race.

The Vikings face an inconsistent Pittsburgh Steelers team this week before closing the season with the Rams, Packers and 2 games against the Bears. I wouldn’t count them out of the playoffs, but they’ll have to play good football the rest of the season to force Washington out of the postseason.

Panthers (5-7)

The Panthers were on a bye in Week 13.

Washington holds the tiebreaker with Carolina by virtue of beating them in Week 11, giving Washington an effective 2-game lead in the postseason hunt.

With Christian McCaffrey on IR, plus Buffalo and two games against Tampa Bay still on the schedule, I see the Panthers as ‘dead man walking’ with regard to postseason play.

Falcons (5-7)

As expected, the Falcons lost to division rival Tampa Bay in Week 13.

Washington beat the Falcons head to head, and Atlanta has a 2-6 conference record, so WFT holds the first two tie breakers, again, giving the Football Team an effective 2-game lead in the playoff hunt. Atlanta plays the Panthers, Niners, Lions, Bills and Saints to finish the season, so I won’t say that they’re out of the playoff picture yet, but, like the Vikinigs, Atlanta will have to play very well down the stretch to threaten Washington’s playoff hopes.

Saints (5-7)

The Saints lost 27-17 to Dallas on Thursday Night Football and didn’t look good doing it. With the loss of Jameis Winston to a torn ACL, the Saints lost any semblance of being a playoff team. I said last week that they were ‘circling the drain’.

The Saints hold the head-to-head tie breaker over Washington, so they are truly just one game in back of the Football Team. However, the Saints, who have lost 5-in-a-row still have to face Tampa Bay, Miami, Carolina, and Atlanta. With Jameis, I think they’d be dangerous; without him, not so much. Still, this week’s game is at the Jets, so maybe Sean Payton’s guys can live to fight another week.

Week 14 key games and rooting guide

Rams at Cardinals — Root for Arizona

49ers at Bengals - Root for the Cincinnati

Steelers at Vikings - Go Steelers!!

Falcons at Panthers - These teams offer an equal threat to Washington’s playoff hopes, but Atlanta has the tougher schedule down the stretch, so, while it doesn’t really matter, I’m leaning towards rooting for Atlanta in this one. Really, though, it’s a Pick’em.

Saints at Jets - After seeing the Jets stick with the Eagles for about 45 minutes in Week 13, I’m gonna close my eyes and believe. Root for New York over New Orleans.

Washington’s Week 14 matchup

Sunday is the first of 5 division games that the Football Team plays to end the season. This schedule arrangement is what gave me hope in the early part of the season when Washington looked like it couldn’t have beaten Alabama.

The Cowboys are coming to FedEx Field in what will be the premier NFC matchup in the 1pm time slot; it’s a game that should be seen by a wide audience of NFL fans.

You don’t need me to tell you what a huge game this is.

  1. A win keeps Washington on pace for a wildcard spot by improving to 7-6 and adding a conference win (important for tie-breakers)
  2. A win puts Washington just a game behind Dallas in the division standings, and keeps hope alive for a second consecutive division title — this time with a winning record
  3. A win on a widely broadcast game against a team that has been a favorite for months to be in the NFC Championship game would increase the Football Team’s credibility among the wider NFL fan base
  4. It’s just a lot of fun beating Dallas

The Cowboys were smarting after getting spanked at home by the Raiders on Thanksgiving (the same Raiders that Washington just beat in Las Vegas on Sunday), but got a win against an underpowered Saints team on Thursday Night Football to kick off Week 13.

While Dallas got the win on Thursday night, they didn’t look good doing it. Zeke Elliott looked injured and ineffective and Dak Prescott didn’t look sharp. You don’t have to believe me; here’s what Blogging the Boys had to say about the TNF win:

The Dallas Cowboys were fortunate to escape with the “W” Thursday night against the New Orleans Saints. Offensively, things are still out of sorts and it’s not just because of the underperforming talent and execution on the field. While the Dak Prescott-led Cowboys offense shoulders the majority of the blame, Kellen Moore also shares a large part of the lack of production. Whether it’s his game plan or play-calling, he’s not having nearly the type of impact he had earlier in the year when Dallas was enjoying a six-game win streak.

Make no mistake, it was the Dallas Cowboys defense that was the difference-maker in this Week 13 matchup with the New Orleans Saints. It wasn’t pretty considering they gave up over 400 yards to Taysom Hill and the Saints offense....

Well, Washington’s win in Las Vegas wasn’t very pretty either. I think both teams realize they need to bring their respective “A” games this Sunday.

Going into the Week 13 game against the Raiders, my feeling was that, if we had to lose one, that was the game to lose — on the road against an AFC opponent.

This week is the opposite. We all know how hard it is for Washington to go into Dallas and get the win (that’s the Week 16 challenge). This week, Washington needs to bring the energy and get the win against the Cowboys. Ron Rivera, in his post-game press conference on Sunday, exhorted fans to show up this Sunday for the Dallas game, saying, “We need ya’ll”.

There hasn’t been a lot to cheer for in the past two decades, but this Sunday’s game is what we all say we want every year — a meaningful game against the Cowboys, at home in mid-December. This is why we root for our team. A win on Sunday would put Washington within one game of the Cowboys in the division standings and one full game in front of the Eagles with 4 weeks remaining in the season.

Current NFC Standings

The four teams in blue are currently at the top of their respective division standings.

The three teams in red are the current wildcard teams.

The five teams in green are “in the hunt”.

ESPN playoff machine:

If you’d like to look at the playoff possibilities, you can do it yourself with ESPN’s Playoff Machine.

Click here to access ESPN’s Playoff Machine and you can explore the possibilities on your own.

Wildcard Watch Simulation

As an alternative, you can treat yourself to the weekly Wildcard Watch Simulations written by MattinBrisVegas. Click here to get a look at his Week 13 version. Look for the Week 14 article later in the week.


Will Washington make the playoffs at the end of the season?

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Who will win the NFC East this season?

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