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Playoffs?

So driving back from FedEx last night I asked NFL wordsmith Les Carpenter and my boss whether anyone would be writing about the 'Skins' playoff chances in today's paper. They said that was the sort of thing you talked about during the car ride home, but not in the paper, not yet. But hey, this team is used to winning five straight games to end the regular season, so with nine wins a virtual lock, I tried to figure it all out. And mostly failed.

I'm sure there's a better way of doing this, but there are currently 13 NFC teams with at least four wins. The real problem here is tiebreakers; it would seem likely that the last wild card in the NFC will come out of a multi-team tie at 9-7, and if conference record comes into play the Skins (2-5 NFC) are in trouble. But their chances of at least finishing in a tie for the last spot aren't bad, and they would have some acceptable head-to-head results with other potential wild cards. Once you've assumed the Skins win out, check this out.

1) Philly (5-6) gets its seventh loss to the Skins.
2) The Rams (5-6) get their seventh loss to the Skins.
3) The Falcons (5-6) get their seventh loss to the Skins.
4) San Francisco (5-6) plays Green Bay (4-6), so one of them will have at least seven losses.
5) The Giants (sixth loss to Skins), Panthers (6-5) and Saints (fifth loss to Skins) all play each other, ensuring that one will have at least seven losses. (For the NYG to avoid seven, they'd have to give both the Panthers and Saints their sixth losses, and then they play each other, giving one seven.)

At that point, for the Skins not to finish in at worst a tie for that final wild card, Minnesota (5-6) and the Green Bay-San Francisco winner would have to win out to both finish 10-6, which would seem unlikely.

To make things even more fun this week, here's a realistic scenario in which the 9-7 Skins win the tiebreakers and get a wild card. There are much less demanding ways to do this, but I'm just trying to make a nice, easy, five-step plan.

1) Washington wins out to finish 9-7.
2) The Cowboys win out to finish 12-4.
3) The Panthers win out to finish 11-5. (This means the Eagles, Giants and Falcons are all eliminated.)
4) Seattle beats both Green Bay and San Fran, which each lose at least once more.
5) Minnesota does anything but go 4-1 down the stretch.

At least one wild card would thus be decided between the Skins, Rams and Saints, and 9-7 Washington would win win any tiebreaker with those clubs.

Pretty simple, no?

By Dan Steinberg  |  November 27, 2006; 9:12 AM ET
Categories:  Redskins  
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Comments

So you're saying there's a chance ...

Posted by: tmc | November 27, 2006 10:01 AM | Report abuse

What astounds me the most in this whole mess is that it's conceivable that whichever team in the NFC East simply manages to finish above .500 could claim the division crown.

Ponderous, man. F'n ponderous!

Posted by: Goat | November 27, 2006 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Here is my much longer winded analysis, concocted today when I should have been working.

OK, this is kind of crazy, but lets ignore the records, and compare this year after week 12 with last year after week 12. The bottom line is if the 'skins win their next two games, which are eminently winnable games, things might look surprisingly good for their chances on making the playoffs.

This year, the skins are 4-7, two games behind wild card leaders NY Giants and Carolina Panthers, each at 6-5. 5 teams are in between at 5-6 -- Philly, Minnesota, Atlanta, St. Louis, and San Francisco. Green Bay has not played, but would be 5-6 with a win. We'll assume they lose since they are big underdogs to the Seahawks tonight.

Last year, the skins were 5-6, 2 games behind three teams at the top of the wild card chase, Giants, Atlanta, and Tampa Bay, each at 7-4. There was just one team in between -- 6-5 Minnesota.

So, basically, the 'skins are _better_ off this year but for all those pesky intervening teams. We have 7 teams ahead of us vs. 4, but only 2 teams are 2 games up on us, vs. 3 last year.

Lets look at what happens if we have a reasonable best case next week -- the skins win next week against Atlanta, and the two wild card leaders lose -- Giants vs. Dallas, and Carolina at Philly. That is not fantasy-land -- other than the Carolina game, which is basically a toss-up, it is consistent with the oddmakers (who actually pick the skins to win next week). Also, Minnesota loses at Chicago; St. Louis beats Arizona. And San Francisco loses at New Orleans. Again, all of this is consistent with the oddmakers.

Then we have this wild card scenario after week 13:

Giants -- 6-6 (Conf -- 5-3)
Carolina -- 6-6 (Conf -- 4-5)
Philly -- 6-6 (Conf -- 4-4)
St. Louis -- 6-6 (Conf -- 5-4)
Minnesota -- 5-7 (Conf -- 5-4)
'skins -- 5-7 (Conf -- 3-5)
Atlanta -- 5-7 (Conf -- 3-5)
San Francisco -- 5-7 (Conf 4-5) (they would have tie breaker on us at this point).

Now, with 4 weeks to play, we can talk turkey -- we are 1 game out of the wild card, and only 5 teams are in front of us for the 2 spots. It is starting to look a lot like last year -- when, after week 13, we were 1 game down of the lowest wild card spot with 4 teams in front of us (Dallas, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Atlanta). Now I'm starting to like our chances.

So, now lets handicap Week 14. The 'skins of course have to win -- at home vs. Philly. That is certainly doable. Giants play Carolina in Carolina, so one of those teams has to lose. Lets say the Giants pull one out (though, it could work either way, this would likely be far better since we have the tie breaker on Carolina). St. Louis now gets its turn at the Chicago Bears merry go round -- that is gonna be a tough game to win. Minnesota is at Detroit -- lets assume Minnesota wins that one. Atlanta is at Tampa Bay, and they lose. San Francisco is playing Green Bay, and lets pick Favre to knock them out of contention. But there is quite a bit of flexibility with respect to these teams tied to the 'skins -- win or lose -- they've only gotta lose one more than we do.

So...after week 14:

Giants -- 7-6 (Conf -- 6-3)
Minnesota -- 6-7 (Conf -- 6-4)
St. Louis -- 6-7 (Conf -- 5-5)
'skins -- 6-7 (Conf -- 4-5)
Philly -- 6-7 (Conf -- 4-5)
Carolina -- 6-7 (Conf -- 4-5)
Atlanta -- 5-8
SF -- 5-8

Now, we are 4th in a competition for two spots, all with a tie in team records. So, if we just look forward and win the next two games, we could be in a really great wild card position. Last year after week 14, the 'skins had 4 teams in front of them for the wild card, each of them one or more wins ahead of the redskins (Dallas, Minnesota, Carolina, Atlanta). Bottom line is, we win the next two, and we are in _much_ better shape than we were last year at the same time.

For this year, however, we really need to count at this point on St. Louis and Minnesota coming apart. Turn to Week 15.

Again, gotta assume the skins can make it 3 in a row -- and it is gonna be a tough game to win, since we are at New Orleans. Philly is at Giants -- hard to bet against the Giants in that one. Minnesota is playing the Jets at home -- Minnesota will probably win. St. Louis is in Oakland -- no way they lose that game. And Pittsburgh is in Carolina. Who knows who will win that one -- lets say Carolina comes through. So the week is kind of a wash:

Giants -- 8-6 (conf. -- 7-3)
Minnesota -- 7-7 (Conf -- 7-4)
St. Louis -- 7-7 (Conf. 6-5)
'skins -- 7-7 (Conf. 5-5)
Carolina -- 7-7 (Conf. 5-5).
Philly -- 6-8

Now, week 16 -- second to the last week. Skins are in St. Louis -- this will have all kinds of playoff implications, and we gotta win. New Orleans is at the Giants, but that game should not matter. Minnesota is at Green Bay -- they must lose this game; hope it is cold and snowy. And Carolina is at Atlanta, again, they will likely win that one, but we have the tie breaker on them so we don't care so much.

Giants -- 8-7 (conf. 7-4)
'skins -- 8-7 (conf. 6-5)
Carolina -- 8-7 (conf. 6-5) (we have tie-breaker based on head-to-head victory) Minnesota -- 7-8 St. Louis -- 7-8.

there you have it -- after week 15, our wild card future is in our own hands. And we'll be playing a desperate Giants team at home in the closer. Should be a great game!

Posted by: Skins fan | November 27, 2006 3:40 PM | Report abuse

A last minute loss to the reeling Falcons at home this week would only be truly painful if we had any hope at all of making the playoffs. Thanks a lot... and you didn't even mention that all 5 games are in Decemeber, Gibbs favorite month.

Posted by: Garrett | November 27, 2006 4:18 PM | Report abuse

On footballoutsiders.com, some guy has been calculating playoff odds, based on both the remaining schedule and the strengths of the teams. After an ad hoc adjustment to Philly's rating to account for McNabb's injury, they gave WAS a 1.3% chance of grabbing a wild card spot. (That's before this week's results; the new rankings will probably be up some time tomorrow.)

http://www.mharrisdev.com/playoff_odds/

Posted by: Ferg | November 27, 2006 4:55 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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