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Jim Mora, This One's For You (Yeah, We're Talkin' About The Playoffs)

Huge game tonight. To most of the country, this is another disaster on Monday night. But for Redskins Nation, it is a vital match-up of good vs. evil. Even the most PETA-friendly Redskin fan has to be a Falcon supporter tonight. It's your obligation to watch (is some of this a ploy to get my man Kornheiser better ratings? sure. I love the dude. Totally in the tank for him. But hear me out).

You see, if the Falcons pull the upset (I guess this is still considered an upset in the patently-putrid NFC), then the Redskins are assured at least the second Wildcard spot should Washington finish 9-7. Yep, Saints lose tonight and the Redskins run the table and they will be in the playoffs.

And, a Saints loss tonight also means the Redskins would need a lot less help to get in at 8-8 (a very real possibility still after another weekend of NFC follies). Despite a four-game losing streak and the Sean Taylor tragedy and the scheduling quirks, the Redskins remain a postseason threat even should they limp in with a .500 record.

Okay, so here's what we know (and were are calling Dallas, Green Bay, Tampa and Seattle division champs for the purposes of this blog, and conceding a wildcard spot to the Giants as well, to keep this from getting even more ridiculously complicated than it already is)

At 9-7 the Redskins would hold tiebreakers (through head-to-head wins - Minn, Det, Ariz) over all other possible opposition for the final wildcard spot. Except New Orleans, the only team of the bunch they do not play directly.

A 9-7 Skins team would have a 7-5 NFC record (currently 4-5 with 3 NFC games left), while a 9-7 New Orleans team would be 8-4 vs. the NFC, so the Saints would get in (Saints are 4-4 vs. NFC with 4 NFC games left including tonight).

Now, should the Saints lose tonight, and also happen to drop one of their final 3 games (vs. Arizona, vs. Philly and at Chicago), then the chances of the Redskins getting in at 8-8 get much better (assuming one of Washington's final two wins is over Minnesota - lose that game, obviously, and the season's probably over).

(New Orleans hosts Arizona next week, and, as best I can tell, root your guts out for a tie in that one. )

So let's say the Skins win Sunday night at New York and beat the Vikings. They could still lose to Dallas in Week 17 and get in at 8-8 assuming the following:

The Carolina Panthers do not run the table (Carolina is the only 5-8 team that could hold a tiebreaker over the Skins at 8-8. At 8-8 Carolina would have an 8-4 NFC record. Of course, to get to 8-8 the sinking Panthers would have to beat 3 straight division winners - Seattle, Dallas and Tampa Bay behind the eternal Vinny T at QB)

The Saints lose 2 of their final 4 games and finish 7-9 or worse

The Vikings lose at Denver in Week 17

The Lions lose one of their final 3 games (at San Diego, vs. KC, at Green Bay)

The Cardinals lose one of their final 3 games (at New Orleans, vs. Atlanta, vs. St. Louis). The Cards could do the Skins a favor and beat the Saints, and, then manage to choke to a weak team in one of the final two weeks, and the Skins can be in good position at 8-8)

So, how realistic is this? Who the hell knows in this conference? But personally, if the Skins win their next 2 games - and I by no means think that's close to a given - then they get a Dallas team with nothing to play for at home in Week 17.

I think overall the Saints game tonight is beyond huge. If they get past Atlanta I think they could be a danger to get to at least 8 wins, which means Skins have to run the table to get in. But with Bush and McAllister hurt, the Saints could blow it tonight and end up tanking completely down the stretch. Also, a Saints loss tonight and they could beat Arizona next week and still face a tougher sked down the stretch than the Cards, which would help the Skins' 8-8 chances.

Minnesota is the only team of this wildcard bunch to be playing truly good football right now, reeling off 5 straight wins, but I don't think they are good enough to close with 8 straight wins, either. They do however, have an identity, which is more than 85 percent of the NFC can say. They run it down your throat and don't let you run it and they kid QB there, Jackson, has been infinitely better in the second half of the season and lo longer a turnover machine). The Vikings will be favorite to beat the Bears Sunday, but if they lost would anyone be truly stunned?)

And, again, as I said before, a Saints loss tonight and the situation is crystal clear for Washington: Run the table and get in.

Okay, my brain hurts.

So, how exactly can a team lose 4 in a row and not have a 3-game winning streak since 2005 and still be in the thick of the playoffs? Well, let's see:

The Lions lose 5 straight

The Cards find a way to give up 37 points at home to the 49ers - that's 6 weeks worth of scoring for San Fran - and lose 3 of 5 overall

Carolina loses 4 of 5

The Saints lose 3 of 4 after a 4-game winning streak, losing at home to a previously winless St. Louis outfit. (Had they not called a ridiculous bone headed double-reverse in their own territory against Tampa last week and blown a late lead, then New Orleans would be 6-6 right now and 5-3 against the NFC, and the Skins would be in deep trouble).

The Eagles lose 3 in a row (they had New England on the ropes two weeks back, blew a game to Seattle amid a flurry of turnovers, and had a game-tying field goal hit the upright Sunday).

The Bears lose 3 of 4, most importantly to the Redskins Thursday night.

And, just like that, your Washington Redskins are in the hunt. Enjoy!

By Jason La Canfora  |  December 10, 2007; 10:26 AM ET
 
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