Washington Redskins Playoff Hopes: Ranking the Biggest Threats for the Wild Card

Brian Paxton@@thebrianpaxtonContributor IIIDecember 2, 2012

Washington Redskins Playoff Hopes: Ranking the Biggest Threats for the Wild Card

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    Who would've thought after the Carolina Panthers game earlier this season that the Washington Redskins would be playing in December for a playoff bid.

    Even if the RG3-led 'Skins lose to the New York Giants on Monday night, there's still a chance they grab a Wild Card spot.

    As of right now, it's probably easier to win the division then grab a Wild Card, but that becomes virtually impossible if the Giants beat the Redskins.

    Either Green Bay or Chicago is pretty much guaranteed one of the Wild Card spots, but the other is still there for the taking. Seattle, Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Dallas and New Orleans are all still alive and fighting for a playoff spot.

    The best news is that Washington owns the tiebreaker over ALL of those teams, so 8-8 could easily earn a spot in the postseason if the 'Skins get a little help. They've beaten Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Dallas and New Orleans straight up, while they own a better record in the NFC than Seattle.

    There's plenty of opportunities for the Redskins to make a run at a postseason berth in Robert Griffin III's rookie year if they win at least three of the last five. If they can get to 8-8, they'll have a shot; if they get to 9-7, they're in.

    Upcoming Schedule

    Week 13: hosting New York

    Week 14: hosting Baltimore

    Week 15: at Cleveland

    Week 16: at Philadelphia

    Week 17: hosting Dallas

    Even if the Redskins lose to both New York and Baltimore, they have three extremely winnable games to get to 8-8. If they can split those first two, 9-7 is well within reach.

    But if we're taking a realistic look at the end of the season, the Redskins will be fighting off five other teams for a spot in the postseason who will need to do some losing if Washington wants a shot. Here's the five teams who pose the biggest threat to a Redskins postseason appearance.

No. 1: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Tampa Bay (6-5) is the biggest threat to the Redskins chances for a Wild Card spot. Washington does own the tiebreaker, however.

    Upcoming Schedule

    Week 13: at Denver

    Week 14: hosting Philadelphia

    Week 15: at New Orleans

    Week 16:  hosting St. Louis

    Week 17: at Atlanta

    The Redskins need at the very least two of those games to be losses, although realistically it will probably take three to push the 'Skins to the playoffs.

    While Atlanta may seem like a tough game they might be resting their starters at that point, so you can't put that one in the books just yet. The only way they go full strength is if they're playing for home-field advantage, but they've likely already locked that up by Week 17.

    That means it's up to either New Orleans or St. Louis to step up and deliver that second loss. Tampa Bay is playing like a better team than either of those two at the moment, especially with Doug Martin running wild. Denver should beat them tomorrow, but that's still not a given.

    If the Redskins don't make the playoffs, Tampa Bay could very well be the reason why.

No. 2: Seattle Seahawks

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    The Seattle Seahawks (6-5) are the next threat to a postseason berth. While they have a ton of talent on the roster, they face a much tougher schedule than the Bucs and their top two corners are suspended for four weeks.

    Upcoming Schedule

    Week 13: at Chicago

    Week 14:  hosting Arizona

    Week 15: at Buffalo

    Week 16:  hosting San Francisco

    Week 17:  hosting St. Louis

    They could very well go 0-4 during the stretch without Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman, who were suspended for drug violations. Otherwise, San Francisco and Chicago should beat the Seahawks. At least one of Arizona, Buffalo or St. Louis should have a shot to give them that third loss.

    If the Seahawks lose three more games, they won't be making the playoffs. While the Wild Card winner may be 8-8, they'd still have to win more games in the NFC than Washington and Tampa Bay to own the tiebreaker.

    I don't think the Seahawks have enough depth at corner to pull off a run for the playoffs, but Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson are a decent enough combination on offense to keep them in games and make it interesting.

No. 3: Dallas Cowboys

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    Believe it or not, the Dallas Cowboys (5-6) probably have a better shot at the playoffs than the Redskins based on schedules.

    Upcoming Schedule

    Week 13:  hosting Philadelphia

    Week 14: at Cincinnati 

    Week 15:  hosting Pittsburgh

    Week 16:  hosting New Orleans

    Week 17: at Washington

    Looking at that schedule I don't see any games the Cowboys don't stand a chance in, especially if Ben Roethlisberger can't go.

    That's not to say they'll win all of those games. The Bengals are just now getting hot, with one of the best receivers in the game in A.J. Green, a solid rushing attack led by BenJarvus Green-Ellis and the best defensive tackle in the game in Geno Atkins. The Saints will always be tough and if Big Ben does play then you have to like the Steelers in that game.

    If Dallas drops at least two games before the season finale, they probably won't make the playoffs since they lost to Seattle in the beginning of the season. They did beat the Giants, so if they split with Washington and end up in a tie, they'll come out on top if the 'Skins lose to New York on Monday.

    The Eagles play the Cowboys tomorrow night. If Andy Reid's sinking ship can somehow pull out the win it'll pretty much drop the Cowboys out of the playoff hunt.

No. 4: New Orleans Saints

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    New Orleans (5-7) suffered a major blow to their playoff hopes after losing to Atlanta last week. They'll likely need to win out in order to grab a Wild Card spot.

    Upcoming Schedule

    Week 13: 23-13 loss to Atlanta

    Week 14: at New York

    Week 15:  hosting Tampa Bay

    Week 16: at Dallas

    Week 17:  hosting Carolina

    All those teams are very beatable—the Giants are the possible exception–even though all but the Panthers are in the hunt for a playoff berth.

    The Saints are interesting because while they're still technically alive for a playoff spot, the Redskins need them to win all but the Carolina game. Both Tampa Bay and New York are ahead of Washington in the playoff race, and losses to New Orleans would be huge.

    Again, the only way the Saints will even have a shot at the playoffs is if they win out, and even then they would likely need some help to get in. Don't count on that happening.

No. 5: Minnesota Vikings

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    Out of all the NFC teams in the hunt for a Wild Card spot, the Vikings (6-5) probably have the toughest road. By toughest, I mean Leslie Frazier is praying for a miracle right now.

    Upcoming Schedule

    Week 13: at Green Bay

    Week 14:  hosting Chicago

    Week 15: at St. Louis

    Week 16: at Houston

    Week 17:  hosting Green Bay

    Outside of St. Louis those are all playoff teams—yikes.

    It's tough to look at that schedule and find a second win. Even St. Louis isn't a gimme. If the Vikings do somehow pull out two wins, they would still need a TON of help since they lost to Seattle, Washington and Tampa Bay earlier this season. The chances Minnesota makes the playoffs is hovering somewhere around slim and none.

    Still, Adrian Peterson is having a monster year and Christian Ponder has some talent. They have a few pieces to make a run, but there's a better shot of JaMarcus Russell getting another starting job in the NFL than the Vikings making the playoffs this year.