Washington Redskins Have 7 Paths to NFC Playoffs

Joe Versage@@dcjoevCorrespondent IIDecember 21, 2012

Washington Redskins Have 7 Paths to NFC Playoffs

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    The Washington Redskins control their playoff destiny. It's as simple as that. But if the team struggles in one of its last two games, its NFC chances will be determined by a convoluted system of mathematics.

    Currently, there are seven different pathways Washington can take to the postseason and the fun starts Sunday, in Philadelphia.

    We'll do our best to describe the various scenarios, but bear with us because it's going to get mighty confusing.

1. Win out to Win Division

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    We start with the obvious. If the Redskins beat Philadelphia and Dallas to close the regular season, they will enter the postseason as NFC East champions. 

    That would be a tremendous accomplishment for a team that was left for dead at 3-6. It would also mean a clean sweep of their final seven games.

    In other words, Washington would enter the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the NFL

2. Take Down the Giants

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    From the previous slide, we know the following.

    If Washington and the New York Giants win in Weeks 16 and 17, the Redskins would take the NFC East because of a better divisional record.

    But if the Redskins and Giants lose one of their last two games, a number of tiebreakers will come into play that will determine the fate of the two teams. We'll get to that later, but first let's break down the picture in the NFC East.

    To make it easier to follow along, we will attach the schedule of remaining games for Washington, Dallas and the New York Giants. This will also be done throughout the slideshow, so readers don't have to backtrack. 

    All three teams enter this weekend with 8-6 records, but their divisional records differ.

    Redskins (3-1 in NFC East): @Eagles, Home vs. Cowboys 

    Cowboys (3-2 in NFC East): Home vs. Saints, @Redskins

    Giants (2-3 in NFC East): @Ravens, Home vs. Eagles

    If the Redskins maintain a better record within the NFC East, it'll be a nice advantage to have in their pockets.

    Even if Washington loses to the Eagles, the Skins can still take the East from New York with a win over Dallas and one Giants' loss. 

    In that case, Washington would finish the season with a 4-2 record in the division. The best New York can do is 3-3.  

    Following an embarrassing 34-0 loss at Atlanta, the Giants look vulnerable. But they can actually take the East with wins over Baltimore and Philly and a loss apiece by Washington and Dallas.

3. Snuff out the Cowboys

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    Redskins 8-6, (3-1 in NFC East): @Eagles, Home vs. Cowboys 

    Cowboys 8-6, (3-2 in NFC East): Home vs. Saints, @Redskins

    Giants 8-6, (2-3 in NFC East): @Ravens, Home vs. Eagles

    If the Redskins win out, Washington will finish with a 10-6 record and the NFC East title. The best Dallas could finish would be 9-7 and that may not be enough to assure the Cowboys a wild card berth. 

    When it comes to divisional tiebreakers with Dallas, the Redskins are in the driver's seat, even of they lose to the Eagles.

    If Washington loses at Philadelphia and Dallas beats New Orleans, the Redskins can win a tiebreaker over the Cowboys by beating them at home on December 30th.

    In that case, both teams would finish at 9-7, but the Redskins would have the advantage because of a clean sweep of Dallas in head-to-head matchups. 

4. New Year's Resolution

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    Redskins 8-6, (3-1 in NFC East): @Eagles, Home vs. Cowboys 

    Cowboys 8-6, (3-2 in NFC East): Home vs. Saints, @Redskins

    Giants 8-6, (2-3 in NFC East): @Ravens, Home vs. Eagles

    I know what you're thinking. What happens if the Redskins, Cowboys and Giants split their last two games and all finish at 9-7?

    It can certainly happen and here's how it would play out for Washington at the end of December.

    A Redskins' loss in Philadelphia would hurt, but it wouldn't be a division death blow to Washington. The Skins would still take the East with a win over Dallas and a Giants' split of their last two.

    The above scenario would actually be based on records among common division opponents vying for a playoff berth.  

    Are you still with me? I'll explain.

    Let's just say the Redskins lose in Philly, the Giants split and Dallas gets beat by Washington after defeating New Orleans.

    Washington, Dallas and New York would all finish at 9-7, but the Redskins would take the tiebreaker because they would have a 3-1 "common opponent" record against the Cowboys and Giants (who split with Washington), while the Cowboys would be 1-3 and the Giants 2-2.

5. Wild Card Route 1

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    For this slide, we'll refer to information provided by Real Redskins blogger Rich Tandler, who determined what would happen to the Redskins if they win in Philadelphia, but lose to Dallas on December 30th at FedExField.

    "[Washington] will have to hope for a wild card, even if the Cowboys lose to the Saints," wrote Tandler in his blog on December 17th.

    If Washington beats Philly and then loses to Dallas after a Cowboys' loss to New Orleans, the teams would both be 9-7.

    According to Tandler, they would also be "tied head-to-head and would have 4-2 division marks. The next tiebreaker is record in common [conference] games."

    The teams have 12 common games (Giants x 2, Eagles x 2, Falcons, Saints, Panthers, Bucs, Steelers, Ravens, Bengals, Browns). The Cowboys have eight wins against those teams with one to play and the Redskins have six with one to play.

    Therefore, Dallas would win the tiebreaker and the Redskins would be involved in a dogfight with other NFC teams vying for a wild card spot. 

    Washington would also be in the same situation if New York wins its last two and the Redskins split.

6. Wild Card Route 2

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    In his Real Redskins blog, Rich Tandler points out that "the Redskins would have to lose a game to get into the wild card mix because if they win out, they win the division."

    The wild card scenario will also be easier to figure out if Seattle wins one of its two remaining home games to wrap up one of the two spots.

    If that happens, all the focus will be on the second wild card, which will go to one of the following 8-6 teams.

    Bears: @Cardinals, @Lions

    Vikings: @Texans, Home vs. Packers

    Redskins: @Eagles, Home vs. Cowboys 

    Cowboys: Home vs. Saints, @Redskins

    Giants: @Ravens, Home vs. Eagles

    According to Tandler:

    If the Redskins beat the Eagles and the Giants, Vikings, and Bears all lose, Washington clinches at least a wild card spot. Even if the Redskins lose to Dallas in the finale, they would beat the Vikings based on a head to head win, the Bears due to a better conference record, and the Giants with a better division record.

7. Wild Card Route 3

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    The last road Washington can take is another one filled with playoff hopefuls, who would fall by the wayside if they joined the Redskins in splitting the season's last two games. 

    This would occur if Washington loses to Philadelphia on Sunday and joins the wild card conversation.

    To put it simply, Washington would clinch a wild card if it loses in Philly, but beats Dallas, while the Giants, Bears and Vikings split their final two games.

    If all four teams finish at 9-7, the Redskins win the wild card based on their head-to-head sweep of the Cowboys, a better division record than the Giants, a head-to-head win over the Vikings, and a better conference record than the Bears.

    So, are we there yet? Not quite. But if somebody asks you what the Redskins' playoff chances are, feel free to respond with: "Let me count the ways."   


    Joe Versage is an NFL Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He previously covered the Buffalo BillsWashington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens as a television beat reporter. Follow him on Twitter at: @JoeVersage 

    Unless otherwise noted, all player information and statistics are courtesy of Redskins.com and the National Football League. Additional information was obtained from CBSSports.com, NFL.com and RealRedskins.com.