At times, deciphering NFL playoff implications requires the use of a schedule, the Pythagorean Theorem and a Ouija board—as rarely does the mantra "win and you're in" apply.
However, a Week 17 showdown between the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys is the exception. The victor claims the NFC East crown and an invitation to the postseason. With so much riding on this rodeo, the rivalry once dubbed as the greatest in profession pigskin serves as our WhatIfSports.com Game of the Week.
The fact that the Redskins find themselves in such a situation is celebratory in itself, as the team was just 3-6 heading into Week 10's bye. Yet Washington has rolled off six-consecutive victories—four of which have come against divisional foes—to sit atop the NFC East. It will all be for naught, however, if Mike Shanahan's squad fails to take care of business in D.C. this weekend.
Washington is spurred by its ability to control the terrain game on both sides of the ball. The dynamic neophyte pair of Alfred Morris (1,413 yards, 4.7 average, 10 touchdowns) and Robert Griffin III (752 yards, 6.6 average, six scores) have dominated the proceedings on the soil, leading the league with 162.3 rushing yards per game.
As impressive as that output may be, the fact that the Washington rush resistance has held adversaries to just 95.5 yards per contest, second-lowest mark in the NFC, might be of greater note, as top defenders Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker have missed most of the season.
Still, the primary story out of our nation's capital continues to be the duo dexterity of Griffin III. Last year's Heisman winner has assimilated into the NFL environment almost seamlessly, transforming a feeble offense into one of the game's most explosive attacks.
First overall pick Andrew Luck is garnering his fair share of love, and rightfully so. Yet in terms of effectiveness, the comparisons between the two rookie quarterbacks isn't even close. The Baylor product has hit 66.4 percent of his intended targets with 26 total touchdowns and just seven turnovers versus Luck's 54.3 completion rate, 26 end-zone excursions and 23 miscues.
As Griffin III goes, so goes Washington.
The forays of their field general is not a new conviction in Dallas, as Tony Romo continues to be the most-scrutinized player in the league not named Tim Tebow. Sad, too, as the 32-year-old arm is enjoying one of his finest campaigns to date, setting a franchise record with 4,685 passing yards. Critics will quickly point to his 16 interceptions as argument in dispute of this claim, yet given nine of those picks are derived from two games, the season as a whole has been one of prosperity for the three-time Pro Bowler.
Assisting Romo in this offense endeavor has been the fruition of talented-but-troubled Dez Bryant. After a middling start to the fall, the former first-round pick has 10 trips to paydirt in the past seven weeks. Even more amazing has been Bryant's production the past two outings (13 receptions, 283 yards, three scores) despite working with a broken finger.
Throw in the enduring excellence of Jason Witten, who broke Tony Gonzalez's record for most catches by a tight end in a season last Sunday with 103 balls on the year, and the air assault of Dallas is second to none.
Though coming off an overtime defeat to New Orleans, Dallas has been on a bit of a hot streak as well, winning five of their last seven contests. Unfortunately, the Cowboys won't be remembered for this strong second-half performance if they miss the playoffs for the third straight year, a circumstance that might cost head coach Jason Garrett his gig.
So who emerges as the NFC East champion? According to the award-winning WhatIfSports.com simulation engine, the Cowboys come out on top 53.9 percent of the time by an average margin of 23-21. For the rest of this week's scores, check below:
Each Tuesday, WhatIfSports.com's NFL simulation engine will provide you with predictions, box scores and statistics for every NFL game that week. The NFL simulation engine generates detailed information including the home team's chances of winning (Home Win %), average score and comprehensive box score link. If you want to share your new found NFL knowledge with friends and family, make sure to check out our NFL Widgets on the WhatIf To Go page or click on the social networking share bar located at the top and bottom of the article.
The statistical inputs to the thousands of NFL games simulated are based on rigorous analysis of each team's roster, depth chart and statistically based player ranking. Roster modifications have been made for injuries and suspensions and those players are not part of their team's game simulation.
To account for injuries and roster moves announced late in the week, we will be re-simulating some games on Thursdays throughout the 2012 NFL season.
Check out our 2012 NFL Season-to-Date page to follow our accuracy week-to-week and find Locks and Upsets of the Week.
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