NFL playoff scenarios: The Redskins' path to the playoffs


Don't look now, but we could still be talking about RGIII playing meaningful games in January.

So much for a rebuilding year. RGIII and the Washington Redskins beat the New York Giants on Monday night to move to 6-6. Washington is now one game behind the Giants in the NFC and in the thick of a playoff chase.

How does Washington crash the party? What happens in a wild NFC East? There is another month left in the season to answer that question.

The Redskins have two paths to the playoffs. Mike Shanahan can either win the division or claim the other Wild Card, the one that's not the consolation prize in the NFC North. Seattle and Chicago currently own the two Wild Card spots in the NFC.

Washington hosts the Baltimore Ravens next week. This being the same Ravens team that lost to Charlie Batch. After that, Washington has a two-game road trip to Cleveland and Philadelphia, both very winnable games. The most important game on the schedule is likely to be the season finale against the Cowboys at FedEx Field.

The Giants have a tougher schedule. Next week, New York hosts the Saints. It gets tougher the week after that with a trip to Atlanta in Week 15. Eli Manning and Co. have another road game after that in Baltimore, before wrapping up the season at home against the Eagles.

Jerry Jones' team has the tallest order. The Cowboys are in Cincinnati next week to play a Bengals team riding a four-game win streak. After that, it's a home game against the Steelers, something that could be especially difficult if Ben Roethlisberger returns. Dallas next hosts the Saints before the finale against Washington.

Washington has the most-favorable remaining schedule of any team in the NFC East. It's possible that the Giants and the Redskins finish the season with the same record. Because the two teams split the regular season head-to-head matchups, it goes to the division record. The Redskins have a 3-1 record in the NFC East versus New York's 2-3 record.

That could be a real problem for the Giants, who have only one division game left. Washington has a pair of division games. Assuming the Giants beat the Eagles, Washington would have to lose both of its division games for both teams to be at 3-3 in the NFC East. From there, the tiebreaker goes to common games. It's unlikely to get to that point. If it does, both teams' remaining game against the Ravens will be key.

Washington can also play its way into a Wild Card spot. That could largely depend on what happens to Seattle. The most important date in that scenario could be Dec. 14, when cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner are scheduled to appeal their four-game suspensions for banned substance violations.

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