Coming into the weekend, conventional wisdom was that the Redskins had put themselves in good position in the NFC East race with a Thanksgiving Day win in Dallas. But if they were also searching for another way into the postseason -- through one of the two available wild-card spots -- that approach seemed far less likely.
How quickly things change in the NFL. While Washington sat home with a holiday win already in the bank, its rivals all imploded. And so a team in 11th place in the conference just a few days ago now has another viable option into the playoffs. Seattle (6-5), Minnesota (6-5), Tampa Bay (6-5) and New Orleans (5-6) all lost Sunday. With just five games left in the regular season, the Redskins (5-6) somehow are just one game back of the No. ?6 spot.
Washington was still intently rooting for the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night when that team played the NFC East-leading New York Giants. A loss there for the defending Super Bowl champs and the Redskins could tie them when they meet next Monday night at FedEx Field. That's the best bet right now.
But the more options the better. With wins over the Saints, Buccaneers and Vikings this season, the Redskins are well-positioned to win most tiebreakers at the end of the season. And given how volatile the NFC playoff race has become, that is a huge advantage down the stretch. The second tiebreaker is conference wins, and Washington already has five of those. That puts it ahead of No. 6 Seattle, which is 4-4, and the other three teams ahead of it, too.
Even better -- the upcoming schedule isn't exactly kind to those teams. The Saints have four days to get ready for a Thursday road game at NFC South-leading Atlanta (10-1). The Seahawks are at NFC North-leading Chicago (8-3). The Vikings face Green Bay, which is in control of the No. 5 seed in the playoff chase. And Tampa Bay travels to Denver (8-3), which has won six straight games and can clinch its division as soon as next weekend.
- Brian McNally