If the NFL Playoffs began tomorrow, the Washington Redskins, yes, the team that started with ¾ of their division-mates at 3-6, would win the NFC East. After a Nov. 11 bye, the Redskins have won every game since.
It’s got to be a shot to the gut for the reigning Super Bowl champions. The New York Giants were in the driver’s seat for the first half of the season, racking up a seemingly insurmountable 6-2 record against their weaker opponents. Now, however, the Giants, Redskins and Dallas Cowboys are locked up in a three-way tie for first in the division, all sitting pretty at 8-6.
QB Robert Griffin’s maturity in the pocket may have something to do with the Redskins’ climb to the top. Giants’ QB Eli Manning’s historic late-season slumps may have something to do with the Giants’ fall from the Heavens. Philly should be given the division title posthumously for being the most consistent (losing) team. And the Cowboys? That one’s a conundrum.
Dallas has won five of their last six games, four of those in dramatic fashion. Two wins in OT. A last-minute win against Cincinnati. A fourth-quarter rally against the Eagles. While they’re ranked fourth in the league in passing yards, they are second-to-last in rushing. They’re averaging a middle-of-the-pack 23.4 points per game. Could they waltz into the playoffs ahead of the Giants and Redskins?
Well, they face the 2nd-ranked passing defense of the New Orleans Saints this weekend, and then they go to FedEx Field to face Washington. Could the playoff-bound NFC East team come down to an ages-old, Cowboys-Indians rivalry? Not if the Giants have a say in it.
But the Giants may not have a say. They play a tough AFC team in Baltimore, then they finish their season at home against the Eagles. Remember, the Eagles beat the Giants earlier in the season and can actually help Dallas into the playoffs by defeating their two division rivals to end Philly’s horrible season on a high note.
If all three teams lose the rest of the season and end up 8-8, then the Redskins still would win the division (by merit of their NFC East record). The ‘Skins are on top of the league in rushing, fourth in total yards and fifth in points per game. They have an outstanding QB in Griffin and an equally-competent one in backup rookie Kirk Cousins, who has proven he can lead a game tying drive and actually win a game as a starter, on the road, throwing for 329 yards, two TDs and a QB rating of 104.4. So far, the ‘Skins are the team to beat in the NFC East, and two teams jockeying for a division title had better not drop either of their remaining two games of the season if they want to play football in January.