- Donovan McNabb and Mike Shanahan must lead the Redskins to at least a 5-1 finish for the playoffs to be a possibility.
As the Washington Redskins get to work for their home game on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, they know that at 5-5 and third place in the NFC East, their playoff hopes are not dead, but that they’re not sitting in the most favorable position either.
The Redskins need a victory over the Vikings -- a team that is in disarray but could be rejuvenated by the firing of head coach Brad Childress -- and from there, they must perform a tight-rope walk in the final five games of the season to make the playoffs.
The playoff picture is becoming clear, and it looks like this:
Atlanta: 8-2 and in the drivers seat atop the NFC.
Philadelphia: 7-3 and winners of three straight and leading the East.
Chicago: 7-3, winners of three straight and leading the North.
New Orleans: 7-3, winners of three straight and second in the South.
Green Bay: 7-3, winners of four straight, but second in the North.
Tampa Bay: 7-3, but have a tough road ahead.
New York: 6-4 and losers of back-to-back games to divisional rivals.
Washington: 5-5 and third in the NFC East.
The way things currently look, the Redskins appear to be long shots. But for a team that went 4-12 last year, even long odds are progress.
The Redskins have no hope of catching the Falcons, who are 5-0 at home and are seemingly unstoppable. And although they split games with the Eagles, hopes of catching them are slim because the Eagles have the easiest remaining schedule in the NFC as a whole.
The Packers have a tough schedule coming up with the Falcons, Patriots, Giants and Bears waiting. And Chicago also has a difficult final stretch: Philadelphia, New England, New York Jets on the list. Tampa Bay is a young team that has surprised people, but their stretch run is rocky as well, with Baltimore, the Redskins, Saints and Falcons lining up to face them.
The Giants were hot a few weeks ago but have cooled with back-to-back losses to Dallas and Philadelphia, and the going doesn’t get much easier for them down the stretch with only one losing team left on a docket that looks like this: Jacksonville, Washington twice, Minnesota, Philly and Green Bay.
Basically, at 5-5, the Redskins have little margin for error, and they need help. They have to hope that Packers, Saints and Bucs split their remaining games, and that would put them at 10-6. Washington can put itself in great standing by going 6-0 the rest of the way, that would put them at 11-5 and ahead of the three teams just mentioned. But seriously, what are the chances of that? They have the Giants twice (including the regular season finale), the Buccaneers, Cowboys and Jaguars left on the schedule. Challenging, but more realistic could be a scenario that sees the Redskins go 5-1 down the stretch and finish 10-6. The good thing would be that they hold tie-breakers over the Packers and Bears having beaten both.
Hang on tight, because every week will feature must-win football for the Redskins.