Could the Redskins really win the NFC East?

I heard you loud and clear in yesterday’s comments, to the Opening Kick headlined “Are the Redskins licking their chops for the Eagles?” There were a handful of really clever comments, and the message pretty clearly is that the Eagles are licking their chops (however you define it) for the Redskins just as much.

I do try to start discussion, but I promise I’m not trying to pander. But you’ll just have to believe me on that, because today’s item is along the same lines as yesterday’s. But if this was good enough to get the copy desk arguing on Tuesday night over whether it is completely implausible, or just slightly improbable but not unreasonable, then it’s good enough for the hamsters here at The Insider.

Wednesday’s Post sports section front lays out a scenario where the Redskins win the NFC East and make the playoffs. But that’s not the half of it. It doesn’t require this 3-6 team to run the table or beat anyone they have no business beating. The Redskins could actually lose twice more, but if several other imaginable things happen, they’d win the NFC East at 8-8.

While it’s a stretch at this point to assume the Redskins will win four of their final five, the scenario projects two wins over the 3-6 Eagles, a split with the 4-5 Cowboys, a win over the 2-7 Browns, a home win against the 6-4 Giants, who the Redskins nearly beat last month before this late Victor Cruz touchdown, and a loss to the 7-2 Ravens.

Here’s a non-HD glance at the graphic (click here to view The Post’s daily e-replica, and zoom in).

Wednesday's Post

The front page of Wednesday’s Post sports section lays out a scenario in which the Redskins could win the division without major heroics.

The Cowboys would win their next three, for a four-game winning streak, then lose their final four, which sounds hard to believe. But the wins are this week against the Browns, on Thanksgiving against the Redskins, and again vs. the Eagles. Then the losses are against the Bengals, who have the same 4-5 record, in Cincinnati, the Steelers (6-3), Saints (4-5) and Redskins.

How could the 6-4 Giants fall to 8-8? After this week’s bye, they play the Packers (6-3), Redskins, Saints, Falcons (8-1), Ravens and Eagles. The scenario projects wins over New Orleans and Philadelphia and losses in the rest of the games.

The Giants finish 8-8, Cowboys 7-9 and Eagles 5-11. The Redskins finish with a 4-2 record in NFC East games, one better than the Giants’ 3-3, and win the division at 8-8.

Taken as a whole, this is probably implausible. But each individual occurrence is possible, and the fact that the designers who made this scenario didn’t need to pick any teams with losing records to upset teams with winning records, save one Redskins win against the Giants, means I give it some credence. What about you?

I wouldn’t bet on this many things falling into place. But I wouldn’t completely rule it out either, not in today’s NFL, and not in this division, where teams look alternately decent and horrible.

You can make a case against the Post for continually feeding Redskins’ fans optimism, where in other cities they might just trash the local team and be done with it. You can make a case against this scenario. The story by Mark Maske acknowledges the improbability of it all, with Redskins players quoted saying that they’re lucky to be playing for anything at all at this point, and if they just take it one week at a time, well who knows?

Me personally, I find it to be a commentary on the NFC East this year. You’ve got four teams with all kinds of talented players, but no team that’s really played like one you should be confident in. You can’t make any sense out of these guys, week to week. Then there’s the oft-repeated fact that the Giants were a mere 7-7 at one point last season before beating the Cowboys in the finale for the division title and going on to win the Super Bowl. But there’s also the idea that the Redskins, Eagles and Cowboys are a lot closer to playing for the best draft pick than they are playing for the Lombardi Trophy. The fact a division title scenario still exists for a 3-6 team which appeared to give up on itself after losing what it termed a must-win game two weeks ago is a commentary on something. Exactly what, I’ll leave up to you in the comments. (You might also note that the Post was derided for being unnecessarily negative about those Mike Shanahan comments).

I will say this though. At 3-7, I think all optimism for this season goes out the window and the talk centers on how to improve the Redskins for the future, given the fact they’re hamstrung on draft picks and by cap penalties. So anything and everything starts this weekend by kicking the Eagles when they are down, and finding a way to get to 4-6.

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