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In Weak NFC, 5-9 Redskins Still Have Shot at Playoffs

By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 21, 2004; Page D04

Despite their 5-9 record the Washington Redskins remain alive for a playoff berth, although they will need help from the rest of the NFC to get in. Any postseason chance hinges on Washington winning its final two games -- at Dallas and at home against Minnesota.

"I don't know how realistic it is," Coach Joe Gibbs said, "but I do know we have a chance."


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Philadelphia and Atlanta have clinched their divisions, and Green Bay has clinched a playoff spot. Arizona, Seattle or St. Louis can win the NFC West, with the other teams in the running for a wild card, and, at 8-6, Minnesota could still either win the NFC North over Green Bay or qualify for the wild card. For the Redskins to qualify, the New York Giants, Carolina, New Orleans and St. Louis would all have to lose at least one game, but given the fact those teams still have games against one another, those clubs would have to lose specific games.

For example, should Carolina win at Tampa Bay this weekend and New Orleans beats Atlanta, the Redskins would be eliminated. If St. Louis beats Philadelphia on Monday night and Seattle beats Arizona, that would also prevent Washington from reaching the postseason. Carolina and New Orleans will meet in Week 17, complicating the picture for the Redskins. However, a viable situation exists by which the Redskins could still be fighting for the playoffs in their final game on Jan. 2. If the Eagles (13-1) beat sputtering St. Louis, and either Carolina or New Orleans loses this weekend -- both of their games are challenging -- that would be enough to keep the Redskins in contention in the final game.

Should everything fall perfectly for the Redskins this weekend, they could control their own destiny in Week 17. If the Redskins beat Dallas, Tampa Bay beats Carolina, Cincinnati beats the Giants, Atlanta beats New Orleans and Philadelphia beats St. Louis, Washington would be able to qualify for the playoffs simply by beating the Vikings in the final game. Under no circumstances could the Redskins qualify higher than the sixth seed, which would put them on the road against the lowest seed of the four division winners. That opponent would most likely come from the NFC North. Green Bay plays Minnesota for the division title on Christmas Eve.

However, the Redskins could have a difficult time in Dallas. They have not won there since 1995 and have lost 13 of 14 games against the Cowboys dating from the 1997 season. Of course, the players did not expect to be mathematically alive at this point; their loss to Philadelphia two weeks ago dropped them to 4-9, which halted the playoff chatter.

"After we lost to Philly it kind of died a little bit," offensive lineman Chris Samuels said. "But, shoot, I'll tell you what, that's something to play for. . . . It's shocking to me."


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