NFC wins will help Redskins down the stretch

The Washington Post's Dan Steinberg, LaVar Arrington, Rick Maese and Jonathan Forsythe discuss the concerns rising from Sunday's win in Chicago, including Donovan McNabb's worst performance to-date for the Redskins.
By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 27, 2010; 12:14 AM

Despite an NFL record-tying four interceptions against the Chicago Bears, Washington Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall seemed more excited Sunday about his team's standing in the NFC.

"The most important thing is where we're at" in the standings, the two-time Pro Bowler said after the 17-14 victory at Soldier Field. "You remember what I said [in the offseason], that we had everything we needed to be a good team, a playoff team. Yeah, we still got a long way to go, but we're in a good spot."

After last season's 4-12 debacle, the Redskins, at 4-3, are among many teams positioned to contend for playoff berths during the second half of a wide-open conference race. Although their defense ranks near the bottom of the league, and their offense has not functioned smoothly, the Redskins already have matched their 2009 victory total while winning games that could prove helpful in determining playoff tiebreakers.

Coach Mike Shanahan has inspired confidence, and the Redskins believe they're making progress toward returning to postseason play for the first time since the 2007 season.

"We could be better, we should be even better, right now, but we've kind of been underachieving a little bit," inside linebacker Rocky McIntosh said. "First things first, we just have to focus on every game, but we're building momentum."

Tied for second in the four-team NFC East with Philadelphia, which it defeated in Week 4, Washington faces Detroit at Ford Field on Sunday and then begins its bye week. Washington has not yet faced the East-leading New York Giants (5-2), the conference's hottest team, which has a four-game winning streak.

Reluctant to look too far ahead, players declined to speculate on the possibility of having a 5-3 record at the break, "but it would be good to just keep doing what we're doing and being in the best possible position," said outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander. "It's too early to start even talking about that stuff [the playoffs], but it's never too early to just focus on playing well and keep trying to reach your goals."

Washington is one of nine NFC teams with at least four victories. The early struggles of teams such as Dallas (1-5), Green Bay (4-3) and New Orleans (4-3), who were considered the conference's top Super Bowl contenders before the season, have opened opportunities for others, and Washington has surprised to this point.

Winless (0-6) against the NFC East last season, the Redskins already are 2-0 in the division, with victories against the Cowboys and Eagles.

Washington is the only team in the NFC East with two division victories and also has victories against NFC opponents Green Bay and Chicago. Records within the division and conference are among the playoff-tiebreaker criteria.

As the Redskins prepared to face the Bears, they did so with an understanding that "this game [against the Bears] could have playoff implications down the road," said inside linebacker and defensive captain London Fletcher.

Teams that earn playoff berths usually win games decided by a few points. Four of Washington's games have come down to the final play. The point differentials for the Redskins: six, three, 14, five, three, three and three.

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