The Washington Redskins did the unthinkable Sunday: They beat the Seahawks, in Seattle, with a makeshift offensive line and without Jamison Crowder, Jordan Reed, Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis and Mason Foster. The Redskins not only became just the seventh visiting team to win a game in Seattle since 2012, they kept their playoff hopes alive and leveled their record at 4-4.
Heading into Sunday’s matchup, the Redskins had just a 1-in-13 chance, or 8 percent, of making the playoffs based on their record, their expected win rate based on their points scored and allowed, and their remaining schedule. Now, their chances have increased to 15 percent. So, can they build on Sunday’s success? It’s certainly possible, but they face a big challenge. The Redskins have two of their toughest games remaining in the next two weeks, and that makes the next 14 days pretty much decisive as far as Washington’s playoff chances.
Week 10 vs. Minnesota Vikings
Chance of a Redskins win: 34 percent
Next week’s matchup comes against the 6-2 Minnesota Vikings, a team allowing the fourth-fewest points per drive (1.48), coupled with the third-best defense in the red zone (40 percent conversion rate allowed, significantly lower than the NFL average of 53.6). Plus, Washington’s injury-riddled offensive line will have a lot of trouble keeping defensive end Everson Griffen from putting pressure on Kirk Cousins.
Griffen, who has 10 sacks through the first half of the season, is the league’s seventh-highest-rated edge rusher; he’s getting to the quarterback with a sack, hit or hurry once out of every eight passing plays. That’s key to keeping Cousins in check: His passer rating drops from 115.3 to 71.4 under pressure this season.
Week 11 at New Orleans Saints
Chance of a Redskins win: 22 percent
In Week 11, Washington faces the Saints, a squad that is no longer the defensive laughingstock of the NFL. In 2016, the Saints allowed 2.4 points per drive with the third-worst pass defense in the NFL per Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, which measures a team’s efficiency by comparing success on every play to a league average based on situation and opponent. This season, the Saints are allowing 1.7 points per drive, with the fourth-best pass defense per DVOA.
This is far from a one-dimensional team. The offense, led by quarterback Drew Brees, is scoring 2.24 points per drive this season, sixth-highest overall, with one of the best red-zone offenses in the NFL (58.3 percent, seventh). Brees is now the third-best passer per the game charters at Pro Football Focus, with the third-highest passer rating when operating out of a clean pocket (118.1). However, that drops to an underwhelming 37.3 under pressure. For context, an incomplete throw carries a 39.6 passer rating, so the Saints would be better off if Brees just threw the ball away rather than try to make something happen facing a pass rush.
Washington managed 22 total sacks, hits and hurries against the Seahawks, but Seattle has the third-worst collection of pass blockers in the NFL this year. The Saints rank second, allowing just 59 sacks, hits and hurries all season. So while Brees plays markedly worse under pressure, it doesn’t happen that often.
If Washington upsets Minnesota, its playoff chances go from 15 to 22 percent. If they lose, the Redskins’ playoff odds drop into the single digits (6 percent). A win against New Orleans and Minnesota pushes the Redskins’ playoff chances to 45 percent. A loss to both drops them to 2 percent, effectively snuffing their playoff hopes.
Let’s play out the positive scenario for a second and say Washington beats Minnesota and New Orleans. A win over the New York Giants in Week 12 pushes Washington’s playoff chances to 58 percent, but it will take another win against the Dallas Cowboys to crystallize a postseason shot. If the Redskins beat the Cowboys in Dallas in Week 13, their playoff chances will be close to 80 percent, with better than a 50/50 chance they are the first wild-card team in the NFC.
But first Washington will have its work cut out just keeping its playoff hopes alive over the next two weeks.
More on the Redskins: