The Washington Redskins received the break they needed in Week 15 before their Monday night contest against the Carolina Panthers. For the first time in more than two weeks, Washington controls its playoff fate. And it’s all because of its division rival, the Dallas Cowboys.
Washington holds the sixth seed thanks to the Cowboys, who defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-6) on Sunday night. It gives the Redskins (7-5-1) a slight edge over the Bucs, and they can maintain that lead with a victory over the Panthers — who have little for which to play after being all but eliminated from the playoff race Sunday. While Upshot had the Panthers at a zero percent chance on Sunday, it has changed to less than one percent on Monday. FiveThirtyEight has Carolina eliminated regardless if it beats Washington. Although the Football Power Index gives the Panthers a 0.0004 percent chance with a ridiculous scenario, it plays out in ESPN’s playoff machine with the Bucs, not the Panthers, receiving the sixth seed.
Update 12:22 p.m.: Someone finally got it to work! The one scenario, per FPI, plays out now on FiveThirtyEight that would allow the Panthers to clinch the sixth seed.
All this work for a situation that has less than a one percent chance …
The NFC playoff picture gained a little clarity with two teams officially eliminated — the Arizona Cardinals and the Philadelphia Eagles. Two more teams, the Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints, are clinging to their very slim odds at a playoff berth. The Vikings have a 2 percent chance at the sixth seed, while the Saints have less than 1 percent and would be eliminated with a Redskins victory.
Washington has a 53 percent chance at making the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight, and it would jump to 72 percent with a win over Carolina. With a loss, the Redskins would have just a 26 percent chance at a wild-card spot and would fall to eighth behind the Bucs (8-6) and the Green Bay Packers (8-6) in that scenario with two games remaining.
The Redskins haven’t had an opportunity to control their fate since losing to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 13 as they fell a half-game behind Tampa Bay for the sixth seed. Despite a victory over the Philadelphia Eagles last week, the Redskins still needed help down the stretch because the Bucs, the Atlanta Falcons (9-5) and the New York Giants (10-4) all won. Washington needed one of those three teams to lose this week to control its destiny once again. Although the Falcons and Giants won earlier in the day, Dallas gave the Redskins an early Christmas present with its 26-20 victory over Tampa Bay at AT&T Stadium.
Of all the teams to help Washington, it just so happens to be the one it dislikes the most. Now it’s up for the Redskins to take advantage of this huge opportunity at FedEx Field.