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Week 13 playoff glance: Redskins have a path, but it’s rocky

The Washington Redskins seem to have an uphill climb to the playoffs despite a 5-2 start. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)
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Just a month ago, the Redskins were off to an unexpected 5-2 start and sat atop the NFC East after back-to-back wins against the rival Cowboys and Giants. No one knew that trip back from New York may have been as good as it got for the 2018 season.

The team has lost three of four since, and injuries have claimed quarterback Alex Smith and starting guards Brandon Scherff and Shawn Lauvao.

During a radio interview this week, safety D.J. Swearinger equated the final stretch to a five-game playoff, and each loss moving forward does significant damage to the foundation Washington built with its fast start.

The Redskins still control their own destiny, with a 44 percent chance to make the playoffs and a 28 percent chance to win the division, according to The Post’s Neil Greenberg.

“We understand that the last five games . . . these teams all have good players,” Redskins Coach Jay Gruden said, “and it’s going to come down to who can make the plays in critical situations, who can protect the ball and who can get the ball out . . . We have to protect the ball and play better situational football.”

Redskins see opportunity in NFC’s parity. But they’ve got a lot of things to fix first.

If the season ended today …

Washington and Dallas are tied atop the division with 6-5 records, and Philadelphia is right behind at 5-6. The Redskins and Cowboys split their season series, with each winning at home. The Eagles have two games remaining against Washington and one at Dallas.

The first-round byes in the NFC would go to the Saints (10-1) from the South and the Rams out of the West, with the Saints holding the tiebreaker for the top seed.

The Bears (8-3) would win the NFC North and host the Redskins, who would claim the final wild card. The Cowboys would win the East by virtue of a tiebreaker in divisional games and host the fifth-seeded Vikings (6-4-1)

The Redskins currently hold the tiebreaker for the final wild card over the Seahawks and Panthers, who are both 6-5.

This week’s matchup

The Redskins had a chance to retain sole possession of first place in the division last week, but lost, 31-23, to the Cowboys. Now they’re trying to hold off the Eagles. The Cowboys have a tough challenge in the Saints on Thursday and a Dallas loss, plus an Eagles victory over Washington, would leave the teams in a three-way tie at 6-6.

A Redskins win and a Cowboys loss would put Washington alone atop the NFC East. A Cowboys win and a Redskins loss would leave Dallas alone in first, a game ahead of Washington and Philadelphia.

Redskins make adjustments on offense as Colt McCoy gets a full week to prepare

Other matchups to watch

The Redskins have the easiest remaining schedule on paper, as their opponents have a 21-34 record, but they still must face the Super Bowl champion Eagles twice. Also, three of their next four games are on the road.

Cowboys opponents have a 28-27 record, but it’s a top-heavy slate, with the Saints (10-1) balancing out the Buccaneers (4-7) and Giants (3-8). Redskins fans should be rooting for the Saints on Thursday.

The Eagles have the steepest climb, with all five remaining games against teams currently leading their divisions, including the Redskins twice and the Cowboys. Those two plus the Rams and Texans (8-3) add up to a 36-19 record for Philadelphia’s remaining opponents.

The Seahawks, Panthers and Eagles are currently on the outside looking in, but all have opportunities to make moves down the stretch. Seattle will be a substantial home favorite against the 49ers this week, and the Panthers will be road favorites in Tampa Bay.

“The urgency is definitely cranked up,” Redskins tackle Trent Williams said.

Read more Redskins coverage from The Post:

Redskins can cure many woes with ‘bonus day’ of practice, Jay Gruden says

Trent Williams is back at Redskins practice after hospital scare

Cowboys and Eagles garner buzz, but Redskins are still in the thick of NFC East race