“I’m done talking about the NFC East being bad,” Michael Wilbon said Monday on ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption.” “It doesn’t matter anymore. I know the Giants slipped up [Sunday], but Philadelphia got a shot in the arm from a rookie quarterback and Dallas even won, for what that’s worth. That narrative is gone now. The Washington Football Team is going to get in the playoffs, and they can beat somebody in the playoffs.”
Wilbon isn’t the only believer in Washington’s ability to win a postseason game, which the franchise hasn’t done in 15 years. On NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football,” host Kyle Brandt put the team’s defensive line on par with MVP candidates Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers among the scariest matchups for opponents.
Forget for a moment Washington’s 193 yards of offense Sunday. When was the last time this franchise’s defense kept an opposing coach up at night, 1991?
Rodgers and the Packers are tied with the New Orleans Saints, who lost to Jalen Hurts and the Eagles on Sunday, for the best record in the NFC at 10-3. Former Washington tight end Chris Cooley considers the conference wide open and lacking a dominant team, which is why he also likes Washington’s chances in the postseason.
“There is no limitations on Washington making it through the playoffs right now,” Cooley said on “The Kevin Sheehan Show” podcast. (That’s through, not to.)
“Wouldn’t that be so 2020?” Sheehan replied.
It would be prudent to pump the brakes on this bandwagon, especially given the uncertain status of quarterback Alex Smith and rookie running back Antonio Gibson, because you can’t just forget about Washington’s 193 yards and zero offensive touchdowns Sunday, but it’s more fun to get lost in the possibility of this team playing well into January.
If Washington completes its turnaround to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2015 season — FiveThirtyEight gives the team a 74 percent chance to do so — it will be primarily thanks to its defense, including a front four that “Good Morning Football” co-host Nate Burleson calls the most entertaining in football.
“They’re not just athletic and fast, but they’re big,” Burleson said. “Chase Young looks bigger than everybody, and then he has guys that he looks eye-to-eye with. They just harass quarterbacks. We’ve been talking about this and waiting for this to come along. It reminds us really of what San Francisco had last season. … If they have a quarterback that can take care of the ball, this defense will always keep them in games.”
“This is a different brand of football being played by this Washington Football Team,” NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger said in a video breaking down Washington’s defensive effort against the 49ers. “I think they’re the best defense in football. They just physically whip you. It’s not one guy. It’s not two guys. It’s the whole damn team. … They’re just throwing people around.”
Young, who became the first player in franchise history with a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble return for a touchdown in the same game, already has established himself as the leader of Washington’s defensive unit as a rookie.
“Chase Young is everything that we thought Jadeveon Clowney would be,” ESPN analyst Ryan Clark said on Monday’s episode of “Get Up,” referencing the No. 1 pick of the 2014 draft, who has a had a solid but not spectacular career. “Chase Young is like Derrick Henry and the Predator went into a lab and they started working on both of them and that’s what came out of the lab.”
Young’s scoop-and-score Sunday reminded Clark of Sean Taylor’s 39-yard fumble return for a touchdown in Washington’s 2005 regular season finale against the Eagles, which helped clinch a playoff spot.
“I remember how little the football looked in his hand,” Clark said. “I remember how fast he ran down the sideline and he was in the all-whites for Washington. It looked exactly like that. I got that feeling. I got that feeling that I was watching something that we hadn’t really seen and it was amazing to see. If this defensive line continues to play the way that they have, if they can find ways to continue to create offense with people being banged up, this team does win [the NFC East].”
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio had a different thought entirely when he watched Young score his first career touchdown.
“When I saw him running in the end zone, I thought, ‘Maybe they should find a way to get this guy on offense from time to time, because he could be deadly,’ ” Florio said Monday on “PFT Live.” “He could run over you, he could run through you, and he could run past you.”
It’s only a slightly more outlandish idea than Washington capping this strangest of seasons by winning a playoff game — or two.
“Who in the NFC is so damn good that they can’t lose a playoff game?” Wilbon asked Tony Kornheiser on PTI, defending his belief that Rivera’s team could survive the playoffs’ opening weekend. “I think the Washington Football Team, once they get in the playoffs, can win a playoff game. Didn’t the Eagles just beat the New Orleans Saints?”