Despite cutting its quarterback, losing two straight games, and sporting a meh 6-9 record, the Washington Football Team will be bound for the NFL Playoffs with a win.
What a strange season it’s been for the WFT, which could miraculously limp into the postseason. It’s all due to an extremely weak NFC East, which Washington co-leads with the Dallas Cowboys (6-9) heading into the final regular-season game of the 2020 NFL season.
On Sunday night (8:20 p.m. on NBC), Washington hits the road and meets the last-place Philadelphia Eagles (4-10-1).
For Washington, it comes down to one simple fact for the NFL Playoffs: Win, and they’re in.
Yes, they would be in the postseason despite back-to-back losses to the Seattle Seahawks (20-15) and Carolina Panthers (20-13). Despite their paltry record. Despite their mess at quarterback, which was made only uglier by the recent release of 2019 No. 1 draft pick Dwayne Haskins Jr. due to a second COVID-19 protocol breach.
Heading into NFL Week 17, Washington is still alive. So, too, are the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys.
That’s what makes this weekend such a wild and unpredictable one as the regular season comes to a close.
Which NFC East Team Goes to NFL Playoffs?
Three of the four NFC East division teams are still playoff-viable. In fact, the only one that isn’t — the Eagles — didn’t make their exit from the playoff picture until just this past week.
And sure, the division has been dreadful this season. But hey, at least it’s been competitive, eh?
As it turns out, Washington (6-9), Dallas (6-9) and New York (5-10) could all have a 6-10 record when the season concludes this weekend. And, conveniently, New York hosts Dallas on Sunday (1 p.m., Fox). The Giants are 3-point favorites in the game.
So, what are the NFC East playoff scenarios?
Here’s a handy chart with the various possibilities:
|SCENARIO 1||SCENARIO 2||SCENARIO 3||SCENARIO 4|
|WAS @ PHI winner||Washington||Washington||Philadelphia||Philadelphia|
|DAL @ NYG winner||Dallas||New York Giants||Dallas||New York Giants|
|DIVISION CHAMP||WASHINGTON||WASHINGTON||DALLAS||NEW YORK GIANTS|
If Washington beats Philadelphia, and if New York beats Dallas, Washington wins the division with an NFC East-best 7-9 record.
If Washington and Dallas both win and finish with a 7-9 record, Washington wins the division and goes to the playoffs. Washington gets the nod because it beat Dallas twice this season and therefore wins the tiebreaker.
However, if Washington loses, and if New York wins, the Giants will be the NFC East champions. In this scenario, Washington, New York and Dallas will all have 6-10 records. However, New York would win the tiebreaker since it has the best head-to-head record against its two division rivals. New York would be 3-1 against the other two teams, Washington would be 2-2, and the Cowboys would have a 1-3 record.
In other words, if Washington wins, it’s in. Otherwise, the NYG vs. DAL victor will be NFC East champs.
Washington vs. Philadelphia Odds
As for the Washington vs. Eagles game, the home-team Eagles were 2-point underdogs as of Tuesday afternoon. Philadelphia actually opened as 4-point favorites, but the line had swung six points due to heavy betting volume on Washington.
On the moneyline, odds on the Washington Football Team sat at -130 (bet $130 to win $100). Philadelphia was +110 (bet $100 to win $110).
As for the total, it opened ultra-low at 42. However, it had ticked up to 42.5 to 43.5 at most sportsbooks by Tuesday afternoon.
Of course, the big wild card for gamblers is the uncertainty over Washington’s quarterback. With Haskins gone, head coach Ron Rivera is expected to start Alex Smith, whose feel-good return this year from a horrific 2018 leg injury was sidelined in Week 14 due to a calf injury.
If Smith isn’t ready to go, third-stringer Taylor Heinicke will find himself in a high-pressure must-win spot.
Other Week 17 games of note to Virginia
Here’s what NFL Week 17 offers for Virginia football fans’ other favorite teams:
Baltimore Ravens (-11.5) at Cincinnati Bengals
An NFC North title is out of the picture. However, the Baltimore Ravens (10-5) could secure a playoff wild card spot with a win over the division rival Cincinnati Bengals (4-10-1) on Sunday (1 p.m., Fox) in Ohio. The Ravens have been lighting up the scoreboard during a four-game winning streak. Baltimore opened as 13.5-point favorites, but the line had dropped to 11.5 by Tuesday. The total moved from 43.5 to 44.5.
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers (+6.5)
The Carolina Panthers (5-10) will look to play spoiler when they host the NFC South-leading New Orleans Saints (11-4) on Sunday (4:25 p.m., Fox). QB Teddy Bridgewater will look to build off last week’s 20-13 win over Washington and give first-year head coach Matt Rhule some momentum heading into next season. Carolina is a 6.5-point underdog at most books. The total opened at 51 but had dipped to 48 by Tuesday.
Tennessee Titans (-7.5) at Houston Texans
After getting shellacked by the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, the AFC South leaders, the Tennessee Titans (10-5), head to Texas to take on the Houston Texans (4-11) on Sunday (4:25 p.m., CBS). QB Ryan Tannehill and running back Derrick Henry are the main reasons that Tennessee was a 7.5-favorite over the Texans as of Tuesday. The total was available from 56 to 56.5 at most books. Although the Titans are likely to make the NFL Playoffs in most scenarios, they should be plenty motivated for this one.