Each week we hand out team-by-team grades for every game in the NFL. They'll update as the week goes on. Leave your thoughts, compliments (ha!) and complaints in the comments below or send them to me on Twitter @WillBrinson.
But they do control their own destiny, and that's an amazing thing to me. Do you realize that in early November, Mike Shanahan was talking about evaluating players for next season? No, really!
That was following a depressing 21-13 loss at home to Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, the third straight loss for a Redskins team that electrified the football-watching world for the first few months of the 2012 season. It looked like same-old, same-old for Washington.
Instead, the 'Skins hit their bye the next week ... and haven't lost since. It's been an incredible run: Four of their six wins are over divisional opponents, they've scored 27 or more points in five of the six, they've had two rookie quarterbacks involved in the wins, and Washington's defense has allowed more than 30 points only once in the stretch (versus three times prior to the bye).
I'm not totally surprised, if only because I kind of predicted it (no, really!). Things have broken Washington's way to an alarmingly awesome degree, but it hasn't all been totally unplanned. A few weeks ago the Redskins were trending like a team that could make a move.
So to, apparently, are the Redskins.
|Falcons 31, Lions 18|
|B+||Matt Ryan was filthy on Saturday, going 25 for 32 with four touchdowns and 279 yards. Roddy White and Julio Jones are healthy and fine, thanks, and Mike Smith shouldn't sit his starters. The Atlanta defense wasn't perfect, but no one is against Calvin Johnson. The Falcons limited Detroit in the red zone and kept the Lions under 20 points. If they can do that throughout the playoffs, look out.|
|C||Yay for Calvin Johnson breaking the NFL's single-season receiving record! Please don't act like it's a futile effort in a losing season, because it's still awesome. But Matthew Stafford might've been forcing a ball when he tried to feed Megatron and threw a pick late that cost Detroit a shot at winning the game. Detroit's secondary has to improve this offseason or nothing will change. The Lions defensive backs were shredded as they are often shredded.|
|Vikings 23, Texans 6|
|A-||The only complaint for the Vikings on this day? Adrian Peterson not getting more rushing yards. AD finished with 86, but the Vikings are a step closer to a playoff berth now. That's in large part thanks to Christian Ponder playing pretty well (and actually throwing downfield a bit!) and the defense absolutely stifling the Texans, who finished with 187 total yards on the day.|
|F||The result of this game was somewhat irrelevant: If the Texans beat the Colts in Week 17, they get the No. 1 seed. But this isn't a good look for a team that has Super Bowl aspirations. Houston didn't run the ball well (Arian Foster had an irregular heartbeat, and hopefully he's all right), Matt Schaub wasn't effective, and it's got to be concerning that Houston isn't really built to storm back from a big deficit early in games.|
|Patriots 23, Jaguars 16|
|D-||It's almost like the Patriots wouldn't have minded losing this game and falling to fourth in the playoff race ... Tom Brady didn't look sharp at all for most of the game, missing receivers, throwing picks and finding himself tied with the Jags at halftime. The defense ultimately made some plays, but you don't want Jacksonville keeping it this close, regardless of where the game is played.|
|C+||This is an actual text from my aunt who was at this game (and is a Jaguars season-ticket holder): "We almost had them. At least we weren't embarrassed." So there's that, right?|
|Rams 28, Buccaners 13|
|B||Good effort here from the Rams: Janoris Jenkins has four touchdowns on the year, Lance Kendricks has his first 100-yard receiving game in his career, Steven Jackson's closing in on 1,000 yards, and there's reason for hope in St. Louis.|
|F||It's not possible for the Buccaneers to equal last year's 10-game losing streak to the end the season, but they're at five now with one to go, and it's a touch awkward. Josh Freeman has back-to-back four-interception games, the secondary is a disaster, and Doug Martin's slowed down a lot. A lot of concerns in Tampa Bay.|
|Bengals 13, Steelers 10|
|C+||The Bengals deserve points for going into Pittsburgh and winning a game that clinched stunning back-to-back playoff appearances, even if Marvin Lewis did everything he could to keep them from winning. Andy Dalton (two picks) and Benjarvus Green-Ellis (14 yards on 15 carries) didn't help much either. But, hey, the playoffs!|
|D||Ben Roethlisberger wasn't great (or even good?) on Sunday, the Steelers couldn't really get their ground game going, and Mike Tomlin made some unusual in-game coaching mistakes. Pittsburgh's season ended against a team the Steelers have owned at home previously.|
|Chargers 27, Jets 17|
|B-||San Diego wasn't even that good on Sunday -- that's how horrible the Jets are. Philip Rivers went 11 for 22 (with two touchdowns, though), Jackie Battle didn't run well, and no one had more than three catches. But mix in a punt-return touchdown and you get to 27 kind of easy, and that's more than enough to topple the Jets.|
|D-||Well, the Greg McElroy Era was fun, wasn't it??? I'd bet money the Jets go back to Mark Sanchez in Week 17. They refuse to use Tim Tebow, who now has fewer passing yards than Jeremy Kerley this season, and all of Kerley's passing yards came Sunday.|
|Packers 55, Titans 7|
|F||How did this team win last week? Jake Locker is a trainwreck, Chris Johnson is injured, the defense is a complete sieve, and this is the second bad beatdown of the Titans this year. It makes you wonder if Bud Adams will consider making major changes this offseason.|
|A-||I'm only docking the Packers because they played a terrible football team. Otherwise this was just a bunch of guys out there, tossing the pigskin around, having some fun. Ryan Grant scored twice and provided some life to the running game and Aaron Rodgers is heating up at the right time. Look out, rest of the NFL.|
|Redskins 27, Eagles 20|
|B+||Washington can't let the Eagles back in this game they way it did, and the Redskins were lucky to get out with a win. But they won. And now they control their destiny for the playoffs. Strong effort from the Redskins defense, a unit that has been quietly improving over the last few weeks during the Skins' six-game winning streak.|
|C-||Nick Foles is the guy now, huh? I guess that's the way to go, although there are lots of concerns with him still. The rookie holds the ball too long and actually ended the game with an intentional-grounding penalty that ran off the last few seconds, an almost fitting way to end what will likely be Andy Reid's final home game in Philly.|
|Colts 20, Chiefs 13|
|B||You go right ahead and try to figure out these Colts. They aren't dominant at all, but they took knees to win their 10th game of the season. We're like eight months past the draft. It's just insane. The running game stinks, the defense stinks, the offensive line stinks, but Andrew Luck just finds ways to win. Outstanding.|
|C||Watching Jamaal Charles run is just breathtaking. So maybe the Chiefs are trying to save our collective breath? Guh. On the bright side, at least no one's getting fooled into thinking that Brady Quinn is the future at quarterback for Kansas City. I ranted on their offense in Sorting the Sunday Pile, but it's worth noting KC became the first team in NFL history to rush for 350 yards and lose. Woof.|
|Panthers 17, Raiders 6|
|D-||What does it say about Terrelle Pryor that when Carson Palmer got hurt, Matt Leinart came in the game? The Raiders quarterback situation is just a big ol' fire of draft picks. Darren McFadden was ineffective, and the defense was all right in what amounted to an incredibly sloppy and heavily flagged game.|
|C+||No one stops the Panthers when the football being played doesn't count! But seriously, this is an OK win, except they need to score more than 17 points. On the bright side, Carolina won for the first time with Cam Newton throwing an interception, so that monkey is off the team's back. Ron Rivera has now matched his 2011 total of six wins. That, along with the improved play of the defense and Luke Kuechly's emergence in particular, is worth noting.|
|Dolphins 24, Bills 10|
|F||This team is a joke. Yes, I'm mad that they were my Dog of the Week (or, if you prefer, Pomeranian). But seriously, how do you get beat this bad consistently? Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't a franchise quarterback, C.J. Spiller is misused and still puts up big numbers, and the defense is an absolute laugh riot.|
|B||Reggie Bush had the best game of his season, which is good for fantasy owners as well as free agency! Lamar Miller had 73 yards on 10 carries, which is quite interesting. Ryan Tannehill was efficient, and the Dolphins have a shot at finishing .500 after burying the Bills in the basement of the AFC East. Fantastic year for Miami.|