A four-game win streak for the Washington Football Team has now turned into a two-game losing streak. Washington once held a spot in the postseason, but is now facing an uphill battle if it wants to play playoff football for the second year in a row.
Washington fell to 6-8 with its 27-17 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday. The NFL adjusted their protocols due to a COVID-19 outbreak, but the updated rules and schedule change didn't help Washington, as it was forced to start Garrett Gilbert at quarterback with Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen on the reserve/COVID-19 list. The players Washington did dress put up a fight and even scored the first 10 points of the game, but it wasn't enough.
Let's take a deeper dive into Washington's playoff outlook by looking at its current positioning, the remaining games and a few things it will have to improve on in the coming weeks.
Current playoff position
Washington currently holds the No. 10 seed in the NFC at 6-8. The wild card spots are the No. 5, No. 6 and No. 7 seeds. Behind Washington are the Atlanta Falcons (6-8) and Carolina Panthers (5-9). In front of Washington are the New Orleans Saints (7-7), Eagles (7-7), Minnesota Vikings (7-7) and San Francisco 49ers (8-6).
The Los Angeles Rams or Arizona Cardinals are probably locked into the No. 5 seed. In looking at the 49ers' remaining schedule, I think they are locked into a wild card spot as well. They are going 9-8 at the very worst. So for Washington, all eyes should be focused on the Vikings, Eagles and Saints. In last week's edition of this column I was ready to count out the Saints. That proved premature with their blanking of Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on "Sunday Night Football." This defense is legit, and if they play like they did this past week, New Orleans could win out and go 10-7.
The Vikings, on the other hand, could be a team due to slip. They take on the Rams and Green Bay Packers before wrapping up the season against the Chicago Bears. That could mean they finish the year 8-9. As for the rival Eagles, they will likely move to 8-7 this week with a win over the New York Giants. Then, they get a rematch with Washington and a Week 18 meeting with the Dallas Cowboys -- or maybe their backups. Philly needs to lose to Washington and Dallas for the Football Team to have a chance.
Here's a look at Washington's remaining schedule:
- Week 16: @ Cowboys
- Week 17: vs. Eagles
- Week 18: @ Giants
Washington is the first team to have five divisional games to end the season since the 1995 Buccaneers. There's not much to say about Washington's remaining schedule, as it will have to win out and hope for the worst for its rivals. Yes, there's a chance Washington could get in by going 2-1 in these final three, but those odds aren't good with the Football Team battling three .500 teams for virtually one playoff spot.
Areas of improvement
- Passing game: Last season, Washington's passing game looked like Terry McLaurin vs. the world. Logan Thomas was sprinkled in here and there, but as far as the receivers went, it was just McLaurin. It appeared Washington addressed this by signing Curtis Samuel and Adam Humphries in free agency and drafting Dyami Brown, but all three haven't made notable impacts on the offense. More specifically, Washington needs to get some serious production from Samuel during this final stretch -- especially with Thomas done for the year. He has only played in five games this season due to injury, and missed Week 15 due to a hamstring injury as well.
- Scoring points: Washington hasn't scored more than 20 points in four straight games. Heinicke's offense should have scored much more against the Seattle Seahawks and Las Vegas Raiders, but the defense was able to help out the offense. Washington is averaging just 20.2 points scored per game, which ranks No. 23 in the league. Playoff teams score more than this.
- Defensive success: Washington's defense helped spark a win streak a few weeks ago, and this team is going to need it again to finish out the season in a strong manner. While Washington was missing some big names due to COVID-19 this past Tuesday, Philly still exploded for 519 yards of total offense, and 238 of those came on the ground. That can't happen if Washington wants to make the playoffs.
Last week, Caesars Sportsbook had Washington at +280 on "yes" to make the playoffs while "no" was -360. As of Wednesday afternoon, that prop is not listed anymore. However, you would have to imagine those odds have moved in a pretty significant way.
Washington isn't out of it yet, but it needs a win over Dallas this week. After two straight losses, I'm not too confident about Washington's chances of making the postseason. This playoff picture is certainly going to be jumbled until the regular season officially comes to an end.