Breaking down the wild card picture

Breaking down the wild card picture
November 26, 2012, 11:30 am
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The Redskins’ hopes for a division title took a hit (but not a fatal one) last night when the Giants smacked down the Packers 38-10. But the Redskins road to a wild card playoff spot was smoothed yesterday by the results in four games. That road is not a paved, four-lane highway, not even close to it, but it is in better shape than it was Sunday morning.

The Redskins are one of three NFC teams who are 5-6. Washington and the other two, the Saints and Cowboys, are a game behind the Bucs, Seahawks, and Vikings, who are all 6-5 and tied for the second and final wild card spot. Here is a look at those six teams:

Redskins (5-6, 5-4 in NFC)

Strengths: RG3 at quarterback, second in NFL in rushing yards
Weaknesses: 31st in passing yards allowed
Remaining games: Giants, Ravens, @ Browns, @ Eagles, Cowboys
Big question: Can they win three games in a row and four out of five for the first time since 2008?

Cowboys (5-6, 4-5 in NFC)

Strengths: Third in passing yards
Weaknesses: Minus-12 in turnover ratio (29th in NFL), 32nd in rushing yards
Remaining games: Eagles, @ Bengals, Steelers, Saints, @ Redskins
Big question: Will they continue to play at a lower level than the sum of their parts or will they put it together?

Saints (5-6, 3-4 in NFC)

Strengths: Drew Brees at quarterback, fifth in passing yards
Weaknesses: 
Last in total defense, rushing defense
Remaining games: @ Falcons, @ Giants, Bucs, @ Cowboys, Panthers
Big question: Can they outscore teams and dig out of their 0-4 start without Sean Peyton?

Vikings (6-5, 4-4 in NFC)

Strengths: Adrian Peterson and third-ranked rushing attack
Weaknesses: 30th in passing yards
Remaining games: @ Packers, Bears, @ Rams, @ Texans, Packers
Big question: Can they get Percy Harvin back from injury to provide an air threat the compliment Peterson’s ground prowess?

Bucs (6-5, 3-5 in NFC)

Strengths: First in NFL in rushing yards allowed
Weaknesses: Last in NFL in passing yards allowed
Remaining games: @ Broncos, Eagles, @ Saints, Rams, @ Falcons
Big question: Can Greg Schiano go from Rutgers to the NFL playoffs in one year?

Seahawks (6-5, 4-4 in NFC)

Strengths: Third in NFL in passing defense
Weaknesses: 31st in passing yards allowed
Remaining games: @ Bears, Cardinals, @ Bills, 49ers, Rams
Big question: Can they survive if starting cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner if they lose their drug suspension appeals?

--It looks like whoever gets to nine wins will be in good shape to at least be in the pool that would be decided by tiebreakers. The Redskins, Saints, and Cowboys would have to go 4-1 to get to nine wins and the other three just have to go 3-2.

--The Bucs, Cowboys, and Vikings are hurt by the fact that they have five NFC losses while the other three teams have four.

--The Redskins have an advantage in that they have beaten four of their five rivals for the wild card spot. They do not have the Seahawks on their schedule.

--The Packers now hold the first wild card spot with a 7-4 record (5-3 in the NFC). They bear watching but for right now it looks like they will get at least a wild card.

--There are too many games left to go through all of the possibilities. Besides the head to head games the contenders have left against each other the most important games are the conference games. The 5-6 teams probably can’t afford to lose any in-conference games, the 6-5 teams might survive losing one.