Coming into the 2020 NFL season, who would have thought that the Washington Football team would have an opportunity to win the NFC East and make the playoffs. Yet, with five games left in the season Washington sits at 4-7 with a prime opportunity to host a January playoff game. Yet, how was this possible and does Washington really have a chance to be the fourth seed in the NFC?
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For starters, Ron Rivera and Jack del Rio have been phenomenal in giving Washington an opportunity to make the playoffs. Rivera has been able to change the team’s culture and Del Rio has managed to make Washington’s 27th ranked defense a season ago into a top five NFL defense helped by the number one pass defense in the league.
Offensively, Washington’s been a mess with Dwayne Haskins and Kyle Allen under center, but under the recent reemergence of Alex Smith, who it’s hard not to root for, Washington has recently been putting up some solid offensive performances. Then, add one of this season’s best young wide receivers to the mix in Terry McLaurin, who has just shy of 1000 receiving yards through 11 games, Washington has a semblance of a passing game.
Plus, with Antonio Gibson being a touchdown monster on the ground, Washington’s offense has played better in recent weeks. Although Alex Smith lacks some serious weapons behind McLaurin and Gibson he still has JD McKissic and Logan Thomas who rank number two and three respectively in receiving yards on this Washington team. Although this offense is below average, they’ve still got enough weapons and leadership to average just above 20 points a game.
Yet, the offensive side of the football is not Washington’s strong suit. Defensively, Jack Del Rio has this team playing among the league's best. Washington is the only team allowing under 200 passing yards per game this season, thanks to an opportunistic secondary headlined by Kendall Fuller. Although Ronald Darby has struggled at times this season across from Fuller, this secondary is still causing problems for offenses.
Yet, everything Washington does on defense is caused by their ability to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks. Not only does Washington rank as a top five defense in sacks, but their constant pressure thanks to guys like Chase Young, Ryan Kerrigan, Johnathan Allen, Daron Payne, and Montez Sweat not only takes this defense to the next level but gives Jack Del Rio a ton of liberty in dialing up pressure to rock opposing offenses. Therefore, stellar play from Washington’s defensive front mixed with solid help in the secondary has Washington in the playoff conversation. Yet the question remains: can Washington make the playoffs?
To make the playoffs in the NFC East, six to seven wins are where you’re going to need to get to. With teams like Pittsburgh and Seattle on Washington’s schedule in the near future, getting two to three more wins is going to be tough, yet their games against San Francisco, Carolina, and Philadelphia are all winnable. In my eyes, winning all three of those games gives Washington a playoff berth at 7-9, yet I don’t think Washington will win all three of those games. Rather, I think they’ll beat either the 49ers or Carolina before going to Philadelphia in Week 17 and winning a must win matchup against the Eagles. Yet, at this point in the season the NFC East is still anyone’s division; however, if Washington is able to continue their two game win streak into the near future via strong defense and an offense that puts up enough points a game to win, the rest of Washington’s hopes will hopefully fall in line.