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ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 16: Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins jokes with head coach Mike Shanahan also of the Washington Redskins during pre-game warm ups prior to playing against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on September 16, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
We suppose it would've been asking too much for the Giants to lose to the Packers Sunday night.
Instead, New York cruised to a 38-10 victory, snapping a two-game losing streaking in the process. They're now headed for FedEx Field for a Monday night matchup with the NFC East's second-best team.
With five games to go, Washington is ninth in the conference playoff race, three slots out of a place in the postseason.
Ahead of them, in order: No. 5 Green Bay (7-4), No. 6 Seattle (6-5), No. 7 Tampa Bay (6-5), and No. 8 Minnesota (6-5).
The 'Skins have two paths to the postseason: win the division (they're currently two games behind the Giants) or earn a wild-card berth.
Either path will require some luck and a lot of good football, but given where this team was three weeks ago -- heading into their bye after a "no way that just happened" home loss to the then-one-win Panthers, dropping Washington to 3-6 -- there's plenty of reason for optimism.
So what has to happen over the next five weeks? First, here's a look at Washington's schedule: New York (Giants), Baltimore, at Cleveland, at Philadelphia, Dallas.
If Washington wins out, they'll be 10-6 and they'll also win the division. This isn't mathematically guaranteed -- just a hunch based on the fact that the Giants' remaining schedule includes the Saints, Falcons and Ravens.
Winning seven in a row is probably asking a bit much for a 'Skins team still looking for an identity on defense. A more realistic goal: Win four of five and hope to back-door their way into a wild-card spot.
The Redskins should've beaten the Giants in MetLife Stadium last month so it's reasonable to think they'll have a chance this time around.
The Ravens aren't nearly as good on the road, and their run defense is their Achilles heel. The Browns, meanwhile, are playing better than their 3-8 record, but remember: They forced eight Steelers turnovers Sunday and only won by six points.
The Eagles are, well, the Eagles; if Washington loses at this stage of the proceedings with everything that could be on the line, they deserve their fate.
Finally, the 'Skins have now beaten the Cowboys in four straight games. Dallas could also be in the playoff mix in Week 17 but probability and common sense suggests that it's more likely they'll be consumed with more pressing topics like the job security of their coach and franchise quarterback.
So there you have it: Washington has a tough row to hoe, for sure, but it's by their own doing. We keep coming back to it, but the Panthers' loss could ultimately be the game that keeps the 'Skins out of the postseason.
But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. To conjure up a good ol' football cliche: The 'Skins have to take things one game at a time. And that means all their focus is on the Giants.
"You’ve got to go out and win each week,” Shanahan recently told the Washington Times. “I think the mindset has been there, and there’s been a good sense of urgency that everybody has got to play their best game, everybody has got to do what they’re capable of doing.”