Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins carries the ball during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on October 28, 2012 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
This is the time of year where things start to get complicated.
The high-level math needed to determine the difference between playoff teams and has-beens is updated weekly -- and something as seemingly frivolous as "best net touchdowns in all games" could ultimately be the difference between a team's ability to keep their season alive into January, or watching games on the couch like the rest of us.
For the Redskins, there isn't much margin for error (but you already knew that). Hours before they host the NFC East-leading Giants, Washington's playoff picture looks like this:
They're currently 11th in the NFC, behind Dallas (6-6), Tampa Bay (6-6), Minnesota (6-6) and St. Louis (5-6-1). But Washington also hasn't played its Week 13 game, which means that by Tuesday morning, they could be 6-6, too.
A win would move them from 11th to sixth, just ahead of the Cowboys because of the head-to-head matchup (the 'Skins beat the Cowboys, Bucs and Vikes this season) and just one game behind the Seahawks (7-5), currently the sixth of six NFC teams that are currently in the playoff mix.
But Monday morning could've provided completely different challenges for Washington. They were the beneficiary of losses by both Tampa Bay and Minnesota, and even though Dallas won Sunday night against a Philly team that gave up on the season weeks ago, Washington's still in control of their fate.
Their remaining schedule (which you no doubt have committed to memory by now): Giants, Baltimore, at Cleveland, at Philly, Dallas.
We could go through all the permutations of win-loss records and what the mean but at its most basic, if the 'Skins win out they're almost certainly in. Easier said than done, we know. But Washington showed it can play with the Giants and if not for a late-game defensive miscue (in the form of a 77-yard Victor Cruz touchdown catch), Washington escapes MetLife Stadium with a victory.
Realistically, the 'Skins aren't likely to finish the regular season on a seven-game winning streak.
But that's OK; the Cowboys' remaining four games isn't exactly a cakewalk: at Cincy, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, at Washington.
Assuming that both Tampa Bay and Minnesota lose again, this means the 'Skins would need a 3-1 finish and the Seahawks to go 2-2 (which could happen but it's not something we'd feel comfortable putting money on given their schedule: Arizona, at Buffalo, San Francisco, St. Louis).
According to Football Outsiders, heading into Week 12, the Redskins' playoff odds were at 21.6 percent. Not bad given that this team was 3-6 a few weeks ago.
The problem: That's only good for seventh in the conference behind the division leaders and -- you guessed it -- the Bears and Seahawks.
But here's the loophole: Washington's best route to the postseason isn't through the wild card but the division title. There's a 13 percent chance they qualify for the playoffs as NFC East champs, while only an 8.6 percent chance they do it as a wild-card team.
Which brings us back to Monday night.