The Washington Redskins need wins and help if they're going to make the playoffs.
The Redskins lost control of their playoff hopes and are trying to hang on in the race heading into their game against the Chicago Bears Saturday.
“I understand that we are on the outside looking in,” coach Jay Gruden said. “That's the one fact that I do understand. I understand that a couple teams have to lose and we'll go from there.”
The Redskins gained control after rival Dallas beat Tampa Bay Sunday night, only to relinquish it when they fell 26-15 to Carolina Monday -- their third loss in four games. That knocked Washington (7-6-1) out of the second wild card position and into eighth place in the NFC behind Green Bay (8-6) and Tampa Bay (8-6).
Now, the Redskins could be eliminated this week if one of several scenarios plays out on Saturday.
A loss or tie against Chicago plus a win by Green Bay over Minnesota would knock out Washington. So would a loss if Tampa Bay beats or ties New Orleans. The Redskins would also be out if they tie Chicago and the Buccaneers beat the Saints.
The Bears (3-11), of course, have no such worries. They're simply trying to finish a dismal, injury-riddled season on a strong note.
Here are some things to look for as the Redskins meet the Bears:
OFF-BALANCE: The Redskins are eager to get back to running the ball after starter Robert Kelley and third-down back Chris Thompson combined for just 11 carries compared to 50 drop-backs for quarterback Kirk Cousins in their loss to the Carolina Panthers. Without the threat of the run, Washington's passing game is far less effective.
“When we're hitting on all cylinders, it's because of our running game and our play-action,” Gruden said. “When we become one-dimensional it's true drop-back, and that's not the way we're built.”
BOUNCE BACK FOR D?: Mostly a bright spot this season, the Bears' defense was a big dud in last week's 30-27 loss to Green Bay .
It wasn't just the 60-yard heave from Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson in the closing seconds to set up the winning field goal. The Bears missed tackles and got plowed over by Ty Montgomery, who ran for a career-high 162 yards on 16 carries.
It added up to this: Chicago giving up a season-high 451 yards.
“Yeah, deficient is being nice,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “We had a bad tackling day. We've been a good tackling team most of the two years we've been here. That was our worst tackling game. It really hurt us.”
STARTING SLOWLY: Washington has a total of three first-quarter points in its past four games.
“The slow starts are a concern,” Gruden said. “We pride ourselves on the first 15 and putting a good plan together, and for whatever reason the last three or four games that hasn't come to fruition. So just keep working, keep strategizing and try to come up with plays that are more suitable for our players and try to get them more success early.”
DUBIOUS DISTINCTION: No matter what happens against Washington and at Minnesota next week, the Bears will finish with a worse record in Year 2 under coach John Fox than they did last season (6-10). The best they can do is match the 5-11 mark in 2014 under Marc Trestman.
Lose both games and they'll do something they haven't done in a non-strike season since the schedule expanded to 16 games in 1978: Finish with fewer than four wins.
They have gone 4-12 three times since then, most recently in 2002. But the last time they finished a full season with three wins or less? Go back to 1973, when they went 3-11.
“I'm just, you know, frustrated,” linebacker Pernell McPhee said. “You feel like you come in and are putting in all the work and you lose. I can't say I'm unhappy with how we stayed in it. Just because I'm happy with how we stayed in it doesn't mean we have to go and lose it.”
STATING CASE: Matt Barkley needs no reminder about what's at stake for him. He's been making a case for a roster spot with the Bears or another team next season while starting the past four games. Last week was a mixed bag for Barkley.
He threw for a career-high 362 yards and two TDs and led the Bears back from a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter. But he also threw three interceptions and lost a fumble in the game.