Dec 19, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) throws the ball as Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis (58) chases in the second quarter at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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The Washington Redskins will be the No. 6 seed in the NFC if they make the playoffs. Here is a look at their potential opponents.
The Washington Redskins are officially in crunch time. With Week 17 approaching, the team can essentially make the postseason just by winning. There is a slight chance that they could miss it if the Lions and Packers tied, but the chances are miniscule. If the Redskins win, they will have a great chance of making it into the postseason.
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That said, if they get into the playoffs, they will be the No. 6 seed. They cannot overtake the New York Giants for the No. 5 seed, so their only option is to clinch the final Wild Card spot. If they can do that, they will take on the No. 3 seed in the Wild Card Round. However, the three seed has not yet been decided.
There are four teams that may have a chance to clinch the No. 3 seed, depending on the Week 17 results. Some are tougher than others, and here is a look at the possible three seeds and how they would matchup with the Redskins.
Dec 24, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) throws a pass in a game against the Arizona Cardinals at CenturyLink Field. The Cardinals won 34-31. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
Playing the Seahawks would probably be the least ideal opponent for the Redskins. It just so happens that if they make the postseason, they are likely to play the Seahawks. The Seahawks would need an Atlanta loss and a win for themselves to sneak into the two seed. Otherwise, they are likely to remain the third seed.
The Seahawks have an extremely strong defense. That always seems to be the case for the team, but this year they have a particularly strong group on the defensive line. Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril are playing the best football of their respective careers. They have dominated opposing offensive tackles, and while the Redskins do have Trent Williams and Morgan Moses, they could struggle against elite competition.
In the secondary, the Seahawks are a bit weaker, as Earl Thomas is out for the season. Still, the team has a talented group led by Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor. The Legion of Boom would be able to shut out half of the Redskins receiving weapons, and maybe even more if the run game is shut down.
With the downside on offense, that would mean that the Redskins defense would have to step up. That is a scary proposition. The Seahawks run game is not as good as it has been in the past, as Thomas Rawls has been banged up in recent weeks. That would benefit the Skins.
In the passing game, Russell Wilson would be a wild card, as he has played very well in recent weeks. The Redskins would have to pressure him and really focus on covering Doug Baldwin. If they could do that, they would have a chance to win. Still, it seems unlikely that they would outlast the Seahawks in a defensive battle.
Dec 18, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) hands the ball off to running back Devonta Freeman (24) in the third quarter of their game against the San Francisco 49ers at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons won 41-13. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
This would be another tough battle for the Redskins. The Falcons have had one of the best offenses in the NFL during the 2016 season, and the Redskins would have trouble matching up with them.
Quarterback Matt Ryan has had a lot of protection this season, thanks to an upgraded offensive line featuring star center Alex Mack and solid right tackle Ryan Schraeder. For Ryan, this year has been a bit of a renaissance after a couple of down years. He has been able to utilize his offensive weaponry, namely Julio Jones, and the running game has also been successful. Both Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman have been great in their second season as a backfield tandem.
The Redskins would have a chance to slow down Jones by putting Josh Norman on him. However, the rest of their secondary is in pretty tough shape, so Taylor Gabriel and the rest of the receivers could have an advantage. If rookie hybrid player Su’a Cravens is not back, then the tight ends would be able to have success as well.
However, the Redskins would have a major offensive advantage when they have the football. The Falcons are without their top cornerback, Desmond Trufant, as they lost him for the season in Week 13. The Redskins have the receiving talent to match up well with the Atlanta defensive backs. DeSean Jackson could have a huge day while Pierre Garcon would probably use his frame to take on Robert Alford in some situations. The Atlanta run defense also leaves a lot to be desired.
Overall, this would not be an ideal matchup. We have seen the Redskins get into shootouts this season, and too often their defense cannot get the one critical stop. That would likely happen against the Falcons.
Dec 24, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) rolls out against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Wm. Glasheen/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin via USA TODAY Sports
Green Bay Packers
Of all the matchups, this could end up being the biggest toss-up. On one hand, the Packers were demolished by the Redskins 42-24 in Week 11. The Redskins were able to play excellent offense and control the pace of the game against the Packers.
On the other hand, the Packers have greatly improved since that loss. In fact, they have won five straight games since the prime time defeat. Aaron Rodgers has started to play a lot better while the secondary has stepped up after struggling. Because of this, it would be hard to figure which side would one.
One thing is certain. This would be another offensive battle. The Redskins would try to create a similar game plan to what worked so well in their victory. Even if the Packers had Damarious Randall back, the team would still have a major advantage. Jackson could try and beat Randall deep while Garcon and Jamison Crowder could work against the other inexperienced defensive backs. This would be a huge advantage for the Redskins, and they could put up another 42 points.
However, the Redskins would have a tougher time defending the Packers. They actually have a legitimate running back now in Ty Montgomery, and Jordy Nelson has stepped up recently. They could be able to keep pace with the Redskins, but it would all be about which team could end the game with the football.
This would certainly be a favorable matchup, but there is still one team that would be much better to face.
Dec 26, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) reacts to throwing an incomplete pass in the third quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
The top team that the Redskins could face is the Detroit Lions. It is not even close. Though the Redskins lost to the Lions earlier in the season, it was in a close game and it was when the Lions were virtually at full strength. As of right now, they are not in great condition.
The Lions are dealing with some major injuries to their top players. Matthew Stafford is dealing with a middle finger injury. Stud cornerback Darius Slay has missed time with a hamstring injury. Nickel back Quandre Diggs is on injured reserve. All of that could set up the Redskins to have a nice day offensively, and their defense would be able to hold up.
In their first matchup, the Redskins major downfall was the late effort by the defense. They could not stop the Lions on what was their game winning drive, but they did well defensively for a majority of the game. They only allowed 20 points, and with their offense clicking, they could easily outscore the Lions if the defense could hold them to 20 again.
Also working in the Redskins favor is the lack of a running game for the Lions. Their top running back, Theo Riddick, has missed a good amount of time with injury. In his stead, Zach Zenner and Dwayne Washington have proven to be mediocre. The Redskins would at least be able to slow down the duo if Riddick cannot go. The Lions absolutely have the weakest running back corps of any of the NFC playoff teams.
At the end of the day, this is the team that the Redskins would most likely beat. Each opponent would be a tall task, but rooting for the Lions to finish as the three seed seems to be the best option.