Washington Redskins’ Will Blackmon (41) and Jeron Johnson (20) celebrate a pass intercepted by Brockmon on a Dallas Cowboys’ Kellen Moore throw in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
With the NFC East already wrapped up and a playoff position secured, it’s time to start talking about referring to the Washington NFL team as a championship contender. Set for postseason play with a 9-7 record, Washington caught fire at just the right time and that momentum will hopefully propel the team into the playoffs, especially with an opening round home game. The Washington NFL club won four straight to close the season and finished with a 7-3 record after opening with a 2-4 record. The turnaround was sparked by replacement quarterback Kirk Cousins and statistically, he’s played as good as any other signal caller in the NFC.
Washington’s next opponent hasn’t been determined as of press time but Washington certainly won’t be the clear underdog regardless of who they play. The candidates will range between Minnesota, Seattle and Green Bay, all of which are solid teams. Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate Washington’s chances of advancing through the playoffs.
Riley: Washington’s been red hot and with a home game to open the postseason they should be a lock to advance. Their defense continues to make plays to fuel a hot offense, being led by a quarterback that’s setting franchise records. He’s thrown for the most yards in a season and he’s cut down on the nagging interceptions that plagued him during the early part of the year. Washington’s high tempo offense backed by what’s going to be a raucous crowd should be enough to at least advance through the first round.
Green: Washington has been one of the hottest teams down the stretch but they’ve also had one of the most favorable schedules. They didn’t win a single game against a team with a winning record. The remaining teams in the NFC playoffs are all battle-tested after facing tougher schedules. Washington’s opening game won’t be as easy as you make it sound, Riley. Cousins has been playing good football but, again, what high-caliber defense has he played against this season? Washington is a feel-good story, but the fact remains they haven’t beaten anybody worthy of note and they shouldn’t be trusted to advance next weekend.
Riley: Sometimes it’s not always about quality but quantity. Professional sports is all about confidence and no team has more than Washington right now. It’d be silly to just count a team out that’s won four straight and five out of their last six games. Each of the remaining teams just haven’t had the same success down the stretch. Green Bay just lost 38-8 to Arizona last weekend and Minnesota lost their first two games to start December. Seattle’s been impressive since the second half of the season but even they suffered a surprising 23-17 defeat to the lowly St. Louis Rams. Any team can be beaten on any given day, and Washington will have just as much chance as any to advance. We’ll worry about next week when it comes.
Green: It’s all about match-ups in the NFL, and the odds aren’t in Washington’s favor for next week or any week beyond that. Seattle or Green Bay coming to town would be daunting tasks while even a battle with Minnesota would still be a tough grind, although quarterback Teddy Bridgewater hasn’t been light outs this season. Minnesota is really the best bet for Washington to win. I’ll give them that. But if they face Seattle, go ahead and count it as a loss. And the same goes for Green Bay. It’s just hard to be sold on Washington’s chances for advancing. There’s no proof on which to gauge how they’ll fare against upper-level talent. They were outscored 71-26 after they played a pair of division-leaders in Carolina and New England and played solid football against clubs who weren’t even close to making the postseason. The NFC as a whole is pretty tough, Washington was simply the beneficiary of one of the worst divisions in the NFL.