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Can the Redskins Reach the Playoffs? Part IV

Robert Griffin III has 8 TD passes the past two weeks and just 9 incompletions. Getty Images

What was once highly improbable is now merely unlikely. By winning games against the Eagles and Cowboys, the Washington Redskins have improved their odds of reaching the playoffs tremendously.

When I first estimated the Skins odds of reaching the post-season tournament, I calculated they had a 1% of success. The probability improved to 8% as their competitors lost games while Washington was in their bye week, then doubled to 16% when they knocked off Philly. After beating Dallas, the odds have risen to approximately 29%.

Through 12 games and 13 weeks, the NFC teams with the highest probabilities of making the playoffs are:

  1. San Francisco
  2. Atlanta
  3. New York Giants
  4. Green Bay
  5. Chicago
  6. Seattle

The Skins are next in line behind the Seahawks, but a long ways back in terms of probability (at 59%, Seattle is twice as likely to make the playoffs). Based on information compiled thus far in the season, Washington has approximately a 60% chance of finishing the season with 7 or 8 wins. They could theoretically get in with 8 wins, but I think they need a minimum of 9 -- and that's no guarantee.

If Washington could run the table and get to 10-6, they'd be a playoff lock. Probability of accomplishing that feat: about 5%.

The wildcard in all this, of course, is the remarkable play of rookie QB Robert Griffin III. The Skins paid a steep price to get him, and he has been worth it. Since the bye week, Washington has freed him to throw downfield more frequently and it's paid off with big plays. Griffin's running ability has allowed him to make positive plays with his arm or legs in situations where other QBs would throw it away.

My favorite Griffin stat from the past couple weeks: He's thrown 8 touchdown passes and 9 incompletions.

Here's what the rest of Washington's schedule looks like. Rankings for offense, defense and overall strength come from Advanced NFL Stats. I use the data from that superb site to generate my own win probabilities, which are included in the table. For comparison, after the Thanksgiving Day win against Dallas, Washington ranks 9th overall -- 4th on offense; 23rd on defense.

New York Giants  20  57% 
Baltimore  19  17  18  52% 
@ Cleveland  26  29  54% 
@ Philadelphia  28  24  24  56% 
Dallas  16  16  21  64% 

The table illustrates the hole Washington dug for itself with early season losses. They currently have approximately coin flip odds (50/50) in 4 of their 5 remaining games. Odds being what they are, they're likely to lose one or two of them. Their playoffs might survive one loss, but it won't survive two.

For the Skins, the task is clear: win.