Redskins history aside, 6-3 teams usually make the NFL playoffs

November 14, 2018

The math is on the Redskins’ side.

The NFL season is far from over. But at 6-3 with a full two-game lead in the NFC East heading into Week 11, there’s an increasing consensus around the league that the Redskins will be in the playoffs.

ABC’s FiveThirtyEight pegs the Redskins’ postseason chances at 66 percent, while PlayoffStatus.com is even more optimistic listing them at 86 percent. Another model, ESPN’s Football Power Index, is slightly down on the Redskins, but still gives the team a 50 percent chance to make the postseason.

No way they can screw this up, right?

There’s still plenty of work ahead, Redskins players said, even after Sunday’s 16-3 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Defensive lineman Jonathan Allen was unhappy Washington allowed 501 yards, while safety D.J. Swearinger stressed the need to make stops on third down.

Asked if the two-game cushion in the division means anything, running back Chris Thompson said, “Not at all.”

“The Eagles just won the Super Bowl last year,” Thompson said. “And I think, two or three years ago, the Cowboys were ... 13-3. We know those teams are capable of getting on a roll at any time.”

Thompson correctly pointed out the Redskins still have to face the Eagles twice and the Cowboys, so there is an opportunity for Washington’s rivals to gain much-needed ground.

But history suggests the Redskins are in a good place. Since the league switched to a 16-game schedule, there have been 193 teams that have started the season 6-3 142 of them (73.6 percent) made the playoffs.

Of the 51 that missed the playoffs, the most recent came last year, when the Seattle Seahawks finished 9-7.

The Redskins, though, haven’t had a favorable outcome when starting 6-3.

Here’s a fun fact: the Redskins have had four other seasons with precisely the same record. They missed the playoffs three three! times.

The first instance was in 1979, and it can be argued that wasn’t a disaster. That year, the Redskins finished 10-6 and narrowly missed the playoffs. Back then, only five teams made the playoffs in each conference not six.

The other two times featured a total collapse. In 2000, Washington lost six of its last eight games to finish 8-8 under Norv Turner. They did it again in 2008 under Jim Zorn.

Each of those Redskins squads had serious problems.

The 2000 Redskins, who had Super Bowl expectations after Dan Snyder made a splash in free agency by signing Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders and Mark Carrier, were eventually derailed by a quarterback controversy between Brad Johnson and Jeff George.

In 2008, star Clinton Portis publicly feuded with Zorn, criticizing his role on a team radio station. And years later, Portis told The Team 980 that Zorn had divided the locker room between Christians and ballplayers.

This year’s squad doesn’t seem to have the dysfunction of those groups although multiple players blasting the team’s fan base this week might end up qualifying but they do have their on-the-field issues.

“It’s time for us to put some points up on the board,” right tackle Morgan Moses said, later adding, “We’ve got to connect on the explosive plays. We got to. ... I know I’m not the only one feeling it. We’re feeling it as a collective group.”

The Redskins rank 27th in points per game (19.6) and 25th in passing (216.2).

Washington does have a favorable schedule. Their seven remaining opponents have won a combined 48 percent of their games and only two have a winning record (Houston and Tennessee).

Still, now is not the time to relax, coach Jay Gruden said.

“We’re 6-3 in first place, that’s a heck of deal after nine games, but I’m also excited with the fact that we have not played our best yet and I think the best is yet to come,” he said. “It’s our job as coaches to make sure we do the best we can to get it out of them.”

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