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WFT Daily: All The Ways Washington Can Win The NFC East

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Wide receiver Cam Sims (right) celebrates a touchdown from running back J.D. McKissic during the Washington Football Team's game against the Seattle Seahawks on Dec. 20, 2020. (Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)

The 2020 season is here, and we have you covered as the Washington Football Team progresses through its inaugural campaign under head coach Ron Rivera. Stay up to date with "WFT Daily," which comes out every weekday evening.

THE LATEST

The Washington Football Team's 20-15 loss to the Seattle Seahawks did not hurt its playoff chances thanks to the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles also suffering defeats. The only NFC East team to win was the Dallas Cowboys, and they are still a game behind Washington and lost to head coach Ron Rivera's team twice twice earlier this season.

2020 NFC East Standings (Thru Week 15)

Table inside Article
Team Wins Losses Ties Remaining Schedule
Washington 6 8 0 vs. Panthers/at Eagles
Cowboys 5 9 0 vs. Eagles/at Giants
Giants 5 9 0 at Ravens/vs. Cowboys
Eagles 4 9 1 at Cowboys/vs. Washington

With two weeks left in the regular season, FiveThirtyEight.com gives Washington a 75% of winning the division and making the playoffs for the first time since 2015. Here are all of the ways Washington can get into the postseason:

1. Washington beats Panthers and Eagles

Rivera told the local media Monday that if he is betting on anyone, it is himself and his team. So, he would like nothing more than to beat the Panthers and Eagles and wrap up the division without needing any help.

"The only thing I want them thinking about is what they want to do and how important it is to them to want to take care of our own business, to control our own destiny. I think that's the most important thing because you can't count on other people. You really can't to win or lose games for you. What you can count on is yourself."

2. Washington beats Panthers AND Giants lose one of final two games

The quickest way for Washington to clinch the division is if it beats the Panthers and the Ravens beat the Giants in Week 16. Then Washington would be able to rest its starters in the regular season finale against the Eagles.

If both teams win in Week 16, Washington would get in with either a win or a Giants loss in Week 17.

3. Washington loses to Panthers, beats Eagles AND Giants lose one of final two games

If Washington loses and the Eagles beat the Cowboys, that would set up a win-and-in game between the two in Week 17 -- as long as the Giants lose one of their final two games. After traveling to Baltimore, the Giants host the Cowboys to close out the regular season.

(NOTE: Although Washington has a one-game lead with two to play, it cannot win the division by losing out. In that case, Washington would be 6-10. Even if the Giants lose both of their games to finish 5-11, either the Cowboys would win the division at 7-9 or the Eagles would win it at 6-9-1. Only the Giants can win the division at 6-10 because they hold the tiebreaker over Washington.)

QUICK HITS

-- Making playoffs > beating former team: Rivera admitted Monday that if Washington played Carolina in the season opener, it would have been a "highly emotional game" considering the Panthers fired him last December after eight-plus years as head coach. But since the matchup is happening in Week 16, with Washington as the frontrunner to win the NFC East, all of Rivera is locked in on leading this franchise to its first postseason berth since 2015.

"The emotion of this game for me is this organization. This organization right now is more important than my personal situation. I mean that because we have 53 guys downstairs and a group of coaches that we want to get into the playoffs, they want to get into the playoffs, and we want to do it for them and for us. We have to focus in on the game."

-- "Nobody was running away from it": Sitting at 1-3 in early October, Rivera made national headlines by benching former first-rounder Dwayne Haskins Jr. in place of Kyle Allen. His reasoning was simple: he thought his team could compete for the NFC East title and wanted to give his players the best chance to win now.

That move paid off significantly, as Washington has gone 5-4 in games that either Allen or veteran Alex Smith have started. And while Allen suffered a season-ending leg injury in Week 9, the team is hopeful Smith can return from a calf injury to start against the Panthers on Sunday.

"Nobody was running away from it," Rivera said about discussion the division title race a few weeks into the season. "I just felt that we have some pretty good pieces in place. We were seeing some things with those pieces. I just felt we needed a veteran piece to give us a chance, and by that, I mean a guy that's been in our system. That's why I made the change and why I put Kyle at the starting quarterback position. I just felt that with the pieces we had -- why not us?

"I looked at it and, to be honest with you, there were six games that I saw coming up," he added. "I just felt if we could win three of those six and then see what happens after that, we could be in a pretty good place. That's why I did what I did. I just looked at it and felt it. I was drawing on my experience of having played and coached in this league for 30 years. I just felt there was an opportunity and I wanted to take it and see what happens. Lo and behold, we're in that position right now."

-- Division race expedites culture change: Rivera is hellbent on building a sustainable, winning culture in Washington, but for the first half of the season, it seemed like winning football was a ways away.

But after starting 2-7, the team has won four of its past five and is playing like a playoff-caliber team. Rivera believes this recent success has expedited long-term growth.

"The fact that we've had something to play for every week has kept that energy level high. I think that really kind of shows just how important it is to play hard every week. Every week we talk about: 'Hey, we control our destiny.' Every week we talk about how we have a chance. I think that is important because, especially with the young guys, they see it. As long as there is hope, I feel like: 'Wow, you know what, I've got a chance. We've got a chance.' We're going to continue to compete. I think that is going to help expedite our growth and development, and I think it's helped with the culture."

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Check out photos of the Washington Football Team during its Week 15 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks. (Photos courtesy of Amanda Bowen/NFL, Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team and Elijah Griffin Sr./Washington Football)

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