In a season that started off disastrous, the Washington Football Team has strung together three consecutive wins — culminating with Monday's 23-17 upset over the previously undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers — to salvage its season with a respectable chance at making the playoffs.
While the NFC East has been a mess all season, Washington now has two viable paths to the postseason, the most direct being to keep their streak going in hopes the also 5-7 Giants, who currently lead the NFC East, stumble along the way.
One day before Washington shocked Pittsburgh, the Giants orchestrated an upset of their own, defeating the eight-win Seahawks on the road, 17-12. Starting in place of an injured Daniel Jones, Colt McCoy did just enough to keep the game in hand, completing 59 percent of his passes for 105 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.
That victory, as unexpected as it was, kept the Giants firmly in the driver's seat in the NFC East.
Washington tight end Logan Thomas — who hauled in career highs in receptions (nine) and yards (98) with one touchdown in the win over Pittsburgh — wasn't surprised to see McCoy lead the NFC East rival Giants to such an otherwise surprising victory.
"You know what? In this league, nothing surprises me anymore," Thomas told The Sports Junkies on Wednesday. "There's no telling what could happen. But Colt McCoy's one of those guys that's played a whole lot of football."
"And I guess Seattle didn't go out there and play their best game, and New York played a whale of a football game," he said. "Kudos to them. It made it a little bit tougher to go get the NFC East, but like I said, if you play this game and you don't want to fight, then what's the reason to play? We're just happy to be where we're sitting at with an opportunity to take the division late in the season."
While Washington and New York own the same record, the Giants hold the edge in the NFC East by virtue of a tiebreaker, merited by their 2-0 season sweep of the Football Team. If Washington wants to win the division — and it does — it will need to finish with a better record than New York, since a tie won't cut it.
"How many wins do you legitimately think you need to get the division," Thomas was asked. "You think eight? Or do you think seven has a shot?"
"You know what? I haven't even looked at it that much into it," Thomas returned. "All's I know is if we win this weekend, I'll feel even better about our chances."
Because of their recent winning streak, Washington is no longer dependent on winning the East to secure a spot in the playoffs. But going through the Wild Card race will be a tougher row to hoe.
NFC East: Giants (5-7)
NFC West: Rams (8-4)
NFC North: Packers (9-3)
NFC South: Saints (10-2)
With the NFL playoffs expanded to 14 teams in 2020, that means seven teams will make it in, including three Wild Card teams. Your four current division leaders in the NFC are the Giants (5-7), Rams (8-4), Packers (9-3) and Saints (10-2).
That leaves the Seahawks (8-4) and Buccaneers (7-5) as the front-runners for the top two Wild Cards, with the Cardinals (6-6) and Vikings (6-6) leading the way for that third and final Wild Card.
In The Hunt:
Washington's locked in a five-way tie with the 49ers, Lions, Giants and Bears, all of whom are in the hunt with a 5-7 record, but still on the outside looking in.
With the Giants currently leading the NFC East, that leaves Washington in contention with San Francisco, Detroit and Chicago to try to leapfrog Arizona and Minnesota in the final four weeks of the regular season. Keep in mind Washington plays San Francisco this week, making it a pivotal matchup in the race for the final Wild Card spot, and Seattle the following week.