The Washington Redskins are 5-6 and winless on the road. And yet, they’re the NFC East leader.
Welcome to madness.
The Redskins haven’t led the division after 11 games since 1999 at 7-4. That team lost two of its next three before taking the NFC East at 10-6 and later winning a first-round playoff game.
But here are the Redskins with the tie-breaking edge over the New York Giants (5-6) by virtue of a better division record. With five games left, Washington has two games against Dallas that is once more sans Tony Romo, one more against Philadelphia that’s even worse than when losing at FedEx Field earlier this season plus Chicago and Buffalo.
Washington has a chance to rise from an awful start to reach the playoffs like 2012 when winning its last seven games and 2007 when taking its final four.
“To be 5-6 after 11 games and the position we’re in,” coach Jay Gruden said, “we control our own destiny – great. We’re just going to keep grinding one game at a time.
“Everybody makes a big deal of this [was] a make-or-break game. It just continues every week. . . . We also understand this is no time to take a deep breath. We have to keep grinding.”
Washington is certainly not a Super Bowl contender after lopsided losses to New England and Carolina, but the Redskins are apparently the cream of a crummy division. Washington looks like the survivor by attrition. The other three division rivals are fading away.
And yet, the 5-6 mark shows the team’s vulnerability. The margin over New York is so thin one loss might cost Washington a playoff bid. The Redskins now face the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 7.
“If we’re not hungry for the Cowboys coming after a big win like today then we’ve got a problem,” Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. “It’s good to have these December games be meaningful. It’s going to be an exciting time.”
It’s like watching through your fingers. Some days are diamonds, others are rock bottom. At least the hardest games are past. No more playing undefeated teams like St. Louis (1-0), Atlanta (4-0), New England (7-0) and Carolina (9-0) this season.
Indeed, the Redskins five remaining opponents have a combined .364 winning percentage. The other three teams – Cowboys (.509), Giants (.600) and Philadelphia Eagles (.623) – face a tougher schedule.
But for once, the Redskins don’t need help to win the division. No matter the secondary is mostly duct tape and putty. Gruden is showing he can win a big game at home. Now he just needs to win a couple on the road, too.
Mostly likely, a 4-1 finish sends the Redskins into the postseason. But for a team that has won 12 games in nearly three seasons, taking four more seems a little quixotic.
Watch out for the windmills even in times of madness.
Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter @Snide_Remarks.