SNIDER: WFT controls path to postseason

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The Washington Football Team's rally from 2-7 to the playoffs last season seemed a miracle reversal. One year later, here it goes again.

Washington reached 5-6 after beating Seattle 17-15 on Monday. It would not have won this game a month ago because the defense would have allowed 30 points. But the secondary has awakened after no longer relying on the prized defensive ends to dominate, only to see the pair fail and injured. Now, a reshuffled defense is playing without its two best players and thriving.

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Meanwhile, the offense is down to its fourth center and no one blinks. The team is also signing its fourth kicker after losing Joey Slye to a hamstring injury and no one winces. Next man up is actually working after stocking depth through the last two drafts.

But can Washington really reach the playoffs again, maybe even with a losing record? Once is lucky, two straight seems lottery odds. Yet, if Washington beats Las Vegas on Sunday, it will be 6-6 with its final five games versus NFC East foes. That's pretty much what the team wanted – to control its destiny against division opponents.

Las Vegas isn't a must-win, but it would greatly help. At 6-6, Washington could probably go 2-3 against Philadelphia, Dallas and New York Giants and grab the seventh seed. At 5-7, it needs to go 3-2 depending on who it beats.

The Dallas-Philadelphia-Dallas-Philadelphia schedule is quite strange. Playing the same team twice in three weeks isn't too unusual, but two teams twice over four weeks seems wildly wrong. Yet, it gives Washington a path to the postseason, especially if beating Philadelphia twice. It will be hard to catch Dallas for the division title, so the real target is eliminating Philadelphia, that's also 5-6.

Beat Philadelphia twice, which is a big task given this series always has the strangest games of the season, and Washington seals its postseason. But, most likely, Washington splits with Dallas and Philadelphia and beats New York.

So, Las Vegas is a key game. And, it comes on a short week and after traveling 2,406 miles, so practices will only be a couple of walk throughs, especially after a bruising night against Seattle.

As much as coach Ron Rivera should be praised for holding the team together, there's equal amounts of criticism over consecutive 2-6 starts. Crediting youth for poor starts doesn't work. Good teams find a way to win without desperation.

But, that's hindsight. Washington is in fair shape to make the postseason. At the least, it controls its chances rather than scoreboard watching, and that's all anyone can ask.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks.

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