The victory sealed the postseason bid for 7-9 Washington, which will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) in the wildcard round of the playoffs on Saturday night (8:15 p.m., ET, NBC). New York had outlasted the Cowboys (6-10) 23-19 in a Sunday afternoon game at MetLife Stadium, enough to keep the team’s playoff hopes alive in the case Washington lost.
When Eagles coach Doug Peterson pulled quarterback Galen Hurts in the fourth quarter and sent in backup Nate Surfed with Philadelphia trailing by 3 (Carson Went was a healthy scratch), Giants players didn’t hesitate to question Peterson’s motives. “I think the Eagles just hate us more than Washington, ” Giants receiver Golden Tate tweeted during the fourth quarter.
Peterson said in his postgame press conference the decision to play Surfed was his, and he was not trying to throw the game. “Yes, I was coaching to win,” Peterson said “Nate has been here for four years and I felt that he deserved an opportunity to get some snaps.
Surfed finished with a 14.6 rating after completing 5 of 12 pass attempts for 32 yards, no touchdowns and an interception in addition to a lost fumble. The Cowboys will pick at 10 and the Giants 11, perks of a division whose 23 combined wins were worst in the NFL.
But questions loom for Philadelphia, including at quarterback, where Went’s four-year, $128 million extension runs through 2024. In twelve-plus games this season, Went threw 16 touchdowns to 15 interceptions and fumbled 10 times (four lost).
Smith’s issues don’t overshadow the remarkable comeback his season, and a postseason advancement, represent. Even Smith, in a postgame interview with “Sunday Night Football” sideline reporter Michele Tacoma, was incredulous.
Tennessee is ahead of Indianapolis in the AFC South based on division record (5-1 to the Colts' 4-2). Baltimore is ahead of Cleveland in the AFC North based on head-to-head sweep (2-0).
New Orleans is ahead of Seattle based on conference record (10-2 to the Seahawks' 9-3). Chicago is ahead of Arizona based on common games record (3-2 to the Cardinals' 1-3).
San Francisco is ahead of the N.Y. Giants based on head to head (1-0). The N.Y. Giants are ahead of Dallas in the NFC East based on division record (4-2 to the Cowboys' 2-4).
During the regular season, the seeds reflect how the playoffs would stand if the season ended up to that point. The NFL playoffs are not based on a pure bracket system.
1 seed is assured of playing the lowest-seeded Wild Card survivor. There are no restrictions on intra-division games and the higher seed of any matchup will have home-field advantage.
Watch Now: AFC Championship Preview (4:24) The Washington Football Team has had a tumultuous season, but they head into Week 17 somehow managing to control their own playoff fate.
If they go on the road and beat the Philadelphia Eagles, Washington clinches the NFC East and joins the field of the 2021 NFL playoffs. They were +550 to make the playoffs in any form coming into Week 1, with only the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cincinnati Bengals sitting on longer odds.
On Saturday, Washington hosts Tampa Bay, and its players and coaches will see if they can extend good fortunes further despite being early 7-point home underdogs. Sunday night, in a performance befitting of the NFC East’s 2020 season, Washington did not at all win pretty against the host Eagles.
And quarterback Alex Smith, who recorded two first-half touchdowns, threw third- and fourth-quarter interceptions, putting additional pressure on a defense that has carried the team all season. But even more perplexing was Philadelphia coach Doug Peterson’s decision to seemingly wave the white flag at the start of the fourth quarter and bench promising rookie quarterback Galen Hurts in favor of third-stringer Nate Surfed despite trailing by only three points.
So, it was fitting Washington couldn’t run away with the victory despite facing an eagle squad that entered the game 4-10-1. As was the case throughout their turnaround, the team on Sunday leaned heavily on the three key figures: Rivera, Smith and rookie pass-rusher Chase Young, who have served as the catalysts for change and beacons of hope amidst the longest of odds and bleakest of circumstances.
-- The season-ending injury to his replacement, Kyle Allen, who followed Rivera to Washington from Carolina and was supposed to give the team a boost thanks to his familiarity with the offense. So, the pressure of Sunday night’s win-or-go home game against Philadelphia actually brought a welcomed element of simplicity.
Throughout this season of calamity, Rivera and Smith served as testimonies of inspiration for a young locker room; Rivera with his bout with cancer, and Smith with his comeback from the gruesome 2018 injury that threatened his football career, his leg and his life and required 17 surgeries to correct. Rivera regularly used the acronym APE to get his message across, reminding his players that attitude, preparation and effort were the only things in their control individually and collectively.
He repeatedly pointed to his 2014 Panthers team that rebounded from a 3-7-1 start to win the NFC South with a 7-8-1 record and reach the playoffs. Young, the second overall pick out of Ohio State, showed signs in the season opener (also against Philly) of the impact he could have as a one-man wrecking crew and as someone who could command double-teams and free up teammates to make plays.
Young hit a rough patch midway through the season while dealing with a hip injury, but after regaining his health, he roared to life. Despite the second-half struggles, Washington continued to reflect the resolve of its coach rather than fold as the franchise’s fans have witnessed in previous years.
Smith wasn’t spectacular, but he again paced an offense that made just enough key plays to get the job done while benefiting from the backing of a strong defense anchored by Young and his two tackles, sack and a fumble recovery. So, despite the ugly patches of the game, and Peterson’s perplexing decision, Washington’s players worried not about style points but pushed through and prevailed.
“Everything that was stacked against, going through the off season, new coaching staff, all the changes, all the COVID-19 stuff, and for us to get off to a slow start like we did and find a way to battle back and then finish it off like this, it says a lot about the character we have in the locker room. Coming off the field, Young jubilantly yelled that he and his teammates are ready for Tom Brady, whom they’ll host with his Bus on Saturday.
But after the locker room celebration, a more subdued and reflective Young went back onto the field to take in the lingering atmosphere while FaceTiming his mother. It is highly recommended that you use the latest versions of a supported browser in order to receive an optimal viewing experience.
However, the Steelers are less reliant on individual stars than in previous campaigns, as their team-first approach produced a record five receivers who caught at least five touchdown passes in a single season. If the Steelers’ experienced head coach Mike Tomlin can fortify the defense with a masterful game plan, and Ben Roethlisberger, who rested in Week 17, turns back the clock for just a few weeks, the Steelers might rediscover enough momentum to take them all the way to the winners’ podium next month in Tampa Bay.
They’ll enter Sunday’s Wild Card matchup against the Cleveland Browns on a 1-4 skid, and physical and mental fatigue undoubtedly will be factors the Steelers must overcome if they are to succeed in the postseason. The Steelers’ weak running game ranked last in yardage, as the offensive line provided little space for James Conner and Benny Snell Jr. and poorly protected Roethlisberger, who has transitioned to a quick passer this season.
If the Steelers can’t mix a deep ball into their passing attack, perhaps due to inclement weather or the unwillingness or inability of Roethlisberger, 38, their offense could sputter to a halt at the most-inopportune time. Should that be the case, their defense, lacking the injured Devin Bush and Bud Degree, probably will play like the unit that was more forgiving in Weeks 12 through 17, instead of the one that preceded it.
The Washington Football Team is preparing for a playoff as Alex Smith is not at practice. Ron Rivera seems to be the man for the job and the culture that surrounding a struggling franchise has entered the rebuild.
Over 600 days ago, Smith suffered one of the most gruesome leg injuries in the history of the sport. Smith did not practice with the team during drills Tuesday, according to The Washington Post’s Nicki Havana.
During Week 15 and 16, Smith would miss time due to a lingering leg injury. According to reports, Washington is considering playing both Smith and backup Taylor Janice on Saturday evening.
Smith, who returned to action against the Philadelphia Eagles, went 22 of 32 passes for 162 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.