10 Things That Must Happen to Make the Playoffs

<i>Jim Mora: Playoffs? Don't talk about playoffs. Are you kidding me? Playoffs?</i><BR> Every year, at least one team that not only has a losing record near midseason but appears to be in utter turmoil makes the NFL playoffs. Some of these teams, like last year's New York Jets and Cleveland Browns, don't make much noise in the post season. Others, like the 2001 New England Patriots, go on to win it all.

Can the Redskins be that team this year? The answer is yes, qualified 10 times:

1. A leader at the running back position must emerge. Trung Canidate and Ladell Betts are probably out for this week's game in Dallas, but will return soon. The committee approach hasn't worked very well; there is no rhythm to the running game and the Redskins are averaging just over 100 yards a game on the ground. That's not enough of a threat to keep defenses honest.

2. There has to be some productivity from the tight end position. The TE's have caught just nine passes this year and five of those were by Robert Royal, who is now on injured reserve. Certainly, this is not a position that is highlighted in Steve Spurrier's offense, but there has to be some threat coming out of there.

3. Speaking of Spurrier's offense, there have to be more big plays. Even if the running game improves, this isn't going to be a grind-it-out offense. Daniel Snyder didn't cut a $13 million bonus check to Laveranues Coles for him to catch wide receiver screens.

4. The defense has to take the ball away more. The Skins hover in the middle of the pack with a net turnover ratio of -1. That's because the offense has only turned the ball over 11 times, putting them among the top 10 in the NFL in that category. But they have a mere 10 takeaways, fewer than only six other teams. If your defense is not going to be consistent, if you're going to gamble, you'd better be making some big plays and the Redskins aren't making enough of them.

5. They need to win at least three of their remaining four division games. Washington has won just one division game in the last two years, the meaningless 2002 finale against Dallas. That trend has to change, and right now. The NFC East race is bunched up and division record will likely determine who represents the division in the playoffs.

6. The Redskins also have to win two out of the three games against Carolina, New Orleans, and Seattle. They've already lost the head-to-head Wild Card tiebreaker to Tampa Bay by losing to the Bucs. They need that edge over as many of the other potential playoff teams as they can get.

7. They can't lose to the Bears at Soldier Field on December 21. That would eliminate their margin for error.

8. They need to get some help. Teams like Carolina and Seattle need to fall back to earth and perennial powers like the Packers and 49ers need to continue to struggle. The less competition for a playoff spot the better.

9. The stupid penalties have got to stop. Not only do they cost the team yardage, the continuing stream of flags puts a big, yellow spotlight on the lack of discipline on the team.

10. Patrick Ramsey can't miss any significant playing time. Period.

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