Then they lost star pass-rusher Chase Young to a season-ending injury two weeks later, and it really looked bleak. But instead of planning their offseason vacations to Bermuda and the Bahamas, they focused and somehow got back to playing good, sound football on both sides of the ball.
The result is four consecutive victories to get them to 6-6 and into the playoff chase. If the season ended today, which it doesn’t obviously, they would be the sixth seed in the NFC. From 2-6 to a sixth seed is an impressive feat.
Coach Ron Rivera has turned his team around as it prepares to face the Dallas Cowboys in a key division game Sunday at home. Washington was a disaster on defense for much of the early part of the season, but has turned that around in a big way.
In the last four games, Washington has given up 70 points and just 15 in each of the past two games. Two of those games came against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Las Vegas Raiders, two of the top offenses in the league,
Rivera is known for defense, which is why the struggles of that unit were a major surprise to start the season. Now, even without Young and fellow pass-rusher, Montez Sweat, the defense has taken big strides. The secondary has been a big part of the reason for the turnaround, as has the inside play of defensive tackle Jonathan Allen, who is playing great football.
The offense isn’t explosive, but it’s good enough. Quarterback Taylor Heinicke is coming off a so-so game against the Raiders, but he is capable of getting hot and leading the offense up and down the field. He’s certainly streaky.
Washington is up to 15th in my Power Rankings this week as it prepares to play Dallas. If Washington can slow Dak Prescott and that offense and pull out a victory, it will be one game out of first place with four to go. One of those four games is on the road at Dallas the day after Christmas, which could be for the division title.
If Washington were to win those two games and possibly win the division, it would be an amazing turnaround for this group — and especially for the defense.
|Kyler Murray came back from injury and played well against the Bears. This team is legitimate, even if they don’t get a lot of attention.||—||10-2-0|
|They come off the bye with a home game against the Bears. They were playing well before the week off, so they have to hope that continues.||—||9-3-0|
|They still aren’t playing great on the defensive side of the ball, but they are winning games. Now comes a tough one with the Bills.||—||9-3-0|
|Don’t look now, but they are the top seed in the AFC. What a great coaching job this year by Bill Belichick.||—||9-4-0|
|The offense still doesn’t look right, but the defense is playing outstanding football. There is no way we could have imagined this script for this team right now.||—||8-4-0|
|The Jaguars were the perfect team to get the Rams back on track. The Rams finally looked like the team we expected to see when they made all the big moves this season.||1||8-4-0|
|They now look like they could be taking a wild card route. They just couldn’t stop the run against the Patriots. Now they face a tough road game against Tampa Bay.||1||7-5-0|
|They still don’t look right on offense after losing to the Steelers. The defense suffered a big hit with the loss of corner Marlon Humphrey.||—||8-4-0|
|They come off the bye hoping to get back to playing winning football, which hasn’t been the case in a while. The offense has been disjointed without Derrick Henry.||—||8-4-0|
|They got back on track winning at New Orleans, but now face what is now a big division game against Washington on the road. That won’t be easy.||3||8-4-0|
|They impressed in beating the Bengals on the road. The defense made some big plays, including a fumble return for a score, to win that one.||4||7-5-0|
|They fell way behind against the Chargers, which was too much to overcome. They did a bad job protecting Joe Burrow.||2||7-5-0|
|They dominated a bad Texans team, which was to be expected. They are still a game out of the playoffs right now as they head to their bye.||3||7-6-0|
|That was a season-saving victory against the Ravens Sunday. The defense got back to playing Steelers defense for most of the game.||3||6-5-1|
|Here comes the Football Team. They have won four straight to get back into the playoff mix. The defense has been much improved.||8||6-6-0|
|Losing to the Seahawks on the road is a bad loss for the 49ers and their playoff hopes. They seemed to fall apart in the second half.||5||6-6-0|
|Losing at home to Washington isn’t a good look after winning at Dallas. The offense sputtered for much of the day.||5||6-6-0|
|They didn’t do enough on offense at Kansas City, which has been a theme this year. They just don’t throw it well enough.||4||6-6-0|
|After losing seven straight, they have won five in a row to get back into the playoff chase. The defense has been outstanding the past month. The bye comes at a bad time this week.||1||6-7-0|
|They come off their bye with a big division game at home against the Ravens. They lost a tough one to them two weeks ago, but need this to tighten up the division race.||1||6-6-0|
|That was a terrible loss to the Lions on the road. They face a playoff-like game this week against the Steelers.||1||5-7-0|
|The Eagles would just be out of the playoffs if they started today. But they’ve turned their season around in a big way as they head to their bye – and they have a real chance to make a push.||1||6-7-0|
|They’ve had so many injuries to deal with that it’s just too much to overcome. The fast start has faded into the background.||1||5-7-0|
|They come off their bye with a new play-caller after they fired offensive coordinator Joe Brady. Will it matter?||—||5-7-0|
|Winning against the 49ers keeps their playoff hopes alive. But they still have a lot of issues that won’t be fixed this year.||—||4-8-0|
|They were back to watching their quarterback take a beating against Tampa Bay. The offensive line is awful.||—||5-7-0|
|They are done. Without Daniel Jones, the offense is so limited. A good defensive effort went to waste against Miami.||—||4-8-0|
|It’s time to get Justin Fields back on the field. Andy Dalton was bad against the Cardinals.||1||4-8-0|
|Zach Wilson is playing better, which is what the rest of the season is all about. The defense was awful against the Eagles.||1||3-9-0|
|They are a bad team right now and there doesn’t seem to be anything that can fix it. Tyrod Taylor has been awful.||—||2-10-0|
|They won a game, which has to be a good sign for this young team. They haven’t quit. One victory can mean so much for this group.||1||1-10-1|
|They are officially the worst team in the league. The offense is dreadful. They need to make changes.||1||2-10-0|