Redskins after first win vs. winner
ASHBURN, Va. — If the Washington Redskins are going to win a playoff game for the first time in a decade, they'll need to earn their first victory this season over a team that finished above .500.
Since 1978, when the NFL expanded the regular season, the Redskins are only the ninth team to complete a 16-game schedule with a winning record despite not beating a single opponent that finished above .500, according to STATS. Of the previous eight, half won at least one playoff game — and the 1999 St. Louis Rams wound up as Super Bowl champions.
The NFC East-winning Redskins (9-7) will host the wild-card Green Bay Packers (10-6) next Sunday in the last game of the wild-card round.
"We've been putting a lot of challenges on these guys (with) what they haven't done," Washington coach Jay Gruden said Monday. "And we've accomplished a lot. We've put to bed a lot of demons around here. I guess this is the last one."
Heading into Week 14 at Chicago, the Redskins were 5-7, had not won two games in a row, and had yet to win on the road.
"A must win for us, basically," Gruden recalled.
On a roll: Look at what his team has done since then: A victory over the Bears began a four-game, season-closing winning streak that included a 3-0 mark on the road.
Still, the best record compiled by a team that lost to the Redskins this season was the Buffalo Bills' break-even 8-8. Otherwise, Washington collected two victories against the Eagles (7-9), and one each against the Rams (7-9), Saints (7-9), Giants (6-10), Bears (6-10), Buccaneers (6-10) and Cowboys (4-12).
"Some of the teams we beat would be over .500 if we didn't beat 'em," Gruden joked, "so you've got to look at it like that."
The Packers, meanwhile, earned three victories against winning teams that qualified for the playoffs — Seattle (Week 2), Kansas City (Week 3) and Minnesota (Week 11) — but two of those came before the Seahawks and Chiefs straightened themselves out.
Major turnaround: For Washington, this division title and trip to the playoffs represents a major turnaround after going 3-13 and 4-12 the previous two seasons.
"If you start saying, 'This is the biggest game of your life,' you don't want people to get too tense around here," Gruden said. "I think you have to prepare like you've been preparing."
While Washington hasn't won in the postseason since defeating Tampa Bay in the wild-card round 10 years ago, and has six last-place finishes in the last eight seasons, Aaron Rodgers has led Green Bay to its seventh consecutive playoff appearance.
The Packers reached the NFC championship game last season; they won the Super Bowl in February 2011.
"Obviously a proven football team over there, with a lot of playoff experience," Gruden said. "We're going to really have to up our game."