As the Washington Redskins return from their mini-bye and prepare for what fans hope will be another historic second half, the team's inconsistency -- combined with surprising play by other NFC teams -- leaves it looking up at most of the NFL.
The Redskins woke up Nov. 11 in last place in the NFC East, and ranked 13th in the conference with seven games left. Washington's chances to win the NFC East or steal one of the two NFC wild-card spots look bleak.
But -- in the division at least -- the chances are no bleaker than they were last year. Entering Week 11 of 2012, the 3-6 Redskins were tied with Philadelphia and trailed the NY Giants (6-4) and Dallas (4-5).
Entering Week 11 of 2013, Dallas and surging Philadelphia are 5-5, and Washington is tied with the Lazarus-like Giants at 3-6.
Even if the Redskins can win out, 10 wins is their max, so they'll need help. Here's a look at the contenders and their remaining schedules:
Dallas (5-5): BYE, at Giants, Raiders, at Bears, Packers, at Redskins, Eagles
The division leader gave up 625 yards and an NFL-record 40 first downs to the Saints Nov. 10. The Cowboys owns the tiebreaker against Philly for now, based on the head-to-head win Oct. 20. Unlike the Eagles and Giants, the Cowboys probably will have to face injured quarterback Aaron Rodgers when they play the Packers Dec. 15.
Eagles (5-5): Redskins, BYE, Cardinals, Lions, at Vikings, Bears, at Cowboys
The 27-13 score during Philadelphia's Nov. 10 win against Green Bay was more about the Packers' horrible defense than the Eagles' offense. The Packers piled up yards, but were brutal in the red zone. The Nov. 17 game between Philadelphia and Washington should be a shootout. Going forward, if the Eagles weren't 0-4 at home, this would appear to be a favorable schedule.
Giants (3-6): Packers, Cowboys, at Washington, at San Diego, Seahawks, at Lions, Redskins
The Giants are ahead of the Redskins based on division record (1-2 to 0-2). New York may be the hottest team in the division, and it has two winnable games at home before visiting Washington, then a tough three-game run before hosting the Redskins.
Redskins (3-6): at Eagles, 49ers, Giants, Chiefs, at Falcons, Cowboys, at Giants
The glass is half-full for Washington, because all of its division games are winnable. The glass is half-empty because the Redskins lost a winnable game against Minnesota Nov. 7. The Chiefs are winning a lot of close games and will visit the Redskins after showdowns with Denver, and the Falcons are still banged up.
There are a lot teams for Washington to jump over here. After the Nov. 10 slate of games -- with Seattle (9-1), New Orleans (7-2) Detroit (6-3) and Dallas leading their divisions -- these are the wild-card standings and remaining opponents.
Panthers (6-3): Patriots, at Dolphins, Buccaneers, at Saints, Jets, Saints, at Falcons
Only the Chiefs have allowed fewer points than the Panthers, who've surrendered 15 or less in winning five straight. The current wild-card leader had the toughest schedule (based on 2012 records) when the season began, and the final stretch includes only one walkover.
49ers (6-3): at Saints, at Redskins, Rams, Seahawks, at Buccaneers, Falcons, at Cardinals
San Francisco had won five straight before losing to Carolina Nov. 10. There's a chance for the Redskins to catch the 49ers with a post-Saints hangover.
Bears (5-4): Ravens, at Rams, at Vikings, Cowboys, at Browns, at Eagles, Packers
Chicago probably brought quarterback Jay Cutler back from injury too soon. With either Cutler or Josh McCown at quarterback, the Bears' four road games are winnable. At least here, the Redskins own the tiebreaker against Chicago.
Packers (5-4): at Giants, Vikings, at Lions, Falcons, at Cowboys, Steelers, at Bears
Two weeks ago, this schedule seemed manageable, as Green Bay was fighting for home-field advantage during the playoffs. Now, the Packers are fighting for their playoff lives as they struggle to score and stop opponents.
Rams (4-6): BYE, Bears, at 49ers, at Cardinals, Saints, Buccaneers, at Seahawks
St. Louis should have beaten Seattle at home Oct. 28, and now the Rams will be hard-pressed to get to eight wins with this schedule, though the Seahawks may be in resting mode by Week 17.
Atlanta (2-7), Minnesota (2-7) and Tampa Bay (0-8) are not yet officially eliminated from playoff contention.