ASHBURN, Va. (AP) -Rock Cartwright did not take a break from football during his mini-bye week. The Washington Redskins return man watched as many games as he could, anxiously keeping up with the playoff implications.
``It was good to see some teams fall off on Sunday,'' Cartwright said.
The Redskins returned Tuesday from a four-day weekend, relaxed and refreshed after perhaps the most difficult stretch in franchise history. Time is slowly - very slowly - healing the pain from the death of safety Sean Taylor, a tragedy that made a four-game losing streak seem inconsequential.
But there remain rays of hope that something can be made of the season. The out-of-town scoreboard over the weekend revealed losses for Detroit, Philadelphia, Carolina and Arizona. Those results - along with Washington's 24-16 win over Chicago on Thursday night - have made the Redskins an NFL oddity, a 6-7 team with more than a fanciful shot at the postseason.
``The results have been pretty good for us the last three or four weeks - we just haven't done our part,'' receiver Antwaan Randle El said.
Not all the Week 14 games went Washington's way. Victories by Minnesota and New Orleans mean the Redskins don't quite control their own destiny. Even so, it's likely that they will claim the NFC's final wild card berth if they win their final three.
``The way the NFC has gone this year, it's a lot of parity, so to speak,'' linebacker London Fletcher said. ``Where we are right now, having lost four consecutive games and to still be in consideration for a playoff spot, it's a good thing for us.''
The NFL certainly thinks the Redskins are worthy of the late-season spotlight. The Dec. 23 game at Minnesota has been moved to Sunday night, giving Washington three consecutive games in prime time. This week's road game against the New York Giants also is on Sunday night.
Whether the Redskins are up to the task is debatable. Todd Collins, who hasn't started a game in 10 years, will lead the stretch drive because quarterback Jason Campbell is out with a knee injury. The running game has been nonexistent in recent weeks, and Taylor was the defense's best player.
The schedule doesn't offer any favors, either. After New York (9-4) and Minnesota (7-6), the regular season ends with a home game against Dallas (12-1). The Redskins won't be favored in any of those games, unless perhaps the Cowboys have clinched the NFC's No. 1 seed and plan to rest their key starters.
The race for the final playoff spot essentially involves one 7-6 team (Minnesota) and four 6-7 teams (Washington, New Orleans, Detroit, Arizona). With the Redskins holding the tiebreaker over Detroit and Arizona, the Vikings game is pivotal.
Well, maybe. First, the Redskins need to beat New York. That's why center Casey Rabach didn't even bother keeping up with Sunday's games.
``I'm looking at the Giants,'' Rabach said. ``It doesn't matter where we're at if we don't win this next game.''

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