The Nats can wait on sizing their heads for the NL East crown. No one wants to scream "No Comeuppance!" only to be comeupped, and potentially, I guess, they could somehow stumble through the remainder of the season while the Braves tear it up and end up losing the crown by a few games. But miss the playoffs? Seriously? If the Nats haven't left that territory yet they are showing their passports to the border patrol as we speak.
I like to think this is just soulless automaton Harper speaking, but maybe this has a lot to do with where I'm coming from. I'm not a DC sports fan and I don't know your trauma. (I've been exceedingly lucky in my sports fandom - you may vomit if I spell it all out). I don't expect the other shoe to drop, not on a team that's as talented as the Nats. But similar things have happened, like Jamie Mottram told you over at Mr. Irrelevant, so I guess expecting the worse is understandable.
Then again, if we concentrate on just the playoffs, the Nats are in. Do you know how many NL teams 20 games over on July 27th have failed to make the playoffs in the Wild Card Era? Zero. (Last team to do it was the 1993 SF Giants) And that's with one wild card. It has happened a few times in the AL, most notably last year with the Red Sox, but that brings up something that you need to consider when looking at other teams that have failed. What exactly was their situation?
The 2011 Red Sox bombed out, in part because there were two excellent teams in their own division, which meant games they could lose that would directly help someone that was going to take their spot. They would go 4-5 to the Yanks to end the year, and 2-8 versus the Rays. Even then they'd need a 7-20 September overall AND a loss in the last game of the year and a Rays win to lose that spot. Are there two excellent teams in the NL East? Maybe, if you really like a healthy Phillies team, but Philadelphia is 9 games under. (Tampa was 3 over at the time they got hot) Maybe they can win a lot and beat up on the Nats but you don't turn around 9 games under into the playoffs. Looking at another way the Nats are not one of these teams, a team like the 2007 Mets, who blew their lead, were a good team but only good. At this point they were a 12 game over .500 team. They had spent June and July playing middling baseball after a super hot start. The Nats are 20 games over, and have been consistently very good. They are much better than that Mets team.
The Nats are not merely leading the NL East. They are one of the best teams in baseball leading their division. In order to miss the playoffs the Nats would not only have to play 5+ games worse than the Braves, but also at least 5+ games worse than the Pirates AND 7 games worse than the Cardinals (or 7+ worse than the Dodgers after that it's like 11 games and I'm going to go out on that limb and say the Nats aren't playing 11 games worse than a team currently at .500 or worse for the rest of the year) So if the Nats go 32-32 that means the Braves go 37-27(or the rough equivalent, I'm not counting up actual games here), the Pirates go 37-27, and the Cardinals go 39-25. Could it? I guess. Will it? Not likely.
In fact I'll just say no. No the Nats will not miss the playoffs. The collapse would have to be so extreme that I just don't see it happening, not with the talent the Nats have, not with the lack of talent we see across most of the NL. Start clearing October now.