The Redskins 2014 schedule is favorable, but not without its challenges. Opening against teams that were 2-14 and 4-12 last season helps. They’ll play three prime-time games – a Thursday night in Sept. vs. the Giants, a Monday in Oct. vs. Super Bowl champion Seattle and a Monday later that month in Dallas. They also have back-to-back Nov. road trips to San Francisco and Indianapolis, and close with three straight NFC East games.
Jadeveon Clowney, Blake Bortles, Nick Foles, Eli Manning. (Getty Images)
at HOUSTON TEXANS
|Sept. 7||1 p.m.||Fox||2-1|
Last meeting: On Sept. 19, 2010, the Redskins took a 17-point lead late in the third quarter on Donovan McNabb’s 22-yard touchdown pass to Chris Cooley. But Houston quarterback Matt Schaub passed for 497 yards and led a Texans comeback, which Neil Rackers capped with a 35-yard field goal to give Houston a 30-27 overtime win.
Outlook: The Texans are on a 14-game losing streak, but last year’s nightmare gave them the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft and a chance to assemble a dream defensive line that includes former defensive player of the year J.J. Watt and top pick Jadeveon Clowney. Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III will certainly be challenged by Houston’s front, and Coach Jay Gruden will have to find a way to protect his quarterback during his first game in charge in the NFL. Houston also has a new head coach, former Penn State boss Bill O’Brien, who will try to revitalize the career of newly acquired starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
vs. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
|SEPT. 14||1 p.m.||CBS||4-1|
Last meeting: By Week 16 of the 2010 season, the Redskins had lost six of their past seven games and McNabb had lost his starting job. Rex Grossman and Ryan Torain led theWashington offense to just 251 total yards, but the defense kept the Redskins close. In overtime, Kevin Barnes intercepted Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard deep in Jaguars territory, and Graham Gano kicked a 31-yard field goal as Washington won, 20-17.
Outlook: The Redskins’ home opener should provide one of their more favorable matchups of the season. The Jaguars went 4-12 last season with the NFL’s worst scoring offense, and they seem inclined to start the season with journeyman quarterback Chad Henne under center rather than untested but potentially explosive No. 3 overall pick Blake Bortles. Jacksonville also had the 27th-ranked defense in 2013.
at PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
|Sept. 21||1 p.m||FOX||80-73-6|
Last meeting AT LINCOLN FINANCIAL FIELD: The Eagles had lost 10 straight home games entering this Week 11 matchup last year, but they dominated the first half and took a 24-0 lead into the fourth quarter. Griffin led a comeback with two long touchdown passes and two two-point conversions, but in the final minute, Griffin lofted a pass that Brandon Boykin intercepted in the end zone, and the Eagles held on for a 24-16 win.
Outlook: At least until the game starts, this one will be all about DeSean Jackson’s return to Philadelphia after the Eagles cut him in March. The outspoken wide receiver will certainly want to show Eagles Coach Chip Kelly that it was a mistake to let him go, and it’s a storyline the talking heads will love.Philadelphia had the worst passing defense in the league last season, and while they added safety Malcolm Jenkins, Jackson should have a chance to make an impact. On the other side of the ball, Kelly’s fast-break offense made lifevery difficult for the Redskins in two Eagles wins last year and there’s no reason to think they will slow down.
vs. NEW YORK GIANTS
|Sept. 25||8:25 p.m.||CBS, NFLNetwork||64-94-4|
Last meeting AT FEDEX FIELD: In the last of the Redskins’ five prime-time games last season, all losses, Washington fell, 24-17, in Week 13 to drop to 3-9 and become mathematically eliminated from postseason contention. The Redskins took a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter, but the offense stalled after that as Griffin was sacked five times, four by Justin Tuck. A final Redskins drive ended when Pierre Garcon fumbled.
Outlook: The Giants’ roster was sawsignificantly turned over during the offseason as New York aims to rebound from a 7-9 campaign in 2013 that started with six consecutive losses. If their new players can contribute, this game could go a long way toward determining which team might be best positioned to challenge defending division champion Philadelphia atop the NFC East.
Tuck and tackle Linval Joseph are gone from the defensive line, and stalwart offensive lineman David Diehl has retired. Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks is gone, too, and rookie Odell Beckham Jr will try to fill his shoes. Eli Manning threw 27 interceptions last season, and he needs more help from his running backs this year, namely Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams.
Richard Sherman, Larry Fitzgerald, Jake Locker, Tony Romo. (Getty Images)
vs. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
Oct. 6, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Last meeting: The wild-card playoff game after the 2012 season may feel like it was played a generation ago, but it will only have been 20 months to the day when the teams meet again. On Jan. 6, 2013√, Washington led 14-0 in the first quarter, but the game gradually slipped away as the condition ofRobert Griffin III’s knee worsened. The knee finally gave out in the fourth quarter of the 24-14 loss, and the fallout continued through the subsequent 2013 season.
Outlook: The fortunes of the two teams since their playoff meeting could not be any more divergent. Seattle went on to win the Super Bowl last season, while Washington had one of the most disastrous seasons in franchise history. The Seahawks remain a Super Bowl favorite this year, as nearly all of their top players return, including quarterback Russell Wilson and cornerback Richard Sherman.
at ARIZONA CARDINALS
|Oct. 12||4:25 p.m.||FOX||75-44-2|
Last meeting: During Week 2 in 2011,Rex Grossman threw two interceptions before rebounding to lead the Redskins to a come-from-behind, 22-21 win that pushed Washington to 2-0. Grossman found Santana Moss on an 18-yard touchdown pass with 5 minutes 17 seconds left to pull within two, and Gano hit a 34-yard field goal with 1:45 to play for the win. The Redskins went on to lose seven of their next eight games.
Outlook: Arizona may have been the most underappreciated team in the NFL last season.The Cardinals went 10-6 in the tough NFC West last season and beat three playoff teams, but they failed to make the postseason themselves. They featured the best run defense in the league, and the sixth-best defense overall. Carson Palmer even threw for a career-high 4,274 yards. Considering the Redskins will also have to make a cross-country trip during a short week, this matchup might be one of Washington’s most deceptively tough games. The Redskins’ eight-game winning streak against Arizona could be in jeopardy.
vs. TENNESSEE TITANS
|Oct. 19||1 p.m.||CBS||5-6|
Last meeting: Six days after a Monday Night demolition at the hands of Michael Vick and the Eagles, the Redskins rebounded with an overtime win against Tennessee on Nov. 21, 2010√. Gano made four field goals, including the game-tying kick with 5:24 left in regulation and the game-winner from 48 yards in overtime. The 19-16 win turned out to be the only victory in a seven-game stretch that torpedoed the Redskins’ season.
Outlook: The Titans have been stuck in neutral for years, winning between six and nine games in each of the past five years since their most recent playoff appearance after the 2008 season. Coach Ken Whisenhunt takes over in Tennessee this year, and his ability to get more out of fourth-year quarterback Jake Locker will be crucial critical in determining the team’s success. Rookie running back Bishop Sankey is expected to replace longtime starter Chris Johnson.
at DALLAS COWBOYS
Last meeting AT AT&T STADIUM: Special teams were a debacle for the Redskins last season, and they largely cost them this prime-time game last Oct. 13. Dwayne Harris had 222 total return yards, including an 86-yard punt return touchdown late in the second quarter as Dallas won, 31-16√, and Washington fell to 1-4. Harris’s returns helped the Cowboys to a 15-point win even though the Redskins gained 220 more yards from scrimmage of offense.
Outlook: A Monday Night game in Dallas doesn’t need much introduction. The Redskins’ two most noteworthy wins of their banner 2012 season came against their rivals, but they fell flat in both matchups last year. Tony Romo (reportedly healthy after offseason back surgery), DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant still lead the Cowboys’ offense, but Dallas’s defense could be even worse than last year’s 32nd-ranked unit.
Adrian Peterson, Josh McCown, Colin Kaepernick, Andre Luck. (Getty Images)
at MINNESOTA VIKINGS
|Nov. 2||1 p.m.||FOX||9-9|
Last meeting: When these teams met in Minneapolis on a Thursday night last November, the Redskins were coming off a dramatic overtime win against the Chargers and the Vikings were 1-7. Washington took a 13-point lead deep into the third quarter before allowing 20 unanswered points in a disastrous 34-27 loss. The loss marked the beginning of a season-ending, eight-game losing streak.
Outlook: For the second time in a month, the Redskins will have to travel during a short week. Adrian Peterson remains the face of the Vikings, but the major question in Minnesota is at the quarterback position, as usual. Who knows if Matt Cassel or rookie Teddy Bridgewater will be starting under center by Week 9 for new Coach Mike Zimmer, the former Bengals colleague of Jay Gruden. Off the field, the University of Minnesota’s outspoken stance against the Redskins name will draw attention.
vs. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
|Nov. 16||1 p.m.||FOX||9-9|
Last meeting: Early in the 2012 season, before Griffin hit his stride as a rookie, Washington needed a last-minute field goal by Billy Cundiff to avoid falling to 1-3. The Redskins built a 21-3 lead in the second quarter but fell behind by one when Tampa Bay hit a 47-yard field goal inside the two-minute warning. Cundiff had missed three previous field goals, but his 41-yarder with three seconds left gave the Redskins a 24-22 win.
Outlook: Even more so than the Redskins, Tampa Bay completed a major overhaul during the offseason and will look to bounce back from its second 4-12 season in the past three years. Lovie Smith takes over as head coach, and veteran Josh McCown is in at quarterback after a successful stint last year as an injury replacement in Chicago. Don’t be surprised to see a close game: Eleven 11 of the teams’ past 12 meetings have been decided by seven points or fewer√.
at SAN FRANCISCO 49ers
|Nov. 23||4:25 p.m.||CBS||9-16-1|
Last meeting: In the midst of their season-ending eight-game losing streak, the Redskins struggled to move the ball against San Francisco on a Monday night last November. Washington managed only 190 yards of total offense and only 76 passing yards as the 49ers turned a 10-6 halftime lead into an easy 27-6 win. The victory marked the first of six straight for San Francisco to end the regular season.
Outlook: The 49ers have reached the NFC championship game in each of the past three seasons, and the Super Bowl after 2012, but this San Francisco team may not be quite as daunting. There have been rumors of unrest between the 49ers players and Coach Jim Harbaugh. All-pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman may be back from his catastrophic knee injury by Week 12, but there is no telling how effective he will be. It’s also unclear how long all-pro Aldon Smith’s suspension might be after a series of off-field misconductincidents.
at INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
|Nov. 30||1 p.m.||Fox||10-19|
Last meeting: In a sloppy Sunday night game during Peyton Manning’s final active season with Indianapolis, the host Redskins lost, 27-24, on Oct. 17, 2010, despite three fumble recoveries in the second half. Manning threw three potential interceptions that were dropped by Redskins defensive backs, and he found future Redskin Pierre Garcon for a 57-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
Outlook: This game will be the first regular season matchup between the first two overall picks of the 2012 draft: Andrew Luck and Griffin. Luck has thrown for more than 8,000 yards over his first two seasons and he cut his interceptions in half from his first year to his second. Luck will also have former Giant Hakeem Nicks and a healthy Reggie Wayne to throw to this year. Griffin’s offense may havemore success on the ground. Indianapolis finished 26th in rushing defense last year.
Shaun Hill, Victor Cruz, LeSean McCoy, Dez Bryant.
vs. ST. LOUIS RAMS
|Dec. 7||1 p.m.||FOX||22-10-1|
Last meeting: In the second game of Griffin’s career, on Sept. 16, 2012, the Redskins squandered a big early lead in a 31-28 loss in St. Louis. Josh Wilson returned a fumble 30 yards for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage, and Griffin found Leonard Hankerson on a 68-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. But Sam Bradford threw three touchdown passes to lead the Rams’ comeback.
Outlook: St. Louis got some bad news when it was determined in late August that Bradford would miss the entire season with a torn ACL suffered in a preseason game. Second-year running back Zac Stacy will have to carry an offense that could be limited by the unstable situation at quarterback. The Rams will be hard-pressed to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2004, especially with the strength of the NFC West, but they do have arguably the best defensive front in the NFL.
at NEW YORK GIANTS
|Dec. 14||1 p.m.||FOX||64-94-4|
Last meeting AT METLIFE STADIUM: In a season finale last December that was meaningless for both teams, the Redskins were held to just a pair of field goals in a 20-6 loss in the final game of the Mike Shanahan era. Kirk Cousins threw two interceptions, lost a fumble and had a passer rating of 31.8 with Griffin inactive. London Fletcher recorded seven tackles in his final game in the NFL.
Outlook: Each of the Redskins’ final three games are against division rivals, so if they can remain within striking distance they should have an opportunity to make a late playoff push. Washington has lost five of its past six road games against the Giants, with the lone win in that span coming late in the 2011 season shortly before New York went on its run to the Super Bowl XLVI title. Eli Manning will have to bounce back from his 27-interception season last year, or New York could be out of contention by Week 15.
vs. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
|Dec. 20||4:30 p.m.||CBS, NFL Network||80-73-6|
Last meeting AT FEDEX FIELD: The Redskins entered last year’s opener riding high off their division title the year before, but the Eagles quickly sent them crashing back to reality. Kelly unveiled his high-speed offense in his coaching debut, and Philadelphia had a 33-7 lead by the third quarter. The final score was 33-27, but the loss foreshadowed trouble ahead.
Outlook: The NFL makes a return to Saturdays with a doubleheader that will include this game, and the league is certainly hoping the NFC East title will still be up for grabs. If Washington is to contend, it will likely need at least one win against the defending division champs. In the four most recent seasons the Redskins have made the playoffs, they have gone a combined 6-2√ against the Eagles. In the 11 seasons since 1999 when they didn’t make the playoffs, the Redskins are 5-17√ against Philadelphia.
vs. DALLAS COWBOYS
|Dec. 28||1 p.m.||FOX||40-64-2|
Last meeting AT FEDEX FIELD: The Redskins had an opportunity to severely hamper their rivals’ playoff push in Week 16 last season, and they came very close to pulling off an upset. Washington led by six late in the fourth quarter, and a hobbled Tony Romo took the snap on fourth and goal from the 10 with 1:16 to play. Romo found DeMarco Murray for a touchdown, and Dallas won, 24-23.
Outlook: The Cowboys’ recent history in Week 17 is well-known. In each of the past three seasons, Dallas has faced a different one of its NFC East rivals in a winner-take-all game with the division championship on the line. Each time, the Cowboys lost in excruciating fashion. The depleted Cowboys don’t seem as likely to contend again this year, but who knows? Maybe this will end up being another flexed Sunday night game with everything at stake.