When they first laid eyes on their 1986 schedule yesterday, the Washington Redskins shivered, then smiled.
It'll be cold in Green Bay in November and Denver in December, that's for sure.
But, more importantly, the Redskins realized that even without running back John Riggins and, possibly, quarterback Joe Theismann, they have not lost their national appeal.
The Redskins are scheduled for two appearances on ABC's "Monday Night Football" this coming season, plus one nationally televised weekend game, Saturday, Dec. 13, at 4 p.m. in Denver.
That's just one fewer national game than a year ago, when the Redskins played three times on Monday night and ended the season on national TV in St. Louis on a Saturday afternoon.
The Redskins' two Monday night games in 1986 are logical network choices. The first is Oct. 27, in Week 8, against the New York Giants at the Meadowlands. It will be the first game between the teams since Theismann's leg was broken on a Monday night last November in the Redskins' emotional 23-21 victory.
The second is just three weeks later, at RFK Stadium, against arch-NFC rival San Francisco. ABC-TV is betting that by Week 11, the Redskins and 49ers both still will be in contention for the playoffs. The last three seasons, that's been a very safe bet.
Coach Joe Gibbs never has liked the interruptions Monday night games bring to his weekly schedule, but he certainly enjoys another season of national attention for his team.
"As a coach, you don't like changes in the schedule, week-to-week, but I like the fact we'll get attention like that," Gibbs said. "I think our players like playing in front of national audiences."
There was more to be learned when the schedule was announced at Redskin Park. Notorious slow starters, the Redskins will play three of their first four games at home: against Philadelphia, the Los Angeles Raiders and Seattle.
The first road game, however, is a long haul. It's in San Diego in Week 3.
Gibbs likes being home for most of September, but isn't so keen on the opposition.
He considers Philadelphia a mystery team with new coach Buddy Ryan, the former Chicago defensive mastermind.
"I was kinda hoping we'd get to see them play first," Gibbs said. "You hate going against a new coach right away. We'll be going in blind."
The Redskins will both open and close Ryan's first regular season with Philadelphia, finishing at Veterans Stadium Dec. 21. It's the first time the Redskins have had a bookend regular-season opponent since 1963, when the Cleveland Browns opened and closed Washington's season.
The Redskins, who will play 10 games against teams that finished .500 or better last season, must play every AFC West team but Kansas City, and three of them come in Murderer's Row order in September.
"It makes it tough for us to get a good start, and that's what we need," Gibbs said.
The Redskins (10-6) began 1985 with a 1-3 record and didn't make the playoffs for the first time since 1981.
And what of Dallas? The NFC East champion Cowboys appear on the schedule Week 6 at Texas Stadium, then again Week 12 at RFK, six days after the Redskins-49ers game.
It's the second consecutive year the Redskins will play the Cowboys at home near the end of the season, which the Redskins prefer.
The preseason schedule, also announced yesterday, looks like a repeat of last year's summer games. Three of the opponents are the same: New England, Tampa Bay and Atlanta. The only change is a home game against Pittsburgh Aug. 15.