So, we’ve now all seen the Redskins’ schedule for the coming season, and it’s always fun to go through it and try to predict how things will go, and pick out portions we like or dislike.
● Soft start, challenging finish? – With a trip out to Houston (2-14 last season) and then a home opener against Jacksonville (4-12), it would appear that first-year head coach Jay Gruden has the chance to cut his teeth on two weaker opponents and possibly start 2-0 before back-to-back division games. The Redskins then would benefit from a mini-bye because of the 11-day layoff after playing the Giants on Thursday night in Week 4. The next game is against the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks on Monday night in Week 5. They’ll need every bit of that layoff to prepare for that matchup. Things seem to be set up favorably for Washington during the early going, though. The end, not so much. Five of the last six games could be doozies. At San Francisco, at Indianapolis, at the Giants, versus the defending NFC East champion Eagles and then versus the rival Cowboys. Definitely doesn’t look like a walk in the park.
● New coaches – Outcomes are hard enough to predict as it is, but the fact that four opponents have new head coaches makes it even more challenging. Squads could prove drastically improved, or they could struggle mightily as they learn a new coach on the fly. Houston’s Bill O’Brien had success as an NFL coordinator and as a college head coach. He could produce a quick turnaround for the Texans, or he could struggle because of their lack of a quarterback. Lovie Smith could spark a rebound in Tampa, or it could take a while to remake the team in his image. Minnesota? Tough to say how Mike Zimmer – a very good defensive coordinator – will do there. They have Adrian Peterson, but quarterback remains an issue, and he’ll need to overhaul a defense that surrendered a league-high 480 points last year. Ken Whisenhunt has work to do in Tennessee as well. Can he win with quarterback Jake Locker? Who replaces running back Chris Johnson? And of course, Gruden himself has a good deal of questions facing his unit as well.
● Late bye – Washington’s bye doesn’t come until Week 10, which is pretty late. You could complain about the placement of any bye, really. “Oh, it’s too early!” Or, “Man, it’s too late!” Or, “Halfway point is good, but it could kill momentum!” Considering Washington has a nice little layoff between Week 4 and 5 games, this isn’t bad. And, considering their tough stretch run, maybe a Week 10 bye is just what they need. One player looked at it and said to me, that yes, it was late, “but good for a deep playoff run.”
● Three prime-time games – That’s a pretty good number of nationally televised games for a team that went 3-13 last season. Washington played five as they came off of their 10-6 2012 campaign, so only two fewer is decent. It’s not like the Redskins traditionally do well on the national stage.
● Great story lines – One thing that this schedule has no shortage of: compelling story lines. You have Robert Griffin III versus his three young quarterback peers Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck and Colin Kaepernick; Jason Hatcher versus his former team twice; DeSean Jackson against his old team twice. Of course, there are the always-compelling division matchups, particularly in the final three weeks of the season. There are good measuring sticks in the form of those meetings with Seattle and San Francisco. It’s a good-looking slate.
● Up in the air – You could say this every year, but this really can go either way. You could go down the schedule and lay out a 10-6 campaign with wins over Houston, Jacksonville, Arizona, Tennessee, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, St. Louis, and splits with New York, Philly and Dallas. Or, it’s also very imaginable that they could struggle on the road in the opener, win versus Jacksonville and then go on a four-game slide (Philly, New York, Seattle and on a long road trip to Arizona), and lose to Dallas twice, and at Minnesota, fall to San Francisco, Indianapolis and at New York and to Philly and finish … gulp … 4-12. We shall see.
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