The stakes are high for the Washington Redskins in 2019; the franchise hasn’t reached the postseason since the 2015 season or won a playoff game since the 2005 season. Several jobs, including that of Coach Jay Gruden, could be on the line if the team doesn’t rebound from last year’s disappointing 7-9 record.
The team’s schedule, released Wednesday, could help in this regard. The .469 winning percentage from 2018 by Washington’s opponents is the lowest of any team in the NFL. The Redskins face four playoff teams — the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Chicago Bears and New England Patriots — and feature three former MVP quarterbacks.
The Redskins will appear in two prime-time games and will not play on Thanksgiving for the first time since 2015. Their lone “Monday Night Football” appearance is at home against the Bears on Sept. 23, and their single “Thursday Night Football” showcase comes on the road against former Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 24.
Here are five takeaways from the release of the Redskins’ 2019 schedule:
The NFC North is no joke
The Redskins have to face what could be a loaded NFC North, which has at least three teams considered contenders to win the division. It starts with the Bears, the reigning NFC North champs who are fueled by one of the league’s best defenses and superstar pass rusher Khalil Mack.
Cousins became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for at least 4,000 yards and complete 70 percent of his passes with 30 touchdown passes and 10 or fewer interceptions last season. He’ll lead a Vikings team that barely missed the playoffs last season after making it to the NFC championship game two seasons ago, and still has one of the league’s better defenses.
The Green Bay Packers spent big in free agency to upgrade the NFL’s 22nd-ranked scoring defense — and, of course, they still have Aaron Rodgers at quarterback.
The AFC East presents an easier task
Let’s start with the obvious — facing the Super Bowl champion Patriots will be a challenge. They still have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, which is all that typically matters for them, and they are positioned to win an 11th consecutive AFC East title.
But the other three teams are in various states of rebuilding. The Miami Dolphins have started over with a new coach in Brian Flores, and they traded away quarterback Ryan Tannehill and signed veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Bills used free agency to retool last season’s 30th-ranked offense, but they still lack playmakers around second-year quarterback Josh Allen and feature a pair of running backs north of 30 years old in LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore. The Jets, who added star running back Le’Veon Bell in free agency, have the chance to be much improved but are coming off a 4-12 season and haven’t reached the playoffs since 2010.
The slate features a tough start — and a tough finish
The Redskins won’t be able to ease into their schedule, with four playoff teams, including the Super Bowl champs, in the first five weeks (at Eagles, Cowboys, Bears, at Giants, Patriots). A slow start could put Washington in a hole in the NFC East before the calendar turns to October.
Then, when it’s time for a potential playoff push, December brings road games against the Carolina Panthers and Packers before a three-week closing stretch against division rivals in the Eagles, Giants and Cowboys. The season finale is in Dallas.
The defense will get a crack at several young QBs
While the soon-to-be 42-year old Brady is the headliner among opposing quarterbacks on Washington’s schedule this season, the Redskins will face several of the game’s most promising young passers. These include Allen (Bills), Sam Darnold (Jets), Carson Wentz (Eagles), Mitchell Trubisky (Bears), Jimmy Garoppolo (49ers) and Dak Prescott (Cowboys).
That list doesn’t include talented veterans such as Cousins and Matt Stafford (Detroit Lions), who are in the primes of their careers. Oh, and the Redskins also face former league MVPs in Cam Newton (Panthers), Rodgers and Brady for good measure.
There are lots of revenge opportunities
The Redskins have watched several key contributors move on to other teams in recent years, and they will see several of them in 2019. The biggest showdown fans should anticipate will be a trip to Minnesota to face Cousins, who was drafted by Washington in 2012 and had three consecutive 4,000-yard passing seasons after replacing Robert Griffin III. He signed a fully guaranteed, $84 million contract last offseason with the Vikings.
Jamison Crowder played the first four seasons of his career with Washington before signing a $28.5 million free agent deal with the Jets in March. The Jets also feature former Redskins center Spencer Long. Preston Smith, Washington’s 2015 second-round pick, signed a $52 million contract with the Packers this offseason. Washington traded a fourth-round pick for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix midseason last fall, but he signed a one-year deal with the Bears after a disappointing stint in the Redskins’ defense. Swing tackle Ty Nsekhe signed with the Bills last month for $10 million.
Redskins’ 2019 schedule:
Sept. 8: at Philadelphia Eagles (1 p.m. FOX)
Sept. 15: DALLAS COWBOYS (1 p.m. FOX)
Sept. 23: CHICAGO BEARS (Monday 8:15 p.m. ESPN)
Sept. 29: at New York Giants (1 p.m. FOX)
Oct. 6: NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (1 p.m. CBS)
Oct. 13: at Miami Dolphins (1 p.m. FOX)
Oct. 20: SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (1 p.m. FOX)
Oct. 24: at Minnesota Vikings (Thursday 8:20 p.m. FOX, NFL NETWORK, AMAZON)
Nov. 3: at Buffalo Bills (1 p.m. FOX)
Nov. 10: Bye
Nov. 17: NEW YORK JETS (1 p.m. CBS)
Nov. 24: DETROIT LIONS (1 p.m. FOX)
Dec. 1: at Carolina Panthers (1 p.m. CBS)
Dec. 8: at Green Bay Packers (1 p.m. FOX)
Dec. 15: PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (1 p.m. FOX)
Dec. 22: NEW YORK GIANTS (1 p.m. FOX)
Dec. 29: at Dallas Cowboys (1 p.m. FOX)
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