Washington Redskins 2014 Schedule: Game-by-Game Predictions
The preseason has made predicting the Washington Redskins' season a thankless task.
So much depends on Robert Griffin III finding his rhythm, and the limited sample we saw isn't exactly enough to go all-in on the third-year quarterback.
Nevertheless, there are reasons to be hopeful, Griffin has looked better this offseason than the preseason games suggest, and the notion that Kirk Cousins has also outplayed him in practice simply isn't true.
Jay Gruden's attempt to get Griffin into better shape as a pocket passer is vital to the future of the organization. There will be struggles along the way—this is Washington, after all.
The NFC East is a battle, and the quality of the football isn't always the best. Getting to the playoffs requires a far better record than the 0-6 the Redskins managed last year.
Week 1 awaits, so let's get right to it.
Week 1: At Houston Texans
If it really is just a matter of confidence, Gruden should get Griffin into a rhythm with short completions. Griffin has the receiving corps to pick up yards after the catch, and he should make use of them.
We saw Kyle Shanahan do this with the then-rookie in New Orleans—quick passes over the middle that gave the receivers a chance to make a play. We saw 26 passing attempts to 43 rushing plays that day and a third-down conversion rate of 26 percent.
However, the offense still put up 40 points and Griffin was the talk of the league.
Facing Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt will mean Griffin must get rid of the ball fast. That's not something he's done well so far, so don't be surprised if we see him given one-read plays aimed at a quick release from the pocket.
Bootlegs and rollouts will buy him time, but also leave him exposed. The offensive line hasn't helped, so it makes sense to get the ball out of Griffin's hands early and often.
Houston has its own quarterback problems, with Ryan Fitzpatrick starting seemingly by default over Case Keenum and Tom Savage.
This is unlikely to be a pretty game. The QB controversy won't end after Week 1, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see Griffin fail to throw a touchdown. However, there should be enough life in the Redskins offense to squeak past Houston.
Prediction: Redskins 13-10 Houston (1-0)
Week 2: Vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
This is an interesting one. The Jacksonville Jaguars face the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 1 and are currently 10-point underdogs. Chad Henne has officially been named the starting quarterback for that game.
However, Blake Bortles had an excellent preseason and showed a good understanding of the offense. Should Henne lay an egg in the first game, the calls for Bortles will begin.
Assuming that Henne is disappointing against Philadelphia and starts in Washington, Jim Haslett will waste no time in getting after him.
Expect a variety of creative blitzes, with Trent Murphy getting on the field to support Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and Jason Hatcher in terrorizing the under-pressure quarterback.
With Griffin continuing to be erratic, this is where the game will be won.
The Redskins defense has recently shown a lot more life than in previous years, and it will be relied upon heavily in the early weeks of the year.
Griffin should come to life a bit more in the second half, finding his receivers better and seeing the field quicker. He should throw his first touchdown of the year here, but it's going to be the defense that seals the game.
Prediction: David Amerson intercepts Henne for the pick-six to end the game. Jaguars 13-24 Redskins (2-0)
Week 3: At Philadelphia Eagles
After two hard-fought wins, Washington will meet Philadelphia in its first divisional game of the year.
The Redskins have shown an improvement in their tackling across the preseason, with Gruden and his positional coaches doing a good job emphasizing fundamentals.
This will be of use to them as they seek to undo the embarrassment of 2013, when the Eagles breezed past and held them to zero points until the fourth quarter.
LeSean McCoy ran all over the Redskins to the tune of 261 yards and three touchdowns last year, so wrapping him up will be the primary task for Ryan Clark and his secondary.
The threat of tight end Zach Ertz could also cause Washington problems. At 6'5" and 250 pounds, Ertz is a big red-zone threat who can also play in the slot. The Redskins don't have the tallest defensive backs, so they'll need to play physical up front and take the pressure off.
As against Jacksonville, that means getting to the quarterback.
The Eagles will have the Jacksonville game to study and look at the way Haslett lined up his players, and Chip Kelly's team has one of the best offensive lines in football. This will be the biggest test the Redskins pass rush has faced so far, and it should make for a very interesting battle.
We have to assume that Griffin is going to take longer than two games to find his form. This leaves much of the work down to the defense and the running game.
Alfred Morris has been consistent over the last two years, so there's no reason to expect him to be any different. Even with Griffin struggling from the pocket, he should be able to get his receivers into the game long enough for Morris to take advantage.
It's going to be closer than last year, but the Eagles hand the Redskins their first defeat of the year and make it three in a row over Washington.
Prediction: Redskins Redskins 20-27 Eagles (2-1)
Week 4: Vs. New York Giants
Following a disappointing defeat against the Eagles, Washington keeps the divisional rivalry going by hosting the New York Giants.
The Giants are another team who have been struggling offensively this preseason, and that is likely to continue as the regular season gets going.
It's going to come down to who can find a spark first. With Eli Manning admitting it could take all year to learn Ben McAdoo's new offense, the smart money is currently on Washington.
Expect Griffin to start hitting his drops better, getting the ball out and spreading it around. Jordan Reed could have a strong game here, taking advantage of gaps in coverage as Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson draw defenders away.
The Giants rushing attack could be enough to lean on and keep them in the game, but with Grifffin suddenly finding some form, Washington pulls away in the third quarter and doesn't look back.
Prediction: Giants 21-34 Redskins (3-1)
Week 5: Vs. Seattle Seahawks
It's difficult to see the Seattle Seahawks dropping many games this year, and this repeat of the 2012 playoff game isn't likely to be one of them.
Russell Wilson has led Seattle to score on 11 of his 13 drives this preseason. That's reasonably ominous for the rest of the league.
Wilson's detractors stipulate that his defense and running game truly won the Super Bowl, so if the former Wisconsin Badger can progress to dominate games with his arm, Seattle will find themselves back at the big game in February.
Washington needs to play lights-out football to compete with Seattle coming off its bye week. Griffin's strong performance against the Giants will raise some hopes, but Keenan Robinson will come under huge pressure to contain Marshawn Lynch and marshal his unit.
Ultimately, Seattle will prove too strong for the Redskins and come away from FedEx Field with a victory.
Prediction: Seahawks 31-17 Redskins (3-2)
Week 6: At Arizona Cardinals
Arizona has its bye in Week 4, as well home-field advantage in this Week 6 matchup.
Getting Larry Fitzgerald out of the game with strong defense will be the best way to win this. Carson Palmer isn't a quarterback who you can rely on to deliver a consistent performance, so it's not hard to see him throwing some ducks with Fitzgerald manacled.
However, Griffin isn't yet consistent either, and he will continue to jump from impressive to baffling. Getting to his favorite targets will be the key here, but he has to trust his line, climb the pocket and not look to run when he feels pressure.
Patrick Peterson will make life difficult for the Washington signal-caller, but the loss of Daryl Washington and Karlos Dansby means the Cardinals defense isn't quite as strong as it was last year.
Arizona is still a playoff-caliber team, and although the Redskins will push hard, it should still seal the win.
Prediction Redskins 21-24 Cardinals (3-3)
Week 7: Vs. Tennessee Titans
The Tennessee Titans don't win on the road very often, plus there's absolutely no guarantee that Jake Locker will even stay healthy enough to lead his team in Week 7.
If he makes it this far, Locker will have support from new running back Bishop Sankey, who looked to be acclimating to the NFL in the Titans' final preseason game, despite the loss. Sankey will need to curb his fumbling issues if Tennessee is to rely on him, but he is a dangerous player to consider.
However, Griffin should be turning a corner by this point of the season and putting up much better numbers. The offense should be starting to tick over as anticipated and the Titans will have problems dealing with the speed of the Redskins receivers.
Look for Griffin to put in his best performance of the season and for Washington to look its most convincing as a result.
Prediction: Titans 10-31 Redskins (4-3)
Week 8: At Dallas Cowboys
Washington has its first shot at Dallas midway through the season, and Gruden will be looking for a win here.
The Cowboys defense is in real trouble right now, with even the return of Morris Claiborne accompanied by pain-killing shots before each game. The earlier loss of Sean Lee will obviously hurt them, so the Redskins will look to test the secondary early on.
Griffin unleashed a strong deep ball to Aldrick Robinson in 2012 that set in motion a 28-point second quarter from which the Cowboys never recovered. More of that would be welcomed from Redskins fans, and the defense certainly looks vulnerable.
Washington has too many options at receiver for Dallas to hold back, so it should be a matter of keeping the playcalling fresh. Alfred Morris has previously taken the Cowboys apart, so he remains a powerful option on the ground.
Tony Romo and Dez Bryant won't allow Dallas to get blown out. The Cowboys QB should find the soft spots in coverage to exploit and march his team down the field to put up points.
Ultimately, though, Washington has got better on defense, while Dallas has regressed. That should be enough to see the Redskins beat their old enemy on the road.
Prediction: Redskins 34-24 Dallas (5-3)
Week 9: At Minnesota Vikings
It's the trap game that the Redskins have succumbed to in the past.
Minnesota went a perfect 4-0 in the preseason. Yes, Washington did the same in 2013, but Chris Tomasson made an interesting point for TwinCities.com:
The Vikings finished 4-0 in exhibitions Thursday night with a 19-3 win over Tennessee at LP Field. It marked the seventh undefeated preseason in Minnesota's 54-year history.
Five of the first six times, the Vikings went on to have a regular-season record of .500 or better. That includes going 4-0 and then 15-1 in 1998, 5-0 and then 12-2 in 1973, and 4-0 and 11-5 in 1992.
Granted, basing the 2014 prediction on preseason history is superstitious nonsense, but when you're predicting the outcome of a Week 9 game in August, it's as good a barometer as any.
The feeling persists that Bridgewater will be under center by this point in the year, and the Vikings will be putting together a good run of form.
This should be a thrilling encounter, but Minnesota's home-field advantage is the difference-maker in the end.
Prediction: Redskins 20-23 Vikings (5-4)
Week 11: Vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The final preseason game was obviously meaningless, but there may be some things that carry over. Silas Redd used that game as his springboard to get on the roster, and he could get some carries in relief of Alfred Morris.
Aside from that, we're not really sure what to expect from the Bucs. Like the Redskins, they're going through a coaching change and are in the middle of overhauling their offense.
Josh McCown is in at quarterback, and his performance here will owe a lot to how his patchwork offensive line performs.
In another similarity to Washington, the Bucs line is in transition and head coach Lovie Smith still won't name his starter at right guard. Logan Mankins will slot in on the left, offering some stability, but the line remains a point of weakness.
If Haslett can dial up the pressure on McCown and force him out of the pocket, Keenan Robinson has the speed to close him down and make a play. McCown was on fire in relief of Jay Cutler in Chicago last year, but expecting another run like that is unrealistic.
On the defensive side, Tampa Bay has been without top cornerback Alterraun Verner for most of the preseason. It's difficult to know how the secondary will stack up once he returns to play a full game, but there currently looks to be room to exploit.
Look for the Redskins to get back on track after their bye week with a comfortable home win.
Prediction: Buccaneers 10-27 Redskins (6-4)
Week 12: At San Francisco 49ers
Unfortunately for Washington, Aldon Smith will have returned from suspension to bolster the 49ers pass rush. Griffin was sacked four times when the team met last November.
That was the third game in a row where Griffin was sacked four times, which contributed to his benching. It also contributed to Gruden's reshuffle of the offensive line, but those concerns have continued so far.
The 49ers will break teams with defense, which they did to Washington last year. They have had an up-and-down preseason, with their own offense (and offensive line) looking a little lost.
Assuming that these problems will continue into the regular season, the Redskins can attack Colin Kaepernick and try to eliminate his threat. For all the talk of Aldon Smith, Kerrigan and Orakpo have both been productive in the preseason and could get the defense off the field quickly.
It's unlikely to be as embarrassing as last year, but the Niners remain the stronger team.
Prediction: Redskins 10-14 49ers (6-5)
Week 13: At Indianapolis Colts
So much talk centered around Griffin and Andrew Luck in 2012, but this year marks the first time that they meet in the regular season.
Of course, this has absolutely no bearing on the way the game will go, but that will be the focus leading up to it.
The key to this game for Gruden will be controlling the time of possession and if he can use Morris and Redd to eat up the clock, grind out yards and get the offense up the field.
Griffin will remain the focus of this team, but the running game can keep the score close and dictate possession. Keep the ball out of Luck's hands as much as possible.
With a 6-5 record, the playoffs will remain in the minds of Gruden and his team. The NFC East will, as always, be a battle until the end. To win it, Griffin and the Redskins will need to win tough road games like the one in Indy.
Ignoring all this, it's the Colts who look more like the winners of this game right now.
Predictions: Redskins 17-20 Colts (6-6)
Week 14: Vs. St. Louis Rams
The St. Louis Rams' season got thrown up in the air when Sam Bradford tore his ACL for the second time in two seasons. How far Shaun Hill can take them is unknown, but Jeff Fisher's team will be eager to get its third win over the Redskins in four years.
Penalties were Washington's undoing in 2012, when a moment of madness from Josh Morgan thwarted a final-minute drive. The instigator of that outburst, Cortland Finnegan, is no longer with the Rams, but Fisher's tactics will stay the same.
The Rams are a physical defensive side, and in 2012 they aimed to push the Redskins around. This could be a game affected by the crackdown on defensive holding, but it's equally important that Griffin avoids the punishment he took in his rookie year.
Working on the assumption that Griffin has found his rhythm and touch by Week 14, St. Louis has a strong defensive front and will look to get after him. Avoiding pressure by climbing the pocket is how Gruden wants Griffin to play.
However, that will depend on the level of support the QB gets from his interior linemen. Opposing defenses found a way through to Griffin simply by attacking the middle last year.
If there's no pocket to climb, hold your breath as Griffin takes off up the sideline.
Prediction: Rams 20-13 Redskins (6-7)
Week 15: At New York Giants
The Giants in Week 15 bring about the start of Washington's three-game divisional run to close out the season.
It's entirely possible that 9-7 could take the NFC East, and defeating all three divisional rivals would achieve just that.
We'll know much more about the Giants by this point, too. Whether it's Good Eli or Bad Eli at the helm, and whether the preseason promise of the running game has carried on this far.
Either way, it has to be better than this fixture last year.
Watching two teams utterly devoid of inspiration play slow-motion football in the pouring rain was borderline painful. It was accurately described by Jeff Gray at SBNation as "the saddest game ever."
If both teams have something to play for, it will be a close game. At 6-7, the Redskins should still be in the hunt. Look for Griffin to build on a gutsy performance against St. Louis with a more polished display from the pocket.
Prediction: Redskins 24-17 Giants (7-7)
Week 16: Vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles play the Cowboys in Week 14, and should have around eight wins by this point. In order to make the postseason, the Redskins will need to roll them over, beat Dallas in Week 17 and wait for a favor from the Giants as they play Philly.
Injuries will be a factor by now, and it's unlikely the health of the Eagles roster matches that of this point in 2013.
Nevertheless, Washington is short at safety with Phillip Thomas cut and Brandon Meriweather being hit by a two-game suspension before the season even started. Another helmet-to-helmet hit would damage Gruden's plans further, and it's very probable it happens before Week 16.
With a depleted secondary, the Redskins will find it hard to match the pace of Chip Kelly's offense, and Washington fans will find their playoff hopes ended by the reigning division champions.
Prediction: Eagles 34-24 Redskins (7-8)
Week 17: Vs. Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys are expected to be the worst team in the division, which should become evident as the season progresses.
With nothing to play for, Dallas should really limp into the offseason with a lot of questions hanging over its head. Regression brings consequences, and Jason Garrett should be shown the door after another disappointment.
Washington will be out of the playoff hunt, but reaching .500 in Gruden's first season is something to build on.
Morris has an excellent record against the Cowboys, so Gruden should look to wear them down with his back and set up the passing game.
Griffin will also want to go into the offseason on a positive note, so expect to see him continue his strong finish with a three-touchdown performance on a par with his efforts his rookie year.
Prediction: Cowboys 13-31 Redskins (8-8)