Redskins' Schedule 2017-18: Game-by-Game Predictions for the Entire Season

James DudkoFeatured ColumnistApril 20, 2017

Redskins' Schedule 2017-18: Game-by-Game Predictions for the Entire Season

0 of 17

    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Some familiar faces await the Washington Redskins on their schedule for the 2017 NFL season, including two former offensive coordinators.

    The Redskins will face the San Francisco 49ers and former OC Kyle Shanahan in one of their eight home games at FedExField. Washington's franchise single-season receptions record holder Pierre Garcon will also suit up for San Fran in Week 6, per the schedule announced on the league's official website.

    The schedule also features a trip to take on a Los Angeles Rams team led by rookie head coach Sean McVay, the man who succeeded Shanahan as offensive coordinator in Washington in 2014.

    Outside of a few reunions, there are also tough inter-conference games against the AFC West. It means the Redskins will have to try to overcome the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos at home, while also attempting to win on the road against the always-tough Kansas City Chiefs.

    Meanwhile, the Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks, New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals represent a daunting slate of games potentially set to harm Washington's playoff hopes in the NFC.

    Read on for a win and loss prediction for every game on the Redskins' schedule for 2017.

Week 1: Home vs. Philadelphia Eagles

1 of 17

    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Win: 22-20

    Hosting a Philadelphia Eagles team looking sneaky good in the NFC East represents a tough beginning to the 2017 NFL season for the Redskins.

    Philly head coach Doug Pederson is an exceptional young sideline general who has developed a quarterback-friendly offense sure to get the best out of promising second-year passer Carson Wentz.

    The second-overall pick in 2016 will accelerate his development because of the exciting new weapons he has to throw to this season. Those weapons include former Chicago Bears flanker Alshon Jeffery and ex-San Francisco 49ers burner Torrey Smith.

    Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz also has new personnel more suited to his wide-9 4-3 scheme. New arrivals such as end Chris Long and pass-rushing tackle Timmy Jernigan will pose plenty of problems for Washington's offensive line.

    However, the Redskins' own D' can confuse Wentz by clamping onto his receivers in press coverage. Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland play the type of press-based, physical coverage Smith, Jeffery and Jordan Matthews have all struggled to escape in the past.

    Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Manusky used similar schemes to frustrate Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos during his days with the Indianapolis Colts. In Norman, Breeland, Quinton Dunbar, Kendall Fuller and Will Blackmon, Manusky now has the personnel to play a similar way in Washington.

    Still being without a dependable running game is one more reason things will be difficult for Wentz, who won't be able to keep pace with Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins and his receivers.

    Among them, new arrival Terrelle Pryor will torment the Eagles' defensive backfield. Pryor posted a triple-digit season in his first year playing wide receiver in the pros with the Cleveland Browns in 2016.

    Pryor is promising more how he has joined a Redskins team offering greater stability under center than the Browns, per ESPN's John Keim: "I should have had 1,500 yards. I’m not talking on nobody else; whatever happened, happened. But I believe I was better than that. It was frustrating that I didn’t get more dominant numbers because I feel I can and I know I will. I can’t wait."

    Cousins and Pryor will start what promises to be a prolific connection in style in the opening week.

Week 2: at Los Angeles Rams

2 of 17

    George Gojkovich/Getty Images

    Win: 21-14

    Sean McVay took on a lot when he agreed to grab the reins for a relocated franchise and become the youngest head coach in the NFL at 30.

    Despite the size of the challenge facing Washington's former offensive coordinator, there are reasons to believe McVay can turn the Rams into winners sooner rather than later.

    For one thing, McVay has inherited a strong core of young and talented playmakers to build an offense around. When anticipating how successful he could be, Redskins fans need only think about how McVay developed similar resources in Washington.

    In Los Angles, his top priority is going to be getting the most out of 2016 first-overall draft pick Jared Goff. Think about how McVay quickly got Cousins up to speed from unpopular backup to record-breaking quarterback.

    One of Goff's favorite targets in McVay's offense is likely to be slot receiver Tavon Austin. Think about how effectively McVay used Jamison Crowder in Washington, with 2015's fourth-round pick catching 126 passes during two seasons on McVay's watch.

    Both Goff and Austin will be better after the Rams signed wide receiver Robert Woods and running back Lance Dunbar in free agency. Woods is one of the most precise route-runners in the game, while Dunbar is a hugely underrated receiver out of the backfield.

    Put these weapons together with dynamic rusher Todd Gurley and the Rams have a unit capable of catching the Redskins cold.

    Still, the L.A. offense shouldn't be Washington's biggest worry. There's also a defense set to be called by Wade Phillips, the grandmaster of the 1-gap 3-4.

    Players such as rush end Robert Quinn and all-world tackle Aaron Donald will be scary in Phillips' pressure-crazed schemes.

    There is a lot to like about these Rams, but Washington's own talent on both sides of the ball can still prove too much. In particular, Cousins and his receivers can punish a young defense loaded with 4-3 players who may not respond quickly to the Phillips' blueprint.

    McVay has already indicated some of the changes awaiting players like defensive end Quinn in the transition to 3-4, per Myles Simmons of the Rams' official website: "For all intents and purposes, Robert will line up as the Will linebacker, but he’s a rush player. He’ll play a similar role to what DeMarcus Ware did in Denver for Wade the last couple of years."

    It's more likely, though, that the Redskins' own defense will punish Goff and a set of skill players still finding their way in Year 1 with the McVay system.

Week 3: Home vs. Oakland Raiders

3 of 17

    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    Win: 31-27

    The Oakland Raiders ended the 2016 NFL season seemingly a defense short of being legitimate Super Bowl contenders in the AFC. A few months on, it's debatable whether the situation has changed for the Silver and Black.

    The addition of linebacker Jelani Jenkins in free agency hardly seems like enough to fix a unit that surrendered 24.1 points per game last season. It's why the Redskins can feel confident about beating a genuine contender on home soil.

    Despite losing Garcon and DeSean Jackson in free agency, Washington still boasts the scoring potential to light up scoreboards against any opposition. In particular, Crowder seems set for a breakout season now D-Jax and Garcon are playing elsewhere.

    The third-year slot receiver believes the loss of talent won't slow down this prolific offense, per Nora Princiotti of The Washington Times: "I think it can still be very explosive like the previous two years I’ve been here."

    Expect Crowder, Pryor, Jordan Reed and Co. to work over a suspect Oakland pass defense as long as Cousins receives quality pass protection. If there's one thing the Raiders can do defensively it's rush the passer, thanks to the likes of Bruce Irvin, Aldon Smith and Khalil Mack.

    Fortunately, protecting the passer is one area the Redskins have taken tremendous strides in since hiring Bill Callahan to coach the O-line in 2015. Washington's front has surrendered just 50 sacks the last two seasons, 23 in 2016 and 27 in 2015.

    Of course, the Redskins may be more concerned about what the Raiders can do offensively. After all, quarterback Derek Carr and wide receivers Michael Crabtree, Amari Cooper and the underrated Seth Roberts can create big plays for fun.

    The Raiders' passing game will be even better after the team wisely added tight end Jared Cook during free agency.

    However, there are also reasons to believe the Silver and Black may be more vulnerable offensively this year. In particular, the decision not to retain running back Latavius Murray in free agency could leave Oakland hamstrung and lacking balance.

    If the Redskins can generate strong enough heat on Carr, Washington will score one of its more impressive wins of the season.

Week 4: at Kansas City Chiefs

4 of 17

    Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

    Loss: 31-23

    Like the Seahawks, the Kansas City Chiefs don't give away many games at home. The Redskins will suffer a timely reminder of how effective KC is at Arrowhead Stadium on Monday Night Football in Week 4.

    Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has been a Washington tormentor throughout his career. He won his last game against the Redskins, a 45-10 blowout with the Chiefs in 2013.

    Reid had already won his share of games against the Burgundy and Gold during his time with the Philadelphia Eagles. He'll face the Redskins this year with a roster sure to again push for the playoffs in the AFC.

    Kansas City's defensive prowess is well-known, with outside linebacker Justin Houston certain to cause Washington problems rushing off the edges. Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton usually likes to move Houston around, but he'll be smart in this game and keep No. 50 away from standout Redskins left tackle Trent Williams.

    The Chiefs can swarm on the pass pocket, but their own offense is criminally underrated. Washington will know all about Jeremy Maclin from his days with the Eagles, yet the greater threats come from diminutive burners Albert Wilson and Tyreek Hill.

    The latter is a weapon with multiple uses, one who can strike from numerous alignments. Reid is never short of creative ways of putting the ball in Hill's hands.

    Reid's clever scheming and the Chiefs' penchant for big plays in every phase of the game will give the Redskins too much to do to keep pace.

Week 6: Home vs. San Francisco 49ers

5 of 17

    Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

    Win: 37-21

    More than most teams, the Redskins should know the hidden truth about rookie San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. Namely that he's a great designer of players but not a great play-caller.

    Shanahan proved as much during Super Bowl LI, where his decision to ignore the run in the second half was as big a reason for the Atlanta Falcons' collapse against the New England Patriots as any other factor.

    The younger Shanahan doesn't have the same quality weapons in the Bay Area he worked with in Atlanta. In fact, there is still a rather large hole at quarterback the Niners need to fill before the season starts.

    Yet if Shanahan and general manager John Lynch make the right call under center, the 49ers might surprise a few people this season. The Shanahan blueprint can make stars out of players such as wide receivers Jeremy Kerley and Marquise Goodwin, who will work alongside former Washington wideouts Aldrick Robinson and Garcon.

    It's the latter's ability to win over the middle and dominate after the catch that could cause problems for a Redskins defense still lacking elite-level athleticism at inside linebacker and safety.

    However, the bigger concern may come from a running game defined by the time-tested Shanahan template. You know the one, it's the template Shanahan and father Mike used to turn a litany of late-round running backs into 1,000-yard rushers at the pro level, including Alfred Morris, who posted a trio of 1,000-yard seasons for the Redskins after being drafted in the sixth round in 2012.

    Now, the younger Shanahan is working with Carlos Hyde and free agents DuJuan Harris and Tim Hightower, another former member of the Burgundy and Gold. The addition of ex-Baltimore Ravens fullback Kyle Juszczyk in free agency will only help the 49ers running game take off on Shanahan's watch.

    This is the type of game the Redskins signed Terrell McClain, Stacy McGee and Zach Brown for. Washington's greater talent along the front seven can be made to count against so many familiar faces.

    More importantly, the 49ers still don't have the resources defensively to resist Washington's scoring power. Cousins, Reed, Vernon Davis, Pryor and Crowder will outscore Shanahan's fledglings.

Week 7: at Philadelphia Eagles

6 of 17

    Rob Leiter/Getty Images

    Loss: 28-24

    This Eagles team will be too strong at home for the Redskins, even if Washington should play things close. The game won't quite be a shootout, but both quarterbacks will move the ball through the air on Monday night.

    Cousins and Wentz each have a deep and talented array of targets to aim for, but it will be the turn of Wentz and his mates to decide this particular divisional tussle.

    The Eagles will enter the new season with potentially one of the strongest contingents of pass-catchers in the league, featuring tight end Zach Ertz, dual-threat running back Darren Sproles and wideouts Matthews, Jeffery and Smith.

    Jeffery may be the pick of the bunch if the former Chicago Bears flanker can stay healthy and focused in the City of Brotherly Love. The 6'3", 218-pounder boasts the size and vertical speed to stretch the Redskins and open up the underneath passing lanes for Matthews, Ertz and Sproles.

    Washington's defense is going to struggle covering so many playmakers, especially in an offense loaded with zone-beaters and high-percentage throws designed to create plays after the catch.

    Eagles head coach Pederson loves to saturate zones with multiple, in-breaking routes, so Washington's defensive backs will have to get cute in coverage. It will require subtle usage of combination coverage, mixing man and zone concepts.

    The Redskins may struggle defensively in Philly, but Washington's O' will find joy. If Wentz has an array of weapons to aim for, so does Cousins.

    The Burgundy and Gold's signal-caller can connect with Reed, Davis, Crowder, Pryor, Brian Quick, Josh Doctson and Chris Thompson. No. 8 can be trusted to put three touchdown passes on his stat sheet, even if he may find himself swarmed on by a fired-up Philadelphia pass rush led by Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox.

    The latter is a dominant defensive tackle who has often wrecked both phases of Washington's offense in previous meetings. Cox is inconsistent, but he usually saves his best for games at Lincoln Financial Field.

    A strong scoring output and some big plays on defense will cause the Redskins to fall to another division rival.

Week 8: Home vs. Dallas Cowboys

7 of 17

    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Loss: 27-21

    Making predictions at this stage of the offseason process is always tough, but choosing between the Redskins and their bitter foes in the Dallas Cowboys would be risky business even if this was the night before the game.

    This rivalry is so intense factors such as talent comparisons and home advantage count for little. So it will prove when Washington hosts the reigning NFC East champions in Week 8.

    The Cowboys will provide the sternest test of the Redskins' new-look defensive line, featuring free-agent arrivals McClain and McGee. Specifically, Dallas will test how well Washington can stand up to the run after retooling up front.

    No team runs the ball as effectively as the Cowboys. The presence of dynamic workhorse Ezekiel Elliott running behind the most formidable offensive line in football means Dallas can trample over any defense.

    Ironically, the Redskins will be counting on a former Cowboy to fix their woes on the ground. McClain was one of the true sleepers of free agency, and Washington team president Bruce Allen pulled off a coup by snagging him from a division rival.

    McClain is an active presence over center and also quick enough to split gaps as a defensive end. Washington will rely on McClain and fellow new boy McGee, another solid run defender, to toughen up a run D' ranked 24th a year ago.

    McClain, McGee and new inside linebacker Zach Brown will make sure this isn't the same Washington defense Elliott amassed 180 yards and three rushing touchdowns against in two games last season, per the league's official website.

    However, the Cowboys are the most patient team in the league when it comes to waiting for their big plays on the ground. Elliott is also a feast-or-famine runner who will absorb some early punishment from the Redskins' new-look D' before breaking a few big gains at key moments.

    Elliott and a Dallas defense opportunistic enough to force some turnovers from Cousins will be enough to condemn the Redskins to another painful defeat against their old enemy.

Week 9: at Seattle Seahawks

8 of 17

    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Loss: 19-13

    The Seattle Seahawks aren't the force they were during their Super Bowl years, but the NFC West franchise will still be formidable at home.

    This team still has a defense expertly designed by head coach Pete Caroll, one based on superior physicality at every level. Naturally, the biggest challenge for Washington's offense will be blocking ultra-versatile Michael Bennett, a lineman who plays every position and technique along the Seahawks' defensive front.

    O-line coach Bill Callahan should also be wary about Frank Clark, a useful rush end who causes havoc whenever Carroll has him slide inside to tackle in obvious passing situations.

    Avoiding Seattle's marauding pass rush won't be easy for a Redskins offense missing the balance of a competent rushing attack capable of moving the chains on the ground. Even if Allen eventually and wisely adds better personnel to the running back rotation this offseason, it still won't be easy for the Redskins to run the ball in the Emerald City.

    The Seahawks' front seven is underpinned by mammoth tackles Ahtyba Rubin and second-year man Jarran Reed, a player the Redskins should have drafted in 2016. If Washington's blockers can't move either interior behemoth, Cousins will be forced to air it out too often against a veteran and still-capable secondary.

    There isn't a worse place in the league to be forced into a pass-first offense than CenturyLink Field. The combination of crowd noise and a deep rotation of flexible pressure specialists who can rush from anywhere makes passing in Seattle a nightmare for visiting teams.

    Washington's air attack, the strength of the team, being stymied will only give more opportunities to Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. The NFL's half-sized Houdini is a terrific dual-threat wizard who can beat teams with the accuracy of his arm and the escapability and speed of his wheels in the run game.

    Wilson should pose an even greater threat thanks to the arrival of bowling-ball running back Eddie Lacy. Seattle's pint-sized passer can also still connect with imperious big-play wideout Doug Baldwin and dynamic "joker" tight end Jimmy Graham.

    The Redskins won on their last trip to Seattle in 2011, but these Seahawks still boast too much talent to let it happen again.

Week 10: Home vs. Minnesota Vikings

9 of 17

    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Loss: 20-14

    Offensive balance won't be a problem for the Minnesota Vikings this season, not if Latavius Murray lives up to his contract and not if brittle but skilled quarterback Sam Bradford stays upright.

    Having an offense clicking on all cylinders is going to make a team already owning a swarming defense dangerous in 2017. The Vikings have the players on the latter side of the ball to shut down the Redskins on the road.

    Nose tackle Linval Joseph is one of the best interior defenders in football, while 2014 draft steal Shamar Stephen is also making great strides. They can smother a feeble running game the Redskins have so far neglected to fix.

    It will mean Cousins being left at the mercy of a powerful and versatile pass rush led by the underrated Everson Griffen and the brilliant Anthony Barr. The Vikes also scored big in free agency when they signed Datone Jones from NFC North rivals the Green Bay Packers.

    Jones is a talent who has been frustratingly unfulfilled, but Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer is a defensive mastermind who will know how to use him.

    This game will prove a depressing truth about this season's Redskins. Specifically, if opponents keep the offense quiet, the defense still isn't strong enough to win games regardless.

Week 11: at New Orleans Saints

10 of 17

    Sean Gardner/Getty Images

    Win: 37-31

    The New Orleans Saints keep trying to repair their defense, but it never seems to get fixed. It's difficult to believe signing D-tackle Nick Fairley and inside linebacker Manti Te'o will significantly improve a unit ranked last in the league in points surrendered in 2016.

    The Redskins have to arrive in the Big Easy knowing they have the weapons to put a clutch of touchdowns on the board. Washington's best means of scoring in bunches would be to lean on two-tight end sets.

    Head coach Jay Gruden should isolate Reed and Davis against the Saints' plodding linebackers every chance he gets. There is just no way Te'o, Stephone Anthony and Dannell Ellerbe will be able to stay with Davis and Reed in space.

    Fairley's presence will boost the Saints' ability to stop the run, although that won't be much of a factor unless the Redskins bolster their backfield options.

    Washington will need to put up points, because the Saints still boast a dynamic offense of their own. Unlike the Redskins, New Orleans can claim true balance on this side of the ball, thanks to the arm and savvy decisions of quarterback Drew Brees, along with the smashmouth running of Mark Ingram.

    However, Brees' supporting cast took a hit when roving wideout Brandin Cooks was traded to the New England Patriots. Ultimately, Brees won't have enough in the arsenal to outgun Cousins, who will pass Washington to a second win in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome since 2012.

Week 12: Home vs. New York Giants

11 of 17

    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Win: 23-20

    Games against the New York Giants are often nail-biters, and clashes in 2017 will be no different, beginning with this historic meeting on Thanksgiving. Fortunately, the Redskins have caught up to their division rivals this offseason thanks to the way they've strengthened defensively.

    Big Blue know how quickly defensive improvement can turn around a team's fortunes. The Giants went from 6-10 to 11-5 in 2016, thanks largely to spending big on edge-rusher Olivier Vernon, nose tackle Damon Harrison and cornerback Janoris Jenkins.

    New York will remain formidable defensively, but the Redskins can move the ball on anybody when Cousins and his receivers are in the groove. Specifically, tight ends Reed and Davis still represent a mismatch against Giants linebackers.

    Expect Reed and Davis to both score as part of an early onslaught to help create a big lead for Washington. Of course, the Giants will battle back, with quarterback Eli Manning and wideouts Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard all coming to the fore.

    However, Manning will ultimately fall victim to a relentless pass rush able to feast on a one-dimensional offense. The Giants still don't have a credible ground attack, and an under-pressure Manning will regret chancing his arm too often against a Washington secondary led by Norman and Breeland, one of the better cornerback tandems in the NFL.

Week 13: at Dallas Cowboys

12 of 17

    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Win: 25-20

    In the spirit of a true rivalry, the Redskins will repay the Cowboys in kind when they visit Dallas. These two old foes know each other well, but Washington can feel confident about their ability to put points on the Cowboys.

    Reed was a menace in two games against Dallas last season, catching 15 passes for 165 yards and a pair of touchdowns. No. 86 can terrorise Cowboys linebackers and defensive backs. He's a mismatch thanks to his speed and height combination, as well as his flanker-style route-running skills.

    However, working the Cowboys over on the ground should be Washington's priority in 2017. Admittedly, it's no easy task since Dallas boasted the stingiest run defense in football a year ago.

    Yet the Cowboys' defensive front still lacks imposing size, something the Redskins can exploit. Washington's offensive line is heavy enough to play power football on the road in Texas.

    Now all the Redskins need is a runner capable of punishing tacklers and keeping the chains moving. Over to you, Bruce and Jay.

Week 14: at Los Angeles Chargers

13 of 17

    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Win: 27-22

    The Chargers may be in Los Angeles instead of San Diego, but they remain a team always capable of finding ways to lose, despite an abundance of talent.

    Injuries have been the most common cause of the Chargers hitting the self-destruct button in recent seasons. An offense as high-powered as any in the league when at full strength was depleted considerably in 2016 when wide receivers Stevie Johnson and the superb Keenan Allen, along with pass-catching back Danny Woodhead, were all lost for the season.

    Woodhead is now a member of the Baltimore Ravens, while Johnson has also moved on. Their defections mean the Chargers offense is now reliant on a core of young talent.

    Allen would be the leading light if only he could stay healthy. Meanwhile, Melvin Gordon nearly broke out as a workhorse runner in his second season, finishing just three yards short of 1,000 and scoring 10 rushing touchdowns.

    Gordon should be even better in Year 3 now Anthony Lynn is the head coach. Lynn oversaw the Buffalo Bills' NFL-leading ground game in 2016.

    Second-year tight end Hunter Henry will also test Brown's ability in coverage after snagging eight touchdowns as a rookie.

    It's a similar story on defense where Joey Bosa took the league by storm as an edge-rushing rookie sensation who logged 10.5 sacks. Bosa's combination with Melvin Ingram and fourth-year pro Jeremiah Attaochu means the Chargers are loaded on the edges.

    Yet for all the youthful gems, the Chargers still only go as far as 35-year-old quarterback Philip Rivers and 36-year-old tight end Antonio Gates can take them. It might not be so far this season, though.

    After all, Rivers has flirted with retirement previously and was never sold on the idea of moving to L.A. As for Gates, he may not have many productive seasons left after also considering calling it quits.

    If the Redskins shut down Gordon, and their new signings up front mean they should, they could tee off on Rivers. The veteran passer will throw behind a suspect line this season after left tackle King Dunlap and guard D.J. Fluker both moved on.

    Signing ultra-brittle tackle Russel Okung from AFC West rivals the Broncos won't be enough to keep Rivers clean against Ryan Kerrigan and the rest of Washington's front seven.

Week 15: Home vs. Arizona Cardinals

14 of 17

    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Loss: 26-20

    Few teams in the NFL are as well-coached as the Arizona Cardinals. Bruce Arians has done a terrific job compiling talent, often trusting experienced retreads to find a new lease of life in the desert.

    Arians' team is strong on both sides of the ball thanks to the right mix of youthful exuberance and veteran savvy. Defensively, young linemen Josh Mauro and Rodney Gunter combine well with 33-year-old Frostee Rucker.

    The Cardinals' pass rush is also strong thanks to third-year pro Markus Golden and veterans Chandler Jones and Jarvis Jones. Meanwhile, 24-year-old hitter Deone Bucannon will be mentored well by 35-year-old Karlos Dansby on the inside this season.

    Cards defensive coordinator James Bettcher is a blitz-happy play-caller who won't be shy about turning this group loose on multiple pressures. Bettcher's pressure-crazed schemes will be a problem for Washington, even with the presence of noted blocking guru Callahan coaching the O-line.

    Callahan is a master at constructing formidable lines, particularly for the running game. But he has struggled against complex blitz looks in the past.

    The Redskins proved as much in 2014 when then-defensive coordinator Jim Haslett overran Callahan's Dallas Cowboys front five, at the time considered the best in football, with multiple pressure.

    Haslett's D' logged five sacks to inspire a Week 8 win on the road on Monday Night Football. Significantly, Callahan and the Cowboys were confounded by the Cardinals' pressure defense one week later.

    The Cards only logged one sack but held the league's best rushing attack to just 92 yards. Bettcher was on the staff for Arizona in '14, while many of the players still involved in today's unit also played then.

    The Cardinals have the defensive personnel and scheme to stymie Washington at FedExField.

    Offensively, Arizona is still led by greybeard quarterback Carson Palmer and ageing-but-still-effective wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald in the passing game. Yet Washington's biggest concern will be keeping multi-threat running back David Johnson under wraps.

    Johnson's straight-ahead power and game-breaking speed off the edge can overwhelm any defense. So can his receiving and move skills.

    The Redskins should use new inside linebacker Brown to spy Johnson in the running game and safety Su'a Cravens to match up with him in coverage. Of course, Arians is adept at manipulating defenses with pre-snap looks designed to get his primary playmakers into space.

    The Cardinals' schemes are just too well-refined on both sides of the ball for Washington to overcome them.

Week 16: Home vs. Denver Broncos

15 of 17

    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Win: 18-13

    Like the Raiders, the Denver Broncos will prompt a stern examination of Washington's ability to protect the passer. The Broncos still boast a formidable pass rush, despite legendary coordinator Phillips leaving to join the Rams and premier quarterback hunter DeMarcus Ware opting for retirement.

    Yet Von Miller is still around to cause havoc over right tackle, where Redskins starter Morgan Moses will be in for a long day.

    Miller still leads the Broncos D', but the Super Bowl L champions wisely beefed up their line by signing man-mountain tackles Zach Kerr and Domata Peko in free agency.

    The Denver defense will be stout again, but it's the state of the Broncos' offense that should give the Redskins cause for optimism. Denver still has issues at quarterback, where Trevor Siemian remains in need of winning over more than a few critics.

    Siemian still gets to throw to a pair of quality wide receivers in Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. Yet the young passer's case won't be helped by ongoing question marks about the Broncos running game or lack thereof.

    Denver has retained a stable of unproven running backs, a group unlikely to be improved by signing former Baltimore Ravens back Bernard Pierce.

    The Redskins now have the personnel along their defensive line to put this game on Siemian's arm, exactly where the Broncos won't want it.

Week 17: at New York Giants

16 of 17

    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Loss: 27-19

    The Redskins haven't done the double over the Giants since 2011, and for good reason. Big Blue are usually too tough to slip up against the same divisional rival twice in a season.

    The Giants appear too strong to let it happen against Washington in 2017. There is ample talent on both sides of the ball to believes these Giants will be major contenders to win the NFC East.

    A loaded defensive backfield featuring safety Landon Collins, along with cornerbacks Jenkins, Eli Apple and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is capable of blanketing Cousins' primary targets.

    Of course, the Redskins also have a secondary talented enough to keep the Giants' top receivers under wraps. You can count on another series of fractious scraps between Norman and Beckham.

    Norman's performance won't prove decisive, though. Instead, Big Blue snuffing out an anaemic Washington ground game to leave Cousins at the mercy of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's fire-zone pressure concepts will.

    The Redskins often struggle for points in New Jersey, and similar struggles will see them overwhelmed on the road in 2017.

Winning Season Awaits the Redskins Once the Roster Is Complete

17 of 17

    Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

    Washington's schedule is a tough one, but the talent is here for Gruden to engineer a third winning season in a row. A lot will depend on Allen fine-tuning the roster with the right finishing touches between now and the start of the new campaign.

    Those moves have to include putting a competent running game in place. Cousins still has good enough receivers around him to win games with his arm, but the lopsided approach is hardly the ideal formula for a team with playoff aspirations.

    A third year without a competent ground attack will cost the Redskins against opponents on the schedule boasting a pass rush dominant enough to destroy a one-dimensional offense. Those games against the Rams, Seahawks, Cardinals, Vikings and Chiefs are where this flaw looks most likely to be exposed.

    By the same thinking, Washington needs to add to its own pass-rush options in order to take full advantage of those teams on the schedule fielding weak offensive lines. Games against the Chargers and Saints can be won with enough pressure.

    Using the 2017 NFL draft to find a bell-cow running back and a skilled edge-rusher will round out a roster ready for a second trip to the playoffs in three seasons.