Count me as one Redskins fan pleasantly surprised. It seems, at first blush anyway, that for a change the NFL has given the Redskins a bit of a break.
Courtesy of redskins.com, here is the who, when, and where regarding the burgundy and gold's schedule this fall:
It's interesting...when the Redskins were really good—and I can say this with confidence because I am old enough to remember the days when the league released the new schedule during the first Gibbs Era—I would scan semi-arrogantly down the list to find the two to four games I thought the Redskins might actually lose.
Thing is, I am also young enough not to have forgotten looking at the schedule releases since then, when the Redskins have been mostly dead for so many years, searching in quiet desperation for the six to eight games I was pretty confident they might actually win.
Quick Note: please bear in mind that yes, I do in fact know that how a 2010 opponent did in 2009 does not necessarily indicate how good they will be this year. Also, unlike last year I will not fall into the trap of scanning the newly released schedule for wins and losses. It’s a fools’ errand, plain and simple, as every thinking fan knows.
There are far too many variables—there is no way to know what teams will be good, what key players will be injured or having career years, or what the weather will be like, or whether the refs will screw up in your team's favor or the other team's, how the funny-shaped pigskin will bounce, etc.
So, to the matter at hand. Here are some first-reaction observations immediately following the schedule release which, taken as a whole, contributed to the overall sense of "you know, this might not be so bad ..."
First, the Redskins jump right into the fire with a nationally televised Sunday Night special against the Dallas Cowboys on opening day.
A division match-up against a storied rival is not an easy opener by any means. Lose that one to fall to 0-1 overall and within the division, and the early season is immediately pressure-filled.
Still, given recent history (opening in NY against the Giants two years running leaps to mind) it is a damn sight better than opening on the road against said storied rival. It is also a huge opportunity game.
Win the opener on national television against America's Self-Styled Team, with "winnable games" (don't you just love that expression?) upcoming against Houston (8-8) at home and St. Louis (1-15) on the road, and the Redskins have an opportunity to launch the Mike Shanahan Era off to a sparkling start.
Second, the first instinct looking over the schedule, particularly the back half, was, I admit, "Damn. That’s a tough schedule."
Thing is, taken in context of the division the Redskins play in and looking a little deeper...turns out it’s not even toughest in the NFC East:
No. 3 - Cowboys (139-117)
No. 7 - Giants (135-121)
No. 8 - Redskins (134-122)
No. 9 - Eagles (133-123)
Yes, the spread between the Cowboys and Redskins 2009 opponents' records was only five games, but the truth is the Cowboys do face a tougher schedule in 2010, as do the Giants.
Guaranteed that if the Redskins had the hardest schedule in the division you would be hearing about it from their fans. Seems only fair and right to point it out when it works in our favor as well.
Third, the Redskins travel far less than any of their division counterparts as well. If you fly regularly, these numbers become more significant than if you do not.
Trust me, over the course of a few months all of those bus, airport terminal, and airline seat hours add up.
Here's how the NFC East teams stack up in terms of airline miles each will log in the 2010 regular season:
Giants - 15,784 mi.
Cowboys - 15,228 mi.
Eagles - 13,150 mi.
Redskins - 8,932 mi.
As far as non-division games, the Redskins sternest tests are almost all at home.
Of the five non-division road opponents the Redskins will face this year, not one had a winning record in 2009.
The 8-8 Titans were tops at .500. The combined 2009 record of the five...25-55 (.312). Rams (1-15), Bears (7-9), Lions (2-14), Titans (8-8), Jaguars (7-9).
The 2010 home opponents definitely give you pause.
Only the woeful Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a losing record. The combined 2009 record of the five non-division road opponents was 49-31 (.612). Texans (9-7), Packers (11-5), Colts (14-2), Vikings (12-4), Bucs (3-13).
Snaky comments about their checkered history at FedEx Field aside, at the end of the day you'd still prefer to take on your toughest opponents in your backyard instead of theirs.
Fourth, the burgundy and gold face no cross-country flights.
The farthest west they will travel is to Dallas for a rematch with the Cowboys on Dec. 19. Beyond that, the longest road trip of the season is to Nashville to face the Tennessee Titans on Nov. 21.
For the record, that is a 575 mile trip, about an hour's flight time. Barely enough to get the beer Gatorade cart down the aisle.
Fifth, unlike so many years when it seemed the Redskins always got their bye-week too early, their off week this season comes exactly half way through the season in week nine.
Exactly where you would put if it given the choice.
The Cowboys, bless their silver and blue backsides, get their 2010 bye in week four. The Giants and Eagles both in week eight. Hey, it may be a little thing, but little things add up.
The annual trip to Tampa Bay has been cancelled and the NFL will send the Bucs to Washington in 2010 on Dec. 12. Clearly, someone in the league office screwed up.
Remember how I said I wasn't going to fall into the trap of buzzing through the schedule looking for wins and losses? Yeah right.
* ... grits teeth, commits to doing this straight through, first-react-only, no edits ... *
Game 1 - Dallas ... WIN
Game 2 - Houston ... WIN
Game 3 - @ St. Louis ... WIN
Game 4 - @ Philadelphia ... LOSS
Game 5 - Green Bay ... WIN
Game 6 - Indianapolis ... LOSS
Game 7 - @ Chicago ... WIN
Game 8 - @ Detroit ... WIN
Game 9 - Philadelphia ... WIN
Game 10 - @ Tennessee ... LOSS
Game 11 - Minnesota ... LOSS
Game 12 - @ NY Giants ... LOSS
Game 13 - Tampa Bay ... WIN
Game 14 - @ Dallas ... LOSS
Game 15 - @ Jacksonville ... WIN
Game 16 - NY Giants ... WIN