I’ve heard some groaning about how difficult the schedule is for the Washington Redskins this year. Certainly, the premise of having to face all three division rivals on the road within the first five weeks is not pleasant, but that doesn’t make it insurmountable.
I have looked at the Redskins' schedule, and to be honest, their three division opponents seem to be the toughest opponents on their schedule.
So, if we consider that the Redskins get swept by all three divisional opponents, and lose to Pittsburgh and Seattle, that leaves the team a potential 8-8.
The remaining eight teams on their schedule are:
This team seemed to have found the missing piece of their puzzle two years ago, when they drafted Reggie Bush, but last year they returned to form as they faced tougher opponents and finished with a 7-9 record. I don’t expect that they will be much better this year.
The Redskins managed to squeak out a victory versus the Cardinals last year with a last-minute field goal, but many fans (including myself) believe that the only reason this game was even close was due to conservative play-calling that allowed Arizona back into the game.
The Cardinals managed to finish 8-8 last year, but some of the credit for that would certainly be the fact that they play in the weakest division in the NFC.
St. Louis Rams
Were it not for Miami’s 1-15 season, the Rams would have finished dead last in the league last year. As it is, they did manage to finish last in the weakest division in the NFC. They have welcomed back Al Saunders as their offensive coordinator, but I seriously doubt he will improve them much this year.
Cleveland surprised a lot of people with what appeared to be a high-powered offense, but also gave up a lot of points last year on defense. They managed to put together a respectable 10-6 record, even though one of their six losses came at the hands of the 4-12 Raiders. I think they will struggle this year, as they face some serious NFC East competition.
Detroit came out swinging last year, looking better than they have in a long time, but had absolutely no luck versus the Redskins last year, as they were decimated 34-3 in Week Five. I don’t anticipate them to give the Redskins much more trouble this year.
The team across the Beltway also has a new coach this year, but that coach has inherited a 5-11 team. It’s too early to tell if this coach will make a difference, but I think he may need a year or two to improve his personnel.
The Bengals are an example of what happens when you try to put an "I" in "TEAM". Far too many off-field distractions and arrests, and trade demands to be a cohesive unit. By the time the Redskins face them, their fate should be decided, and most likely they will only be playing for respect having been eliminated from the playoffs already.
The only way I see the Redskins losing this game is if they have locked up a playoff berth and are resting their starters.
Now, the Redskins do have the random factor of a rookie head coach. This could both help them (as he has no previous game film for opponents to study to prepare for his team) and hurt them (as he may make some mistakes as rookies often do).
Even though the Redskins should win at least eight games, there are no guarantees. This swings both ways, as you can’t necessarily assume that the Redskins will lose to all three division opponents twice, and that even though Pittsburgh and Seattle might be tough opponents, there is no certainty that they will lose those games either.
I like Jim Zorn, and I think he will make a fine head coach, but I also believe he will suffer some growing pains. Even the great Joe Gibbs went 0-5 in his first year as a first-time head coach. Trust me, I want him to win, and win often, but I also want to be fair, and expecting Zorn to come out all-guns-blazing in his first year, and his first time as head coach, might be expecting just a little too much.
I predict that the Redskins will go 9-7, as Zorn will probably lose some games he should have won early, but will win some games he’s expected to lose late in the season. I don’t think they will make the playoffs, as the entire NFC East is facing similar competition.
I do believe that the Super Bowl will host yet another NFC East team this year. I just hope it’s not Dallas.