Washington Redskins 2011 Schedule: An Optimistic Fan's Bold Predictions
I've seen that number over and over again since the schedule for the 2011 season was released. Despite the Redskins having one of the leagues easiest schedules, the number "7-9" pops up time and time again. I will not lie; the Redskins were not a great football last season. But looking at the schedule, it seemed 7-9 underestimated the team just a smidge.
For all intents and purposes, the team should improve next season. Even with few draft picks and (perhaps) a truncated free agency period, the team seems to be trending upwards, not downward. And what will likely end up being a solid combination of younger talent and veteran starters, the Redskins could and should improve.
So you know what? I'm going to be optimistic. Sickeningly so. Despite not knowing what the team will look like, despite not knowing what the other teams will look like, I'm going to go ahead and give my bold predictions on how the 2011 season for the Washington Redskins will turn out.
And who knows? Maybe if I wish hard enough, this could actually become a reality.
Opening Day: Home vs. the New York Giants
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The season opens on 9/11, and two of the areas hit hardest by the terrorist attacks will be cheering on the two favorite football teams.
The New York Giants will be heavily favored going into the game, but the Redskins will shock them by scoring a touchdown off a big play touchdown pass from Rex Grossman to Anthony Armstrong to put them up 7-0. The Redskins manage to run the ball well in the first half against the normally stout Giants, and going into halftime, the Redskins have the Giants reeling 17-10.
Eli Manning directs his offense like an expert on the Giants first possession, tying the game for the rest of third quarter as both teams' defenses tighten themselves up. But Grossman connects with Chris Cooley early in the fourth for a touchdown, putting the Redskins up. Manning and the Giants drive down to the Redskins' ten yard line, but a tipped pass by Eli Manning is picked off by nickel cornerback Kevin Barnes, who takes it back to the endzone to put the Redskins up 24-17.
An untimely fumble by Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw seals the Giants fate, as the Redskins grind out the rest of the clock with the run game. Ryan Torain has his first game of over 100 yards rushing, and the Redskins go to 1-0, breaking a long streak of losses against the Giants and opening the season at home the right way.
Redskins win 27-17.
Week 2: Home vs. the Arizona Cardinals
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The Cards know they're in for a long day when Brandon Banks takes the opening kickoff back for a touchdown (with no flag, yay!).
The Redskins once again turn to the run game, as Ryan Torain tears up the turf, going into half time with 98 yards rushing and two touchdowns. The Cardinals rookie quarterback sparks the offense to make the game 14-7 as the half comes to a close, but Grossman connects on a deep pass to Santana Moss (yes, I'm saying he'll be back; my predictions are bold for a reason) for a touchdown, putting them up 21-7.
The Cardinals offense continues to sputter in the second half, and LaRon Landry picks off their quarterback and brings the ball back to the Cardinals 30. Grossman gets his second touchdown pass of the day on a connection to Mike Sims-Walker (bold predictions). Torain gets a little banged up in the second half, but they hand the ball of to James Davis in the second half, who shows he can start and be a big player guy when he bust a huge touchdown run of 77 yards.
Redskins win 35-10.
Week 3: Away at the Dallas Cowboys
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The Redskins bust out the burgundy on burgundy uniforms for their only primetime game of the season.
No doubt Redskins fans have plenty on antacid on hand.
Things get off to a shaky start when Grossman throws his first interception of the season and it's returned for a touchdown. Keiland Williams fumbles a catch, which leads to a Cowboys field goal. Penalties help the Redskins get into field goal range, making the score 10-3, but Felix Jones gashes the Redskins when Kareem Moore (who comes in to spell O.J Atogwe for one play) misses a touchdown saving tackle.
The Redskins won't be denied their third win, though. Grossman plays like a man possessed in the third quarter, completing 9-of-12 passes, including a 9 yard screen pass to Ryan Torain for a touchdown. O.J Atogwe shows why he should never be off the field when he picks off Tony Romo. The 'Skins capatilize on the turnover and score a touchdown on a bubble screen to the lightning fast Brandon Banks, who walks into the end zone untouched.
DeAngelo Hall records his first interception of the season as well and returns it all the way to the one yard line. Kyle Shanahan steals a page out of the Patriots playbook when he puts Brian Orakpo into the game. Grossman connects with Orakpo "Mike Vrabel style" to put the Redskins up a touchdown.
The Cowboys do not panic, however. They march down the field methodically, chewing up precious clock before scoring with 45 seconds, sending the game into overtime.
The Cowboys get the ball first, but sacks by Brian Orakpo and defensive end Cam Jordan (bold prediction) push them out of field goal range. The Cowboys try for the long field goal anyway, but it's blocked by tight end Logan Paulsen.
The Redskins and Cowboys trade blows, and Graham Gano misses a field goal to win the game. With time ticking down, Romo tries to take a big time shot down field, but is picked off...by Nnamdi Asomugha. (VERY bold.)
The Cowboys defense holds the Redskins deep in their own territory though. The 'Skins refuse to settle for a draw though and go for it on fourth down. Bob Ryan brings the house on a blitz, but somehow, Grossman manages to escape a sack and throw a bomb deep down field...to Malcolm Kelly.
Kelly records his first ever NFL touchdown in overtime to hep the Redskins win, putting a cap on another Redskins/Cowboys classic.
Redskins win 31-24 in OT.
Week 4: Away at the St. Louis Rams
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The Redskins may be feeling good about their start, but unlike previous years, they know they can't afford to take the St. Louis rams lightly.
A 44-yard touchdown run by James Davis opens the game to be answered by a touchdown run by Steven Jackson. The Redskins keep their cool, though, and O.J Atogwe intercepts a pass meant for Julio Jones (bold prediction), setting the Redskins up in field goal range and make the game 10-7.
The Rams rally and go up by a touchdown, but Rex connects deep with Mike Sims-Walker to make it 17-14. On the Redskins next possession, Grossman connects with Chris Cooley for a touchdown, and the Redskins much improved secondary picks off Sam Bradford for the second time, as LaRon Landry runs another pass back for a touchdown.
The Rams still put a fight and score a touchdown, but it's too little, too late, and the Redskins comfortably win, with Grossman kneeling on the ball in the victory formation.
Redskins win 31-21
Week 5: Bye Week
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Nothing bad happens this week. No one gets benched, and Redskins Park is completely and utterly quiet.
That's a victory in itself.
Week 6: Home vs. the Philadelphia Eagles
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The Redskins make a statement right away that they will not be taken advantage of on their home turf; on their first play, the Redskins run the exact same play the Eagles ran on them in the Monday Night Massacre. Santana Moss catches the deep ball for a touchdown.
The Redskins play with a different kind of intensity, drive and passion, and the score is 17-3 going into the half. But it's only a matter of time before Michal Vick breaks through the defense and scores on a big touchdown run. DeSean Jackson gets by DeAngelo Hall and catches a deep one to tie it up.
It gets ugly, and the players start fighting on the field. But Redskins fans and players don't get really ticked until two penalties win the Eagles the game. Rex Grossman is struck with a helmet-to-helmet shot and fumbles the ball, which the Eagles recover. Grossman has to be helped off the field with a minute left in the game.
Then, the Eagles catch a really lucky break, as their right tackle practically strangles Brian Orakpo on his way to the quarterback. Vick connects with Jeremy Maclin for the deep touchdown pass when no flag is thrown.
John Beck comes in under center to try and salvage things, but he can't get the Redskins in scoring range, and the Eagles steal one at FedEx Field to give the Redskins their first loss of the season.
Redskins lose, 17-24
Week 7: Away at the Carolina Panthers
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The Redskins are in a bad mood after the Eagles game.
They're in a worse mood when Cam Newton (bold prediction) gashes them on a touchdown run in the Panthers first possession of the half.
John Beck tries to fill in for starting quarterback Rex Grossman, but it's no use, and a Beck fumble and a Beck interception have the Redskins reeling 21-0.
Enter Andy Dalton.
When Dalton steps on the field, it's an entirely different ball game. On Andy Dalton's first drive as a Redskins quarterback, he drives the team down field, completing 12-of-12 passes before handing it off to Ryan Torain and letting him jump over the pile.
The Panthers offense stalls as well. LaRon Landry says "Welcome to the NFL, rookie" when he delivers a bone crushing sack to Newton, causing a forced fumble. The Dalton led Redskins use the opportunity wisely, and Dalton shreds the Panthers secondary on the way to his first NFL touchdown to Fred Davis.
The Panthers go three and out, and the ball is in Dalton's hands again. Dalton gets flushed out of the pocket, pulls the ball down and runs for a 33-yard touchdown. Newton coughs off another fumble when he tries to run, this time forced by Brian Orakpo, who recovers it and takes it back to the end zone. Newton makes another mistake and gets picked off by Rob Henson.
James Davis breaks off a big run that puts the 'Skins in Panthers territory, before the rookie Dalton throws a touchdown pass to the veteran Santana Moss.
The Panthers can't pull it together to manage a comeback, and Dalton is the Comeback Kid for a week, impressing fans, teammates and coaches alike.
Redskins win 35-21
Week 8: Away at the Buffalo Bills (in Toronto)
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The Redskins get off to a sluggish start coming off the come from behind victory. Mike Shanahan names Rex Grossman the starting quarterback early in the week, but a bad interception and some shaky looking throws put him back on the bench.
The Bills are only up 10-3 when the Redskins decide to put Andy Dalton back on the field. Before that, though, Perry Riley comes into the game in place of a banged up London Fletcher. On his first play, he burst through the Bills offensive line and sacks Ryan Fitzpatrick for a safety, making the score 10-5.
The Redskins get the ball back, and though Dalton doesn't look quite flawless, he directs the offense down the field, capped off in a 13-yard TD run by James Davis. Davis absolutely goes off in this game when Ryan Torain exits the game with a tight hamstring, busting out a 33-yard touchdown run and putting the score at 19-10. Fitzpatrick throws a touchdown to make the score 19-17, but Dalton shows off that he has a little more arm than anyone thought when he connects deep with Anthony Armstrong.
The run game stays strong, and Dalton rolls out on play action and connects with Mike Sims-Walker in the back of the end-zone. The Redskins come back in a second game, and after this, Mike Shanahan proudly announced that Dalton will be his starter for the rest of the season.
Redskins win, 33-17
Week 9: Home vs. the San Francisco 49ers
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Dalton gets off to a shaky start in his first game as a starter, throwing a pass that was intended for Malcolm Kelly right into Patrick Peterson's hands. Kelly comes up lame after the play, putting a promising season in doubt.
The Redskins play on, though, and Dalton connects on a 44 yard touchdown pass to Mike-Sims Walker. Dalton to Sims-Walker is the combination of the day, as they connect on a second touchdown pass to put the Redskins up 14-7.
O.J Atogwe picks off Alex Smith (bold-ish predicition) deep in the Redskins territory. Dalton hands the ball off to James Davis, who cuts back against the grain to take it 74-yards to the end zone.
The 49ers rally after the half, though, and the score ends up tied at 21-21. Dalton keeps his poise and ends up connecting with Chris Cooley on a touchdown pass late in the fourth. The Redskins go for two to put the game out of reach, and the receiver who comes in to replace Malcolm Kelly, Taurus Johnson, snags the catch one handed.
The 49ers end up coming back but can't connect on their own two point conversion. The Redskins roll on.
Redskins win, 30-28
Week 10: Away at the Miami Dolphins
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This is a tough, defensive battle.
The Dolphins shut down the Redskins run game, limiting James Davis and Keiland Williams effectiveness. Dalton coughs up a pick early in the second in his own territory that gets returned for a touchdown.
The only touchdowns scored in this game are defensive, as Brian Orakpo sacks Chad Henne and recovers the fumble for his second defensive touchdown of the season. Dalton manages to drive the Redskins into Dolphins territory, and the Redskins kick a field goal to go up 10-7.
Nnamdi Asomugha and Brandon Marshall battle all day, but at the end of the game, Nnamdi finally gives up a touchdown pass. The Redskins drop one to the Dolphins, and Andy Dalton gets his first lost of the season.
Redskins lose, 10-14
Week 11: Home vs. the Dallas Cowboys
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Andy Dalton gets his first taste of the Cowboys/Redskins rivalry, and boy, he does not disappoint.
Dalton leads the Redskins on a methodical, clocking chewing drive into Cowboys territory before connecting with Anthony Armstrong on a touchdown pass. In the Redskins next possession, Dalton goes deep to his new favorite target Mike Sims-Walker for a 55-yard touchdown. It looks so nice, the Redskins do it twice; Dalton connects with Sims-Walker again, this time for 33-yards and a touchdown. Not wanting to be left out, Santana Moss snags one in the endzone after a long drive.
The Redskins punch the Cowboys in the mouth with 28 unanswered points in the first half. In the second, the Cowboys score on two straight possessions, and it starts to look like they may come back, but LaRon Landry puts an end to that, picking off Romo and running it back for six.
The 'Skins hand the ball off to James Davis and Keiland Williams to finish off the day. A Graham Gano field goal all but seals their victory, and the Redskins sweep their most hated rivals.
Redskins win, 31-17
Week 12: Away at the Seattle Seahawks
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Qwest Field is always a hard place to play, but it won't be after the Redskins go for an end around on the first play and Brandon Banks takes it 88-yard to the house, leaving nothing but a cloud of dust behind him. The Seahawks go three and out and then make the mistake of punting the ball to Banks, who returns it for a touchdown.
The stunned crowd watches as rookie quarterback Jake Locker tries to mount a comeback, but the ball gets ripped out of his hands by DeAngelo Hall when he tries to run, and D-Hall takes it back to the house for a touchdown.
The Seahawks take the pressure off llcker and grind out a drive, leaving the score at 21-7 at the half. Dalton has things well in control, though, and scores on a touchdown pass to Logan Paulsen on their first possession of the third quarter. The bad day continues for Locker when Perry Riley and Brian Orakpo meet him in the middle and force a fumble that's picked up by J.J Watt for his first touchdown.
The Redskins hand the ball off to James Davis and Keiland Williams the rest of the day. Locker goes back to pass, but gets sacked by outside linebacker Rob Jackson for a safety. The Redskins get the ball back, and Dalton connects on a deep ball to Chris Cooley to ice the game.
Redskins win, 30-10
Week 13: Home vs. the New York Jets
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Redskins fans everywhere gasp when Andy Dalton gets knocked out of the game early with a minor knee injury. The rusty Rex Grossman throws a pick on his first drive back in the game, and everyone says "Here we go again."
But the Redskins find a suprising amount of luck running the ball against the normally stout Jets D. The offensive line takes over the game, opening big holes for James Davis, who scores on a 21-yarder that ties the score at seven.
Nnamdi Asomugha picks off Mark Sanchez early in the second quarter to give the Redskins good field position, and Grossman capitalizes when he hits Santana Moss in the back of the end zone on a play action roll out. Moss comes up limp as well on this play, though.
Sanchez and the Jets are no easy challenge, though, and on the ensuing position, Sanchez hits Santonio Holmes on a 65 yard touchdown pass. (D-Hall jumps a route. Go figure.) Tied at 14-14 going into the third quarter, Sanchez connects with Jericho Cotchery on another touchdown pass. Grossman keeps his composure, though, and marches the Skins down the field, throwing a touchdown pass to Chris Cooley to tie it back up.
The two teams punch each other in the mouth, with Darrelle Revis picking off Grossman, only for Nnamdi Asomugha to pick off Sanchez. Grossman pushes the Redskins into field goal range towards the end of the fourth quarter, but Grossman gets absolutely drilled by Bart Scott. Grossman's throwing arm looks bright purple and limp when he comes off the field, ending his season.
John Beck tries as he can to lead the Redskins offense, but the 'Skins drive stalls and the Jets go up by a touchdown and a two point conversion to make the score 29-21. Beck performs admirably and the Redskins score a touchdown on a pass to Mike Sims-Walker, but the two point conversion fails, and the Redskins are left with a lot of doubts.
Redskins lose, 27-29.
Week 14: Home vs. the New England Patriots
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If ever there was a game the Redskins needed to be at full strength, it would be versus Tom Brady and the Patriots. But Andy Dalton isn't healthy enough to play, Santana Moss also needs a week off, and injuries from a long season and a early bye are starting to mount.
Try as they might, the Redskins cantover come the Patriots initial rush. The Patriots jump out to a 17-0 lead in a hurry. By half time, the score is 24-3.
Enter Tyrod Taylor.
The Redskins have hidden the Virginia Tech quarterback away on their practice squad for most of the season. After Redskins fans witness Beck come up rubbing the wrist on his throwing hand, Tyrod Taylor is tossed to the wolves.
After the Patriots make it 31-6, Taylor comes into the game, and the Patriots are unprepared for Taylor's running. In his first play at quarterback, Taylor turns a broken play into a huge gain and a momentum booster when he breaks the pocket, the runs it from 65 yards and the touchdown. The Redskins go for two, and Taylor uses his legs to keep the play allive, making it 31-14.
The Redskins defense answers in kind, as J.J Watt sacks Tom Brady, and then Brady throws an interception right to LaRon Landry. Put in good field position, Taylor shows off his big arm when he zips a 14-yard touchdown pass in between two defenders to Terrence Austin.
The defense once again responds to the touchdown drive by forcing the Patriots to go three and out. Taylor once again shows some big time arm, as he goes deep to Mike Sims-Walker for a 75 yard touchdown. The Redskins go for two yet again, and this time, Taylor hits Armstrong in the endzone to make the score 31-30.
The Redskins recover the on-side kick, but Taylor can't complete the comeback. He flushes out of the pocket when pressured and throws a wild one intended for Chris Cooley, but it's picked off by Devin McCourty and returned for a touchdown.
The Redskins drop their second straight game at home after a good fight, but there are no moral victories in the NFL.
Redskins lose, 30-38.
Week 15: Away vs. the New York Giants
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The Redskins still aren't back to full strength, as Tyrod Taylor has to start his first NFL game versus a Giants team that wants to avenge a loss from early in the season.
Taylor's ability to use his legs and the strong running of James Davis keep the Redskins in the game, and a touchdown pass to Mike Sims-Walker puts the Redskins up 14-7 in the first quarter. But the Giants defense starts bringing more pressure, leading to costly mistakes by Taylor, who coughs up another pick six in his own territory.
The Redskins defense takes over the game. O.J Atogwe and DeAngelo Hall pick off Eli Manning on consecutive possessions, but the sputtering offense is unable to capitalize, settling on two field goals instead of touchdowns. Brian Orakpo sacks Eli Manning forcing a fumble, and LaRon Landry forces one from Ahmad Bradshaw, but there is still no luck; the Redskins are up a touchdown without an extra point by half, but it's taking everything they have.
Then Atogwe goes down.
The Giants spread the field with wide receivers and pick on back-up Kareem Moore all day. The Redskins fall behind 20-21 and can never recover.
Kevin Barnes picks off Eli Manning one more time, but by then, it's too little, too late.
Redskins lose, 20-21
Week 16: Home vs. the Minnesota Vikings
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This will be the game where the Redskins will be back at full strength with Andy Dalton back at center and Santana Moss back at number two receiver.
This will also be the welcome back game for former Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb.
McNabb looks flawless on his first drive, gashing the Redskins and throwing a touchdown to Sidney Rice.
Dalton will remain unfussed, however. In Dalton's first game back, Dalton has everyone wondering if he was working on his arm while he was recovering from his knee, as he drives a big pass down field to a wide open Mike Sims-Walker, like he never left.
McNabb will struggle after his first drive. A failed screen to Adrian Peterson will be picked off by Brian Orakpo, who will run back yet another touchdown. It gets no better for McNabb on the next possession, as Orakpo sacks him twice, and he almost gets picked off again by LaRon Landry. On fourth down, they punt the ball to Brandon banks.
Big mistake. Banks takes it back to the house.
It's 21-10 going into the half. The Vikings come out the tunnel and kick the ball off to Banks again. Another mistake; Banks takes it back again.
McNabb finally gets the Vikings offense going, and a 30-yard touchdown by Adrian Peterson has the score at 28-17.
Dalton responds in kind. He audibles to a draw deep in his own territory, and James Davis take it to the Vikings five yard line. Dalton hits Santana Moss for the touchdown.
McNabb goes deep to Percy Harvin for an 88-yard touchdown, but Dalton answers with a deep pass to Anthony Armstrong, setting up Dalton to run the touchdown in for himself.
McNabb goes home without having his revenge, and the Redskins and Mike Shanahan end their season at home with validation.
Redskins win 42-24
Week 17: Away vs. the Washington Redskins
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The Redskins need to beat the Philadelphia Eagles in order to gain a wildcard playoff spot. They're still smarting over the Eagles stealing a win from them in their first game.
And Andy Reid makes the very dumb decision to have David Akers kick to the ball to Brandon Banks.
How do they not learn?
Banks takes it back to the house to put the Redskins up 7-0.
Michael Vick and the Eagles can't get it started. Orakpo, Carriker and Watt all end up sacking Vick on three consecutive plays. On the Redskins offense first possession, the Redskins drive to the Redskins 15, and Santana Moss catches a quick slant and takes it into the end zone.
Michael Vick goes deep looking for DeSean Jackson, but LaRon Landry picks him off, bobs, weaves and cruises into the endzone.
Vick drives the Eagles into field goal range and the drive stalls. On the ensuing drive, Dalton hands off to James Davis, who breaks into the secondary for a big gain. Dalton comes out off play action and hits Chris Cooley in the end zone.
After the half, the Eagles come out throwing. Vick fires deep from Brent Celek, scoring the Eagles first touchdown. Dalton throws a pick to Asante Samuel, and Andy Reid decides to actually run the ball, leading to a 43-yard touchdown run by LeSean McCoy.
The Redskins then break out something we haven't seen all season: the Wildcat, with Tyrod Taylor in at quarterback. He hands of to Brandon Banks, who breaks it for a big gain. The Redskins go to the Wildcat again, and Tyrod Taylor hits...Andy Dalton for a deep touchdown pass.
The Eagles can't recover, and the Redskins clinch themselves a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
Redskins win, 37-20
Wildcard Playoffs: Home vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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Yet another chance to redeem themselves.
The Redskins will get a home game for the playoffs, and they will host the young Buccaneers. The last time the Bucs were at FedEx Field, they left a bitter taste in a lot of fans mouths.
This year, the Redskins look to avenge that loss. Two young football teams will clash. By halftime, the score is 14-14. James Davis and Legarette Blount are both running wild, and both teams kickers hit field goals, tying at 17-17.
Andy Dalton won't be denied though. In the fourth quarter, he leads the Redskins on two consecutive scoring drives, one at 10 yard touchdown run on a bootleg by Dalton himself, and one a touchdown pass to—who else—Mike Sims-Walker.
Josh Freeman doesn't flinch, though, and late in the first, he scores two touchdown passes himself.
With limited time and no timeouts, Andy Dalton drives the Redskins down field into position for a long field goal. He clocks the ball with :03 left on the clock.
With that on the clock, Graham Gano drills a 55-yard field goal.
It bounces off the upright, then falls down and over the bar, so it counts.
The Redskins win their first playoff game since 2005, and Gano is a hero.
Divisional Round: Away at Green Bay Packers
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Alas, the Redskins turnaround season ends here.
The Redskins will fight their hardest, but they just won't be high powered enough to beat out the Packers, who will be looking to repeat.
Andy Dalton throws three touchdown passes to his leading receivers of Mike Sims-Walker, Chris Cooley and Santana Moss, but it won't quite be enough.
The Redskins will lose by a touchdown late in the game, ending the season, but with hope for the next season.
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Final season record: 11-5
Is this at all likely?
No. No it is not. It's kind of silly, actually, especially considering we have no idea who will be on the team, who will get drafted, when free agency will start and if football will even be played.
But you know...so what?
The point is, I see a lot of people thinking the Redskins have no chance next season. That the Redskins should resign themselves to losing. That the best thing that will happen this season is that next season, the Redskins will be able to draft Andrew Luck. That we might as well accept losing because there's no chance of the team getting better.
What I say is...why?
Why do we have to be resigned to losing? Does expecting to lose somehow soften the blow when the team does lose? Does it mean that we don't get upset when they lose?
No. We'll all be as loud and cranky as ever if the Redskins lose next season.
So, I'm going into the season with high (but tempered) expectations.The Redskins have one of the easiest schedules in the league. I still believe the team has more talent than anyone is willing to give them credit for, and that the team is closer to being solid than it is to being bottle of the barrel.
7-9 isn't good enough for me, and it shouldn't be good enough for other fans. 7-9 is not an optimistic look at a rebuilding year; it's a pessimistic view that validates itself if they lose, so fans can complain and say they knew it all along.
Nope. I'm aiming for a season above .500 and a playoff appearance. And if I'm wrong, so be it. But at least I didn't settle for anything less than honest improvement.