This could be the year...
I know what you're thinking...We ALWAYS think this year could be the year, and you know what? We're always right, because in the NFL, anything can happen. So, let's try on the optimism hat for a moment and take a look at the path ahead for the Skins.
The NFC is going to be tough, no doubt. It always is, like the AL East in baseball. The Giants are solid, and even sans the Plaxico show, they should be at the top of the division again (prediction: 12-4, 5-1 in the division).
The Cowboys, minus the TO experiment, are going to have another roller coaster year (prediction: 9-7, 4-2).
The Eagles renewed their faith, sort of, in Donovan McNabb, but key off-season trades and free agent losses have eviscerated their defense and backfield. Look for the Eagles to do well, as they always have under Andy Reid, but perpetually come up short, as they always have under Andy Reid (prediction 8-8, 2-4).
So where does that leave the Skins? Looking for wins, again, outside the NFC East! I see the Skins going 10-6 overall and in the playoffs, but only 2-4 in the East. Of their first nine games, only two are against the NFC East, making for a very tough second half of the season.
Thus, the Skins will need to have their act together early on to have a chance at playing in January. Leading off against the Giants in New Jersey is a bitter pill, but I'm always of the opinion that it's best to play talented teams early in the season while they're still figuring out why they're so talented.
Look for early wins against the Rams, Lions, and Chiefs. The Bucs will put up a great fight, but I see the Skins winning that one on defense. The Panthers, in Charlotte, is a mountain to climb. If a renewed Skins pass rush can get to Delhomme, they have a chance.
Matt Ryan has Atlanta all excited again, and totally over the Vick debacle, but how long will it last? I see the Skins taking the Falcons in Atlanta, if only because the Skins will be coming off their bye week.
The Skins first game at the Boys new stadium will be a battle, of course. I see a tight one, but special teams will play a big role, and special teams for the Skins are not so special anymore.
Having to take on the Eagles, in Philly, the following week, is downright mean, and could send the Skins into a tailspin. I think they'll get past the back-to-back losses against division rivals to beat the Saints and Raiders.
At 9-4, the Skins will be in the playoff hunt, but with the Giants and Boys at home in December bookending Christmas, going 1-1 would be a most welcome gift from the jolly fat man. Look for a loss out in San Diego to close the year.
The Keys: JC (the one who has not yet risen: Jason Campbell) could have a breakout year by getting to play in the same offense he did last year, for once. Portis will be as dependable as well, though we all know he's praying for a strong OT draft pick to make some holes for him.
The receiving corps is basically in tact, so that won't be much of a difference maker. The defense has been shored up by dropping the tango-man and adding Albert Haynesworth, the biggest splash of the year in a vast lake of signings.
However, the key among keys to this season, unfortunately, will be the Skins sorry special teams, not so much for how it can help them win games, but because it will likely lose them a close one (or two) this year. Paltry punting and finicky field goal making are not components of any championship team.
So yes, this could be the year, but not by dominating the East. But JC will certainly continue to develop into the star QB we all know he can be, and the Skins strong defense will keep them in close games.