Just a few ticks past 8:00pm yesterday evening, I was doing my best to keep one eye on Game 1 of the Capitals-Flyers playoff opener, and the other eye on the NFL schedule release (and my fingers crossed that the Wizards would somehow miraculously fire Ernie Grunfeld… but I digress).
With the schedule officially released, let’s take a dive into what the 2016 slate has in store for the burgundy and gold:
1. The Redskins open the season by playing on Monday Night Football, hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers. If that excites you… then you haven’t been paying attention lately. Since FedEx Field opened, the Redskins are 2-15 at home when playing on Monday Night. And why would you be excited to play a healthy Ben Roethlisberger orchestrating that Steelers offense, which could also have Le’Veon Bell — arguably the best running back in the NFL — available to play?
2. The rest of the month doesn’t get much better. In the first three games, the Redskins secondary will have to face Antonio Brown, Dez Bryant, and Odell Beckham Jr. — three of the best wide receivers in the NFL. Get well soon, Chris Culliver.
3. Once again, the Redskins and Cowboys square off in an infamous Thanksgiving Day match up. I have highly mixed feelings about this. Beating Dallas on Thanksgiving Day makes my favorite meal of the year taste that much more transcendant. But, there are very, VERY few things in the world I hate more than losing to the Dallas Cowboys. It has all the potential to make my favorite meal of the year taste like potting soil.
4. The Redskins “rendezvous” — I have no idea if that’s what they actually call it, but that’s what I call it — with the AFC North this year. They open against the Steelers, host the Browns in Week 4 (more on that in a second), head up I-95 to play the Ravens in Week 5, and play the Bengals in London (more on that as well). Since the divisions realigned, the Redskins combined record when they rendezvous with the AFC North is 2-10; they’ve never beaten the Steelers, Ravens, or Bengals in those years (both wins came against Cleveland).
5. Speaking of the Browns: the much anticipated “RG3-returns-to-FedEx-Field” game takes place on October 2nd, when Cleveland visits Washington. Most of us thought that the NFL would make this a primetime game, but i’m pretty sure they wanted to avoid putting a total clunker on national TV (given Washington’s propensity to play at a god-awful level when they play in front of the whole country). Of course, there’s a distinct possibility that the Redskins could be facing a Browns team starting a rookie quarterback.
6. For the first time in team history, the Redskins will play in London, against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Redskins are technically the “away” team in this game… but I highly doubt that really means anything in these circumstances. Personally, as much as I love football, I like to have my Sunday mornings free to get a few things done and knock out a few things on the “honey do” list, before I settle in for 11 subsequent hours of football; the 9:30am kickoffs aren’t very conducive for that. But the Redskins in London? Yeah, I can certainly make an exception for that. Frankly, i’m actually going to look into the idea of going overseas for that game…
7. Along with the AFC North, Washington has a full rendezvous (or whatever the hell you call it) with the NFC North as well. They’ll visit the Detroit Lions on October 23rd (Week 7), host the Vikings in Week 10 (right after their bye week) and the Packers the week after, and then visit Chicago on Christmas Eve (in a Saturday matinee game).
8. The Redskins last eight games includes four games against teams that made the playoffs last year (Cincinnati, Minnesota, Green Bay, and Carolina) and all three divisional opponents (they play Philadelphia and Dallas on the road, with the latter in the aforementioned Thanksgiving game). Washington actually plays four of the six teams that made the postseason in the NFC last year (Washington was the fifth). Along with the Packers and the Vikings, the Redskins play the Cardinals in Week 13 (in Arizona) and host the defending NFC champion Carolina Panthers in Week 15 (on Monday Night Football).
9. One quirk in the schedule this year: the Redskins are one of only two teams (along with Green Bay) that play three consecutive road games: Dallas on Thanksgiving, Philadelphia the week after, and then Arizona after that. For a team that started off 0-5 on the road last year, that’ll be big test.
10. For the 7th year in a row, the Redskins will finish the season against an NFC East opponent. They played Dallas in three of the last four season finale’s, and they’ll host the Giants this year. Washington visits New York in Week 3; the combined score of the last two games the Redskins and Giants played in September is 77-35 (in favor of the Giants). I loathe the Cowboys, but my disdain for the Giants (still) isn’t much less.