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Redskins Will Be Put To The Test In 2013

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The Washington Redskins will open up Monday Night Football against the Philadelphia Eagles where we'll all get to see a reconstructed Robert Griffin III. Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images.
The Washington Redskins will open up Monday Night Football against the Philadelphia Eagles where we'll all get to see a reconstructed Robert Griffin III. Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images.

Every NFL team experiences emotional doldrums and unforeseen late-season scenarios — either their own or their opponents’ — that wreak havoc on conventional football wisdom. Some squads exceed expectations; others disappoint so completely that they challenge a momma’s love. The myriad of scenarios imbedded within a team’s and the entire league’s schedule routinely dispels the expected and challenges the impossible. And that description of the NFL’s “normal” doesn’t even consider the added and most significant variable facing the 2013 Washington Redskins: the prevailing health of Robert Griffin III, and the most famous ACL in the nation’s capital.    

Those significant unknowns make the annual exercise of early predictions for an NFL season highly speculative, but some things just must be done. I love it; you love it. We can’t help ourselves. It’s a natural extension of the release of the NFL’s upcoming season schedule. Present the football fan with schedule data, and he or she will immediately prognosticate through a lens coated with emotional distortions. Somewhere, Mr. Spock is offended, and Jimmy the Greek is flattered.

So…we have them: the 16 games the Redskins will play over the 17 week 2013 NFL season. We have the times, the dates and the opponents. It’s April, leaves are barely on the trees, no draft picks have been made, not a single OTA has been conducted and RGIII hasn’t run a single stride since early January — yet it seems like a perfectly legitimate time to decompose the upcoming season and look clearly into the fall. 

Instead of predicting wins and losses and extrapolating a meaningless win-loss record that will inevitably make the author look like a fool in eight months, a broad-brush analysis of the schedule will have to do for now. The game predictions will come later. I’ll probably end up at same place (Fools Island) in December anyway, but this at least allows for confirmation of RGIII’s ballyhooed extraterrestrial healing abilities. Anyway, here’s a semi-digested analysis of the Redskins’ 2013 schedule.

Most Anticipated Matchup – Week 1 vs. Philadelphia

What? The first game of the season is the most anticipated? Well when it’s on Monday Night Football (MNF) and will provide the first rhetoric-free evidence of RGIII’s recovery, yes it is. By kickoff, we’ll definitively know his playing status. And if he plays, we’ll have a sense for his overall health and how the Redskins plan to utilize their rebuilt but sub-100 percent signal caller — at least in the near-term — by halftime. If he doesn’t post, it will be an opportunity for an extended look at The Kirk Cousins Show.

By putting the ‘Skins on MNF, the league and ESPN are betting that No. 10 answers the opening day bell — that’s probably a wise gamble. It’s hard to imagine the foolish pride quarterback and his enabling handlers suddenly becoming a sports version of right wing conservatives. Proceed with caution? Why start now?

Easiest Game – Week 9 vs. San Diego

This one’s tricky. There are no easy games in the NFL; the examples are everywhere. A 5-11 Redskins team, behind Rex Grossman, beat the Super Bowl champion Giants twice in 2011. Arizona traveled across the country and whipped the Patriots last season in Foxboro. Geez, do I really need to pick one? Yes, you do. Okay, I will (end of annoying internal monologue).

In homage to George Carlin’s trimming of the 10 Commandments, there were some rules applied to filter the selection process. It started, of course, with 16 options. Right off the bat, all road games were eliminated. Gravy train wins on the road don’t exist in the NFL.

The menu is down to eight.

Second, the three home division games were tossed out without a second thought. Division opponents are like crusty, professional spouses: they know each other too well, and the mere sight of the other stirs bad memories and hateful emotions.

Just like that, we’re down to five games: Detroit’s, Chicago’s, San Francisco’s, Kansas City’s and San Diego’s visits to FedEx Field. The next obvious cut is San Francisco (they are…pretty good). Chicago and Detroit were eliminated quickly thereafter simply based on potential to shred the Redskins’ secondary. With barely any hardcore analysis and not a drop of sweat on my brow, we’re down from 16 hopeful to two steadfast candidates — Kansas City and San Diego — for the most blissful Sunday afternoon of the 2013 season.

The nod goes to San Diego.

Kansas City, with Andy Reid — a familiar ‘Skins foe — at the helm and Alex Smith under center, will be markedly better this year. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re in the playoff discussion in the thin AFC, or if the battle between teams with tacky Native American mascots goes to the less offensive one. I also fully expect the ‘Skins to get their unspeakables handed to them in Denver the week before the San Diego game (more on that in a bit). They’ll return home salty and set on getting well at the expense of the Bolts. That’s how the ebb and flow of an NFL season works for the good-but-not-great teams.     

There are, however, two flies hovering around ointment. First, San Diego, while traveling to the east coast for a 1:00 p.m. EST kickoff, will be coming off a bye week. Playing teams fresh off a two-week vacation is not ideal. Second, the Chargers still have Phillip Rivers behind center, and he possesses the ability to explode for a 300-plus yard, three to four touchdown performance in any particular game. In spite of the Redskins’ secondary, I’m betting he won’t in Week 9. Besides, if history holds, Antonio Gates will be hurt or severely limited by then anyway. Right?

Toughest Game – Week 2 at Green Bay

To lend credence to my “Easiest Game” formula, it was also applied to the selection of the steepest challenges facing the burgundy and gold in 2013. I am, if nothing else, consistent. After whacking the Redskins’ home and division games, the “toughest game” list was condensed to dates at Denver, Green Bay, Oakland, Minnesota and Atlanta.

My first reaction was “ouch”; that’s quite a list of non-divisional road games. The Oakland game was struck for the obvious reasons: the game isn’t scheduled near Halloween and the Raiders aren’t in the class of the other four teams. Minnesota is a 2012 playoff team, employs Adrian Peterson — one of the great gifts to the game of football — and catches the ‘Skins on a short week for the Thursday night showdown. But the Vikings don’t have the quarterback talent of Denver, Green Bay or Atlanta.

Following that thread and considering the Redskins’ close contest with the Dirty Birds last season, quarterback was again used as the discriminator in eliminating Atlanta. If I have to play on the road, I’d choose to tangle with Matt Ryan over Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers. Sorry, Matty Ice (I can already see an irritated Julio Jones and Roddy White snagging two touchdowns each).

Dates with Green Bay and Denver, in their joints, remain (ugh). My suggestion would be forfeiting both, but then that may draw the significant and punitive ire of Commish Goodell. So, the poison must be picked. Peyton Manning, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker and the Mile High air are behind door number one; Aaron Rodgers, Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones wait behind door number two. In either case, an impressive combination of quarterback and wide receivers will be deployed against (ahem) accomplished cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson and E.J. Biggers.

It is hard to fathom a scenario where the Redskins win either game; but in what may be a slightly surprising choice, Green Bay is the team’s toughest challenge in 2013. Packers TE Jermichael Finley will be an absolute mismatch against any safety or inside linebacker on Washington’s roster; Denver doesn’t have his equivalent. More importantly, the Packers catch the ‘Skins on a short week — they play on MNF in Week 1 — and much earlier in the season either before RGIII is ready or before he’s 100 percent. By the Week 9 matchup with Denver, RGIII will be, barring another injury, back under center and as physically complete as he’ll be in 2013 — and No. 10 gives the ‘Skins a punchers chance against anyone. 

Toughest Stretch – The Closing Act

Selecting the toughest stretch in 2013 revealed this observation about the Redskins’ schedule: it is incredibly balanced. The contenders for the toughest game in the section above are sprinkled across the calendar, happening weeks apart. Ditto for the two seemingly easiest games. There is but a single occurrence of back-to-back road games and consecutive division games. There is one stretch, though, that will almost certainly have meaning for the ‘Skins, their opponents or both.

From Week 15 to Week 17, the Redskins will face — in this order — Atlanta on the road, Dallas at home and the Giants at the Meadowlands. There’s every reason to believe that Atlanta will be competing for a division title and home field advantage (again) in Week 15. It is also equally plausible that closing games against the Cowboys and the Giants will have a direct impact on the NFC East title and the playoff fates of most (if not all) of those involved.

Meaningful December football is rare occurrence in the nation’s capital, but presuming RGIII’s relative health, D.C. football fans may get treated to another exciting stretch run in 2013.

Agree or disagree with any of this analysis? Take a gander at the schedule below and see what you come up with.   

DATE

OPPONENT

TIME

TV

Mon, Sept. 9

vs. Philadelphia Eagles

7:10 PM

ESPN

Sun, Sept. 15

at Green Bay Packers

1:00 PM

FOX

Sun, Sept. 22

vs. Detroit Lions

1:00 PM

FOX

Sun, Sept. 29

at Oakland Raiders

4:25 PM

FOX

Sun, Oct. 6

Bye

Sun, Oct. 13

at Dallas Cowboys

8:30 PM

NBC

Sun, Oct. 20

vs. Chicago Bears

1:00 PM

FOX

Sun, Oct. 27

at Denver Broncos

4:25 PM

FOX

Sun, Nov. 3

vs. San Diego Chargers

1:00 PM

CBS

Thu, Nov. 7

at Minnesota Vikings

8:20 PM

NFLN

Sun, Nov. 17

at Philadelphia Eagles

1:00 PM

FOX

Mon, Nov. 25

vs. San Francisco 49ers

8:30 PM

ESPN

Sun, Dec. 1

vs. New York Giants

8:30 PM

NBC

Sun, Dec. 8

vs. Kansas City Chiefs

1:00 PM

CBS

Sun, Dec. 15

at Atlanta Falcons

1:00 PM

FOX

Sun, Dec. 22

vs. Dallas Cowboys

1:00 PM

FOX

Sun, Dec. 29

at New York Giants

1:00 PM

FOX