5. Week 14 To Week 17
Week 14: Kansas City at Washington
Score: Chiefs 24, ‘Skins 23
Here’s the deal: This is a trap game. It’s a late-season inter-conference matchup against a team likely to be vastly improved in 2013. It is tucked in behind two consecutive primetime games and is the final game of a three-game home stand.
The three games succeeding this one are at Atlanta, home against Dallas and at the New York Giants — all pivotal games against probable playoff contenders. Oh, and the Chiefs are coached by Andy Reid, a guy that knows Shanahan well. Reid’s Eagles were embarrassed 31-6 in D.C. last year. This year Reid gets revenge and inflicts what might be a mortal wound in the ‘Skins playoff bid.
Week 15: Washington at Atlanta
Score: ‘Skins 34, Falcons 33
Here’s the deal: The NFL is often counter-intuitive. Just when you are ready to anoint a team the Super Bowl favorite, they produce a dud. And just when you are ready to leave a team for dead, they steal a game on the road.
For the Falcons, this game is sandwiched between two games with likely playoff and maybe home-field advantage implications: a Sunday Night Football tilt with the Packers at Lambeau Field and a date with the 49ers on Monday Night Football at Candlestick Park (which, depending on the 49ers’ record, could be the final game at the hallowed old stadium).
After losing to Kansas City the week before, the deal is the ‘Skins will be the more desperate, emotionally invested team, and in the NFL, desperate often wins.
Week 16: Dallas at Washington
Score: ‘Skins 31, Cowboys 27
Here’s the deal: This looks like another late-season, Cowboys-‘Skins game with both teams clinging to playoff life. That said, is there any doubt that Tony Romo plays small and throws a head-scratching interception or two? Despite Dez Bryant’s brilliance — a two-touchdown performance that will win many fantasy football championships — the Cowboys come up short, undone by a late Romo turnover and game-winning RGIII-to-Pierre Garcon touchdown.
The obligatory camera shot of a disgruntled Jerry Jones in the booth will feel like a cliché … but one that still amuses.
Week 17: Washington at New York Giants
Score: Giants 21, ‘Skins 17
Here’s the deal: I predict blizzard-like conditions. The weather will incite all sorts of panic about the forecast for the upcoming New York Super Bowl in just a few weeks (never in the course of human sporting history has The Weather Channel been more important). It will also undo the ‘Skins who will struggle, as they normally do in New York, to get into any sort of rhythm.
Eli Manning will pull this one out with a trademark, improbable throw that knifes through the flakes and outstretched hands of several defenders to find the soft fingertips of Hakeem Nicks in the end zone.
If my math is correct, and I hope for the sake of Ms. Simms’ (my fifth grade math teacher) impeccable reputation that it is, the ‘Skins will finish the year nine games to the good, seven to the bad. That feels about right. I guess I could have just blurted out a 9-7 record up front and skipped the game by game predictions, but then where’s the fun in that?