The Washington Redskins season 2016 schedule has been released, and ooh boy is it a doozy. The challenges that come from being a first placed division winner mean that this schedule is filled with tough opponents, and if the Redskins wish to repeat their success of last year, they’ll need to rise up to the challenge.
Week 1: Pittsburgh Steelers @ Washington Redskins
Last Five Games: PIT 5w, WAS 0w
Ben Roethlisberger won’t have Martavis Bryant or Heath Miller to throw to, but when you still have weapons such as Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, it is unlikely to matter. The Steelers have dominated the Redskins recently, winning all five of their last battles. Getting them in week one in prime time should scare the pants off of Redskins fans.
This will be a week one game that will tell us a lot about the Redskins secondary in 2016, as their ability to close angles and prevent yards after the catch will be the difference between whether this game goes into the ‘win’ or ‘loss’ column.
On defense, the Steelers are solid across the board. Their front seven especially is a dominant force, so rush yards will be hard earned all day for the Redskins running backs.
Week Two: Dallas Cowboys @ Washington Redskins
Last Five Games: DAL 3w, WAS 2w
Dallas week. Always fun, unless Washington loses, right?
It’ll be interesting to see what type of reception Alfred Morris receives on his return to FedEx field wearing the uniform of Washington’s most hated rival; Morris himself was always a fan favorite and thought of as an all-around great person during his time in the burgundy and gold. Now that he’s wearing that blue star though, all bets are off.
Winning this game in week two would set the tone for the Redskins hopes in the NFC East in 2016. Getting Dallas so early in the season means that there may be lingering questions regarding the health of Tony Romo following his offseason surgery, but all reports seem to indicate he expects to be healthy at the start of the season.
Week Three: Washington Redskins @ New York Giants
Last Five Games: NYG 4w, WAS 1w
Similar to the previous week’s game against the Cowboys, this week three divisional match up represents a fantastic opportunity for the Redskins to take an early and commanding lead in the NFC East in season 2016.
That is, of course, easier said than done.
The Giants have beaten the Redskins in four of their last five matchups, and in the last two years especially a huge part of their success has been that of Odell Beckham Jr. Stopping him is an enormously difficult task, and the Redskins secondary will need to get a lot of help from the pass rush if they hope to succeed in doing so.
Week Four: Cleveland Browns @ Washington Redskins
Last Five Games: CLE 2w, WAS 3w
Cleveland is one of the rare teams on the schedule where Washington has a winning record in their last five matchups, but all that will be forgotten as the focus on this game will be squarely on the return of Robert Griffin III to FedEx Field.
Will he be starting for Cleveland? Well, that remains to be seen following the draft and ongoing free agency. Either way, the spotlight will be on this game for reasons that extend beyond the final scoreboard.
Beyond that spectacle, however, the Redskins will almost certainly go into this match up as favorites in Vegas, and it’s a game that they should not and can not lose if they want to be taken seriously this season.
Week Five: Washington Redskins @ Baltimore Ravens
Last Five Games: BAL 3w, WAS 2w
The battle of the DMV, where the Redskins get to play a regular season road game in the same state as their home field.
Baltimore is at an interesting point in it’s development as a roster at the moment; a mix of young players like Kamar Aiken and Breshad Perriman combined with veterans such as Steve Smith Jr mean it’s hard to get an accurate read on whether or not the Ravens considers themselves a realistic Super Bowl contender.
Getting Baltimore in week five doesn’t seem to have any real impact one way or another, but the fact that it’s such a close ‘road’ game after playing the previous and following games at home could mean that the fatigue impact of travelling is significantly lessened.
Week Six : Philadelphia Eagles @ Washington Redskins
Last Five Games: WAS 3w, PHI 2w
Three divisional matchups in the first six weeks can be a gift or a curse; win at least 2 of the 3, and the Redskins would likely be in the box seat in the division. Lose at least 2 out of the 3, and it suddenly becomes a tough hole to dig yourself out of.
It remains to be seen who the Eagles will start at Quarterback for this game; Sam Bradford, or a new rookie if the rumors are to be believed. Regardless, the Redskins will want to put the Eagles to the sword and maintain the edge that they’ve had over them in recent years.
Week Seven: Washington Redskins @ Detroit Lions
Last Five Games: DET 3w, WAS 2w
The retirement of Calvin Johnson will be welcome news to Redskins secondary coach Perry Fewell, but don’t sleep on Golden Tate and Marvin Jones, who are both capable receivers in their own right.
Given their respective recent development paths as they continue to build their rosters, the Redskins simply must walk off of the Ford field turf with a win from this game if they have any ideas about making the playoffs again in 2016, as Detroit are not a powerhouse team filled with elite superstar talent. That’s not to say that they won’t be a touch opponent -there’s no easy games in the NFL, after all- but Jay Gruden would no doubt be bitterly disappointed to lose to Detroit and then have to get on a plane to go to London.
Week Eight: Washington Redskins @ Cincinnati Bengals (London game)
Last Five Games: CIN 4w, WAS 1w
London calling means this game will have no home-field advantage for either team. In fact, if anecdotal reports are accurate, the Redskins may go into this “away” game with more fans in the stands, as international Redskins fans tell us that the team is very well represented in the United Kingdom.
The Bengals are somewhat of an anomaly when it comes to the history between the two teams; dating all the way back to 1970 the two teams have only played each other nine times in the regular season. The last time these two teams played each other was in 2012 and both teams looked vastly different, so there really isn’t much to be gleaned about this match up based on their last encounter.
Andy Dalton was in excellent form in 2015, and the Redskins defense will be put under pressure to contain him and AJ Green in front of the international crowd.
Week Nine: BYE
Considered the perfect round to have the bye in; the smack-bang middle of the season. The Redskins will be able to recuperate and take stock of the first half of 2016 and make any adjustments necessary as they go into a difficult second half schedule.
Week Ten: Minnesota Vikings @ Washington Redskins
Last Five Games: MIN 4w, WAS 1w
Since 2010 the Vikings have had the upper hand over the Redskins, winning four of their last five matchups. Redskins fans, however, may get a small glimmer of optimism from the fact that the last time the Vikings played at FedEx field was the thrilling 38-26 win in 2012 that featured Robert Griffin III’s 76 yard touchdown run. The point is, the Vikings haven’t won in Fedex field in nearly five years.
Returning from London and playing at home means that the Redskins should have no excuses in terms of their preparation for this game.
Week Eleven: Green Bay Packers @ Washington Redskins
Last Five Games: GB 4w, WAS 1w
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers will be fresh in the memory of Redskins fans, having been the team who ended Washington’s season in the Wild Card round in January this year in a 35-18 loss. That means that FedEx field will also be fresh in the memory of the Packers players as well, which is good because it’s a stadium that Aaron Rodgers has only played in twice.
A tough game regardless of the week it’s played in, Cousins and the Redskins will need to bring their ‘A’ game if they want to get a rare prime time win before heading on the road for three straight games.
Week Twelve: Washington Redskins @ Dallas Cowboys
Last Five Games: DAL 3w, WAS 2w
The third game in eleven days that the Redskins play will mean that the players will be fatigued, sore, and weary. Playing Dallas in this game, however, may be a lucky break, as it’s a game that Redskins players always seem to rise up for regardless of circumstances.
The running joke that whoever plays the Cowboys in week 17 will win the NFC East is hopefully not prophetic, as the Redskins get their second go at Dallas in primetime on Thanksgiving.
By now, Redskins fans know all too well that the team has struggled in prime time games, so playing on Thanksgiving once again will be a nervous affair for many. A win, however, would do wonders for the wounded psyche of those who wear the burgundy and gold.
Week Thirteen: Washington Redskins @ Arizona Cardinals
Last Five Games: ARI 1w, WAS 4w
The Cardinals are one of the powerhouse teams that feature on the Redskins schedule in 2016, which is something that the Redskins will have to get used to if they have any notions about winning the NFC East division consistently.
Strong across the board, the Cardinals roster will represent an enormous challenge for the Redskins when it comes to matching up against last years NFC Conference Championship losers.
Week Fourteen: Washington Redskins @ Philadelphia Eagles
Last Five Games: WAS 3w, PHI 2w
Outdoors in Philadelphia in December; always fun, right?
The business end of the season in the NFC East starts with a road trip up the I95 to Philadelphia. Given that the Eagles are under a new Head Coach, it’s going to be extremely interesting to see where they are at in week fourteen of the 2016 season. Are they going to be a wounded animal ready to be humanely put down, or an unexpected force to be reckoned with?
Week Fifteen: Carolina Panthers @ Washington Redskins
Last Five Games: CAR 4w, WAS 1w
As with several other teams on the schedule this year, Carolina has certainly enjoyed their fair share of success against Washington in recent history. Last year’s Super Bowl runner up, Carolina will be fascinating to watch throughout the 2016 season to see how they respond to the loss, and significantly how Cam Newton responds to the enormous tsunami of criticism that seems to follow him around.
Kirk Cousins and the Redskins offense will need to effectively put points on the board to win this game, as there is no doubt that the Carolina Panthers should be improved offensively this year with the return of Kelvin Benjamin. Stopping Greg Olsen will also be a tough task for the Redskins, and Defensive Coordinator Joe Barry will have to be creative to do so.
Week Sixteen: Washington Redskins @ Chicago Bears
Last Five Games: CHI 0w, WAS 5w
Christmas Eve, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring… because everyone was glued to the television watching football!
Amazingly, the Redskins have won their last five games against the Bears, and Jay Gruden and the Redskins will obviously hope that trend continues.
Last year’s Chicago Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase is now the Miami Dolphins Head Coach, so Jay Cutler will be in at least somewhat of a new system. Chicago fans will no doubt be salivating at the prospect of finally seeing 2015 first round rookie wide receiver Kevin White in action as well, and combined with Alshon Jeffery, if both players are healthy they pose a formidable threat. Tall, fast and elusive, these two weapons will be difficult to stop if Cutler has time in the pocket, so getting consistent pressure on him will be crucial.
Week Seventeen: New York Giants @ Washington Redskins
Last Five Games: NYG 4w, WAS 1w
Finishing the season at home could be crucial if the Redskins are in the playoffs hunt. However, if the Giants are also in the hunt, they would consider playing the Redskins to be equally fortuitous.
Let’s collectively hope that the last game of the 2016 regular season, played on New Years Day, sets up a promising 2017.
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