Following the release of the 2020 NFL Schedule last night, fans of all 32 teams are pouring over their slate of games and projecting where the wins and losses will be coming from.
For the Washington Redskins, following a three win campaign in 2019, the new season presents an opportunity to begin the climb back to respectability and ultimately contention.
At this time of year, optimism is generally high as new acquisitions in free agency and freshly minted draft picks bolster the roster. That optimism is higher than usual in D.C as an almost top to bottom house clean lead to the departure of the much maligned Bruce Allen and removal of Coach Jay Gruden. In their place, Head Coach and general top dog in all football decisions, Ron Rivera has come in with a refreshingly open and honest approach. The draft then delivered the expected shiny new toy in the consensus top player, Chase Young, and while free agency didn’t bring in any top drawer talent, a number of useful depth pieces were added.
There are undoubtedly a number of reasons to be optimistic, but let’s pump the breaks and deliver a dose of reality. The Redskins won 3 games for a reason. They weren’t very good. A new coach, with a new defensive system and the best player in the draft will all help, but the defense was lousy last year and has question marks around the linebackers and secondary. Offensively, Dwayne Haskins finished 2019 strongly, but he has much still to prove and a support cast that has tons of potential and dynamism, but very little experience or proven production needs to hit the ground running.
The makeup of the Redskins schedule itself is somewhat deceptive. Statistically, it is the 28th most difficult, or 5th easiest depending on how you look at it, with opponents win percentage from 2019 being 0.465. However, the powerful looking NFC West and the potentially stronger AFC North are all on the slate, which makes for a tough ride outside of the always competitive NFC East battles.
Basing predictions on last years performance is always hazardous, as so much changes in the NFL every season, and there’s still plenty of time for teams to add further free agents and trades before September, but as we stand on May 8th, this is my best guess at the Redskins record.
Week 1: vs. Philadelphia Eagles = LOSS
Probably not a bad time to play Philly but despite playing them close, I can’t see any improvement in the recent record against the men in green.
Week 2: vs. at Arizona Cardinals = WIN
The Cardinals are much hyped but I think the Skins pass rush can give Kyler Murray nightmares, and the offense will begin to settle down.
Week 3: vs. at Cleveland Browns = LOSS
Despite disappointing last year, the Browns once again look strong. However, if Baker Mayfield resembles the 2019 hot mess rather than the 2018 rookie sensation, this could be a win.
Week 4: vs. Baltimore Ravens = LOSS
The Ravens were the best team in the NFL for most of 2019 and look even stronger this season. Unfortunately can’t see anything other than a loss here.
Week 5: vs. LA Rams = WIN
The Rams have lost alot of talent and may be in for a difficult season. Jared Goff doesn’t convince me, and the offense doesn’t look anywhere near as potent.This is a real opportunity for a win.
Week 6: vs. at New York Giants = LOSS
Definite opportunity for a win here but just favoring the “G-Men” in their own stadium. The tone for the season will be already well developed by this point, so both sides will view this as an opportunity for a valuable win.
Week 7: vs Dallas Cowboys = LOSS
The Cowboys have high expectations following their draft and often perform worse when they’re expected to contend, but they should be too strong for the Redskins here.
Week 8: BYE
The bye comes at just about the perfect point in the schedule.
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Week 9: vs. New York Giants = WIN
Following a tough first half of the schedule, a bye week followed by the Giants at home should bring a win. By this point of the season I’d expect the offense to be clicking into gear, and if the defense can contain Saquon Barkley the second half of the calendar should begin brightly.
Week 10: vs at Detroit Lions = WIN
The pressure is on Matt Patricia, and there are already rumblings of discontent in the motor city, so if things are heading downhill for the Lions a victory should be achievable.
Week 11: vs Cincinnati Bengals = WIN
A three game winning streak! Home field advantage and a reminder from Chase Young to Joe Burrow as to who the best player in the draft was!
Week 12: at Dallas Cowboys= LOSS
Thanksgiving in Dallas is never easy, but we’re at the point of the season where the pressure is really starting to mount, so if the Cowboys are underachieving and the Redskins are on a roll, you never know. However, I think the Cowboys will have enough to win.
Week 13: vs. at Pittsburgh Steelers = LOSS
The Steelers are expected to bounce back this year behind a healthy Ben Roethlisberger, and if he is indeed in the lineup this one looks like a loss.
Week 14: vs. at San Francisco 49ers = LOSS
The final stop on a brutal three week road trip takes in a trip to the west coast for a game that looks like another loss. The Niners D still looks pretty good and the Offense may well be stronger so it may be impossible to get anything out of this encounter.
Week 15: vs. Seattle Seahawks = LOSS
Russell Wilson could be the one QB not overly affected by a potentially fierce pass rush, and the Hawks should be closing in on the playoffs at this point. By now alot will depend on injuries and what remains to play for, and although the Redskins may not be in playoff contention it’s fair to expect them to still be playing hard to lay the foundations for 2021.
Week 16: vs. Carolina Panthers = WIN
There should be no shortage of motivation for the Redskins coaching staff for this one, and a victory in the final home game can be expected. The Panthers are also in something of a rebuild mode and the Redskins would hope to benefit from some degree of inside knowledge, even though the systems will be different.
Week 17: vs. at Philadelphia Eagles = LOSS
A season that began in defeat against the Eagles ends in the same fashion. The Eagles may need to win this game for playoff purposes so will likely be all in. It will be interesting to contrast how the Redskins look in week 17 against the same opponents compared to week 1. Will the team have taken steps forward? Time will tell.
Final record: 6-10.
So there we have it. 6-10 is the projected record which would be 100% improvement in terms of wins from last season. However, every year throws up any number of curveballs, from injuries to unexpected levels of performance both positive and negative. If you then factor in that opponents may look very different when the actual time comes to kickoff against them than they do in early May, this projection could come back to haunt me!
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