Given the buildup surrounding Tuesday's unveiling of the 2009 NFL schedule, one would think the occasion was worthy of a national holiday. Far be it for me to turn down a potential day off, and I realize the NFL is king of the sporting world, but was the schedule release in mid-April worthy of several hours of coverage and a SportsCenter Special on ESPN?
But I digress.
Let's examine Washington's schedule, shall we? The Redskins will open the 2009 season on Sunday, Sept. 13 with a trip to the Meadowlands to take on the New York Giants. This will be the second year in a row Washington as opened with a road game against the Giants; last season, in head coach Jim Zorn's debut, the Redskins looked listless in a 16-7 defeat.
From there, Washington will have a home game against St. Louis and a road contest against the Detroit Lions. Two easy wins, you say? Well, the Rams beat the Redskins at FedEx last season, and though Washington did beat the Lions, it was far too close a game, considering Detroit eventually limped its way to 0-16.
The bulk of Washington's out-of-division schedule this year will come from the NFC South and AFC West. That means the Redskins will have contests against Tampa Bay (Week 4), at Carolina (Week 5), at Atlanta (Week 9), against New Orleans (Week 13), against Kansas City (Week 6), against Denver (Week 10), at Oakland (Week 14) and at San Diego (Week 17).
The Panthers won the NFC South last season, going 12-4, while the Falcons went 11-5 and clinched a wild card spot behind rookie quarterback Matt Ryan and first-year head coach Mike Smith. Tampa Bay finished last season 9-7 under then-coach Jon Gruden, and the Saints went 8-8 to round out what became one of the toughest divisions in the NFL.
The AFC West? Ha, good one ...
Consider this: at 8-8, the Saints finished last in the NFC South last year. The Chargers, at 8-8, won the AFC West. Denver also went 8-8, losing its last three to hand the division to San Diego. How will Denver be this year? No telling, with that pourous defense and the fact that no one seems to know who the quarterback is now. The Raiders went 5-11 a year ago, while the Chiefs stumbled their way to 2-14.
Will the Chiefs be better this year with new coach Todd Haley and quarterback Matt Cassell? Maybe, but the AFC West is a division that's ripe for the picking -- not just for the Redskins, but the entire NFC East. If all four NFC East teams sweep the AFC West, which they should, that will place an even larger emphasis on the division games.
The Redskins will host the Eagles in a Monday Night game in Week 7, then travel to Dallas to take on the Cowboys in the new Texas Stadium in Week 11. Week 12 will see Washington, go to Philly, before the Redskins take on Monday Night again in Week 15 at home against the Giants.
Washington will close out its division schedule in Week 16, when the Cowboys invade FedEx Field in an NBC Sunday night contest (and guess what? No John Madden!).
Where Washington fits in the NFC East is unknown; all four teams in the division are in flux. The Redskis swept the Eagles last season, but haven't done so in consecutive years since 1982-83. The Giants swept the Redskins last season, and could very well do it again this year, while Washington and Dallas split the season series with each team winning on the road.
How will the Eagles deal with all their offseason losses? Will Donovan McNabb just say to hell with it and leave?
How will the Cowboys handle the release of Terrell Owens? It could be a case of addition by subtraction, but only if Roy Williams steps up as a true No. 1 wide receiver -- and if Tony Romo can avoid the inevitable December and January choke job.
The Giants appear to be in relatively good shape, aside from the gaping hole Plaxico Burress' release leaves. Eli Manning needs a big-play wideout for the Giants to be an upper-teir team capable of winning the Super Bowl.
Washington's 2009 opponents went a combined 95-112-1 last season, a winning percentage of .457. On paper, that makes for an easy schedule, on in which the Redskins could easily go 9-7, maybe even 10-6. But the NFL is a fickle animal, one in which teams constantly go from good to bad and vice versa.
Just ask the Falcons.
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