Tough Road Ahead: Five takeaways from the Redskins’ 2017 schedule

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The NFL released its 2017 schedule on Thursday.  In case you haven’t seen it, here’s how things shape up for the Washington Redskins.
It’s easy to rush to judgment in April. The impressions from the previous season have yet to fade. A lot can change between now and then. We’re still a week out from the draft. Rosters will potentially look much different, come September.
Having said that, part of the fun is glancing into our crystal balls and trying to discern how things will play out. With that in mind, here are my initial, five takeaways.

1) Strength of Schedule

Broncos and Raiders and Chiefs – oh my!
Last season, the Redskins squared off against both conferences’ northern divisions, who combined for a .444 winning percentage. Washington took advantage, going 5-2-1 against those opponents.
This year, they draw the AFC and NFC West, which could prove to be a much tougher gauntlet of foes. The western divisions won at a .484% clip. Throw out 2-14 San Francisco (who may be vastly-improved under new head coach, Kyle Shanahan) and that figure jumps to .526.
Even more problematic for the Skins is that a number of those teams boast elite defensive-lines, who specialize in getting penetration and into opposing quarterbacks’ grills.
Offensive line was a major strength for the Redskins in 2016; they allowed the fourth-lowest sack rate. However, they might think about picking up additional depth in the draft or free agency, before then.

2) Master Versus Apprentice

Among those match-ups, Redskins fans will certainly have at least one circled on their calendars.
In week two, they travel to the west coast, where a familiar face will be waiting for them. That’s former, offensive coordinator Sean McVay, who is now head coach of the Los Angeles Rams.
A lot can happen between now and September 17th. Rumors continue to swirl around McVay’s former protégé, Kirk Cousins. Will he be there, to face his mentor? Or, will he shipped out of town before then?
And, speaking of Cousins, the embattled quarterback’s wife is reportedly due right around the September 17 date. While it is highly-unlikely number eight would miss the game, his attention will certainly be divided that week.

3) Early Bye Blues

The Skins will get an early vacation, this season, with a week-five bye.
Generally, I prefer the bye to fall between weeks eight and ten. It allows banged-up veterans much-needed rest. Instead, they will have a long grind ahead if they have aspirations of a deep, playoff run.
Teams use the downtime to make major changes, personnel or scheme-wise. The Redskins will have to make some quick evaluations, as there won’t be time for massive-tinkering down the stretch.

4) Turkey With A Side Of Football

For the first time ever, Thanksgiving football is coming to the nation’s capital. Washington will play host to the New York Giants in third and final game of the day.
The good news is that they won’t have to travel. The holidays present logistical nightmares for the families of professional athletes. Perhaps they can turn this to their advantage against their division rivals.
The bad news is that the Redskins are just 2-7 in Thanksgiving Day games, including last year’s 31-26 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

5) What’s with all the night games?

Someone in the Redskins’ front office must pulling some favors. Including that Thursday night, turkey tussle with the Giants, the Redskins will have a whopping FIVE, prime-time match-ups in 2017.
It includes two Monday Night Football appearances, one Sunday Night Football and two Thursday’s. That’s not counting week eight against the Cowboys – which will likely be Fox’s Game of the Week.
It’s good exposure for them and their quarterback, who can be an unrestricted free agent in 2018. From a historical standpoint, however, it’s a bit troubling.
The Redskins are a ghastly 6-21 in prime-time games, since coach Joe Gibbs’ second departure. If that’s not bad enough for Washington fans, the losses have often been humiliating in nature.
It looked like they had turned the page, last season, when they demolished the Green Bay Packers 42-24 on Sunday Night Football. However, they soon reverted to their old ways, absorbing a 26-15 drubbing at the hands of the Carolina Panthers.
To remain in the playoff hunt, Washington will have to win at least two – and more realistically three – of those spotlight games. Time will tell if they can defeat the awful weight of history.

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