1. The NFL has us by the short and curlies, don't they? They schedule a primetime release of the 2012 schedule and we swarm like bees to honey. Out of all the "events" scheduled during the NFL's offseason though, this one is the first one to really get our heads pointed in a singular direction. We knew who we were playing. Now we know when we are playing them. Although we know that this matters a ton, the reasons that make this matter are mostly unknown to us at this point. Who knows who will be injured and when? Who knows when teams will be hot and when they will be cold? And let's not forget...who knows if we will be good enough to exploit ANY of that?
2. One thing we do know: our season opener is as daunting as they come. Playing the Saints in their dome is never easy, but you have to figure they will be ready to prove to the world that the whole bounty thing won't define them in 2012 (it will). Of course Drew Brees will be under center, throwing for a million yards to wide open receivers. It is going to be a long day for the burgundy and gold. Reality, logic and sound reasoning dictate that the Saints will be the stone-cold, deed-to-the-house, first-born, lead pipe lock of the century in their home opener. Not so fast. There is one thing that happens every year on the first week of the NFL season: a team that nobody thought was ready to compete with the big boys shows up and shocks the league. In fact, wasn't it just one year ago that the Redskins upset the Giants in Week One? In 2010, wasn't it the Redskins that knocked off the Dallas Cowgirls in Week One in a game that NOBODY picked Washington to win? The common denominator in those games was they both took place at FedEx, and Mike Shanahan had months to gameplan. New Orleans is a different ball of wax entirely. On the bright side, nobody has any tape of RG3 in the pros to watch. Nobody has any tape of the way Shanahan will deploy RG3. We will have a small element of surprise there, but it says here that Rex Grossman will have to play one of his best games as a Redskin if we have any chance of winning on the road in New Orleans on September 9, 2012.
3. I am the person that looks at the schedule the day it is released and says, "There's a win...there's a win...there's a toss-up--call it a win...maybe a loss there...win...win." I have to be honest--this schedule is not causing me to utter those words today. I have no sense of who are the teams we "should" beat. Can we realistically expect to go into St. Louis and beat a Rams team that can't possibly be as bad in 2012 as they were in 2011? Getting the Bengals at home is great for us, but they are super young and ridiculously talented. Is Tampa Bay going to resemble the team that surprised everyone in 2010 or the team that disappointed everyone in 2011? We couldn't beat Christian Ponder and Toby Gerhart in Week 16 last year. Cam Newton isn't likely to be less athletic in 2012. We are in Pittsburgh. Five of our last seven games are NFC East tilts. We face Atlanta and Baltimore. To me, this is as difficult as a schedule can look like in April.
4. As you all know, I LOVE home night games. I enjoy the late tailgates. I like stringing up the lights and getting that different feel from all the other early morning affairs. That said...something about a December night game against the Giants has me a little sick to my stomach. The memories from the 45-12 drubbing on Monday Night Football in 2009 still haunt me. After deferring when we won the coin toss, Eli Manning directed a 16-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that ate up plenty of clock and soul. I know it was three years ago. I know the teams and coaches are slightly different. I know we will have some new pieces we didn't have...but it still sticks in my mind.
5. It's not that I necessarily care about what the rest of the country thinks about the Redskins, but these national appearances are our opportunities to shape public perception about where we are as a franchise. I take a lot of pride in my team, as we all do. A good showing this year on December 3rd against New York will go a long way toward changing the generally negative view the causal fan has of the Redskins.
6. Thanksgiving against the Cowgirls...this is simply a no-brainer for the NFL. Just like the Monday Night Football appearance against the Giants, this is a game that everyone will be watching--it might be fair to suggest that morepeople will be watching this game than the MNF affair. In addition to being a rivalry game, this is a late-November game. The playoff picture will begin coming into focus and division games all of a sudden take on added significance. Don't get me wrong--ruining Dallas' Thanksgiving and taking down our arch-rival is the top reason for wanting to beat them, but you can't expect to get to the playoffs and be successful in the playoffs if you can't show dominance in your own division. Let's show it on national television...twice.