1. I love how people are saying it's "too early" to make a season prediction. They want to wait until the draft is over, or all free agents have landed, or until we get through at least some of the preseason. Come on guys!?!?! We knew less about John Beck when we made him quarterback. We're the same people who started making playoff plans when the Redskins were 6-2 under Jim Zorn. We're the same group that made a rookie quarterback who had NEVER played in a game before into a freaking savior! We call/called him "Black Jesus." This is what we do, and this is our first chance to do it, as the schedule was just put out this week. Don't go getting all rational and logical on me, y'all. If and when my April prediction needs to be adjusted (like in early May), I will be the first to announce my latest Mock Season Prediction, because one thing this site seriously lacks is Mocks. (With no mocks, what would we debate and what would SkinsNJ hate?) When the NFL puts out the schedule, we do what comes naturally: we plot our path to the Super Bowl. (Yes, I also see the ironic other side to this where we could learn a lesson and change our ways, but today ain't an official "Learnin' Day.")
2. My first reaction to the 2014 Washington Redskins schedule was, "Holy crap, we get Houston and Jacksonville right out of the gate!" Now, some of you might think that sounds like I assume we are going to go two-for-two against this pair of AFC South opponents. Not so fast. There are teams in the league that have earned the right to pencil in W's when being served up two squads that finished with two and four wins respectively last season. The Washington Redskins are not one of those teams. At this point in our existence, we are more likely to be the team that Houston or Jacksonville uses to show the world that they have "returned." Remember last year when Philadelphia used us to make their opening statement of the 2013 season? That was fun.
3. But yes, I have us going 2-0 out of the gate (ha!). Houston stands to give us more trouble than the Jaguars, given their talent up front on defense, and their seemingly advantageous position with their wide receivers against our secondary. I am thinking that this year, WE benefit this time from having a new coach that nobody has any tape on. Losing to Jacksonville, while plausible and possible, is simply too depressing to contemplate at this point in my life. No matter which way you slice it, the NFL scheduling gods have given us an opportunity. Keep in mind, going 2-0 out of the gate against these teams will not prove anything to the rest of the league. Nobody will be talking about the "Return of the Redskins" unless we lay 50+ points per week against these guys, and I just don't see that happening that early in the season. (Unless...are either of those games in Osaka?) Given we knew that teams like Seattle and San Francisco were in the mix, starting out with Houston and Jacksonville is an ideal scenario.
4. Things get interesting fast for the Redskins after the first two frames in 2014. In the first two weeks, we will be watching the Redskins face non-traditional AFC opponents. It will kind of feel like the season has yet to really start. The weather will still be incredibly hot and back-to-back tilts against teams we hardly ever face will lull us into a prolonged sense of preseason. God help us if we lose those games. When we get to weeks three and four, however, things start looking more normal. Games against Philadelphia and the New York Giants will very quickly put us in that "regular season/now it's for real" kind of mindset. That 1:00 PM kickoff in Philadelphia in week three is going to have all kinds of storylines. DeSean Jackson's return to Philly, Chip Kelly's offense without DJax and Jay Gruden's first chance to win an NFC East game will all be dominating my thoughts that day. My gut tells me that the chemical makeup of our roster will manifest itself on this day. If we are the kind of team that I think we will be, you will see the veterans on this team ensure that we come out of Philly with a win. If this is true, I think it carries right through to week four at home against the New York Giants. I am hoping that we don't peak too early, but I do think that the opportunity to be a hot team out of the gates is very real for this squad. After four weeks, I got us at 4-0. By the way, that Thursday Night Football tailgate on September 25th is going to be amazing.
5. Hello, reality? This is Ken...so nice to see you in week five. When the Seattle Seahawks come to visit the Redskins for a Monday Night Football affair, you can count on ESPN blowing our 4-0 start out of proportion. The town will be on fire with excitement. In his opening monologue, Jay Gruden will feature DC fans who have booked their Super Bowl trips already. The parking lot at FedEx will be electric. The anticipation of a heavyweight battle between our offense and the Seattle defense will be thick. These are the kinds of games that the Redskins have lost in the first quarter over the last handful of years. I hope that is not the case here, but I am putting us down for our first loss, and I am putting in for PTO that Tuesday already.
6. At 4-1, the Redskins travel to Arizona to face a team that was sneaky good the previous season. Again, assuming that this team is being led by the adults in the locker room, I think we will see a focus in week five that leads to a victory. In fact, mark it down--this game is going to overtime. It will be this road overtime win that propels the Redskins through the rest of their pre-bye week schedule. The Tennessee Titans will take the brunt of this euphoric wave in week seven, giving the Redskins a 6-1 record as they head to Dallas for the first of two games against their arch rivals.
7. I want so badly to predict this first Cowboys game in our favor. I want so badly to predict that we will be 7-1 at the halfway point of the season. The truth is, I just can't see it yet. On the road, on Monday Night Football in Dallas with a world full of expectations will prove to be too much to handle for our team. I hope we can keep it close, but I see visions of Tony Romo managing a late-game drive or two that will be enough to seal a Dallas victory. On the positive side, I think this game will be the real coming-out party for the NFC East in 2014. I think this game will be won by Dallas, as opposed to lost by Washington, and I think NFL fans will see this game and remember a time when the NFC East was the best division in football. This game will set the table for the home stretch of the 2014 season, and will be the main reason why the Redskins will get flexed into prime time from here on out. Look for the Redskins to rebound on the road against the Minnesota Vikings, playing their guts out ahead of a well-deserved bye week break.
8. Coming out of the bye week, the Redskins will be 7-2 and looking to start jockeying for playoff position. As a fanbase, we will be completely out of control and guys like ih8 and HogHunter will be fitted for straitjackets. Cue up an epic Redskins tumble. Hosting Tampa Bay out of the bye in week 11, we will succumb to mistakes, resulting penalties and turnovers. I can already hear the collective head-scratching of an entire city. It will be a bad loss...and it will start a three-week slide. Following what can only be termed a "letdown" against Tampa Bay, the Redskins fly across the country to take on the 49ers. This game could get ugly, and it could get ugly fast. I think the Buccaneers loss will create at least a temporarily toxic environment. It can't be solved in a week. All of a sudden, the much-anticipated--and likely flexed--matchup between Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck will be featuring a reeling 7-4 Washington team that looks like they are about to spin right off of the planet. The Redskins will benefit from being on the road in two straight weeks at this point of the season. The Washington media will be teeming with negativity and snarkiness. There will be no escaping the comparisons between this team and all the ones before it that started hot but disappeared before the end of the season. And then...we will see one of the best games of the entire season. I honestly think this game will be the turning point of the season--even though I am giving it to Indianapolis. I have Andrew Luck getting the ball last, possibly even in overtime, which is all that either team will need to go out and secure the win. I think the Redskins will look back at this game on film and see a different team than the one that lost to Tampa Bay and San Francisco. With a 7-5 record, there will be far less room for error down the stretch, but the performance against the Colts will provide a spark.
9. Ohhhhhhh, the Rams. Of all the teams to fall into the "bane of my existence" category, the Rams are the last franchise I would have expected to see there. Going back to 2006, we have only taken two of six games against this team...a team that has gone 37-90-1 in that same span. Damn...talk about a stat that sums it up for us. We can only turn our fortunes against the Rams one game at a time, and it starts in 2014 with a big win at home, guaranteeing that we avoid a losing record for a second consecutive season.
10. So the Redskins are 8-5, heading into a three-week stretch against the NFC East that will decide their postseason fate. A hot start that was doused with cold water after the bye week culminates with exactly the kind of finish you want to see, and it all starts on the road against the New York Giants. By this point of the season, the New York media will be calling for Tom Coughlin's job, and Eli Manning will be battling rumors that he is not in the Giants' plans for the 2015 season. Unfortunately, the Redskins won't be able to capitalize. I don't see us sweeping the Giants--chalk up this loss to 30 MPH winds in the Meadowlands wreaking havoc with the passing and kicking game. I see a Graham Gano kick getting pushed 20 yards wide of the goal posts by a gust of wind at the final whistle. (Quick Gano explanation: I am not going to curse Kai with my kicker nightmares.) We will have to close out the season with two strong home showings. I do see us sweeping the Eagles in 2014, and it is precisely because of DeSean Jackson's presence. I think he gives our coaching staff all the tips they need to thwart Chip Kelly in both games. And so the NFC East will once again be decided in the final week of the season against the Dallas Cowboys. The 9-6 Redskins will keep the streak alive for teams beating Dallas in the final frame to secure a playoff berth. How can I not see Alfred Morris dancing in the end zone when I think about this matchup? How can I not see a classic Romo blunder at the end of this game, sealing the result for the home team? How can I not see a dejected Jerry Jones answering yet another round of season-ending questions from the press about his ability to field a winner?
There you have it: 10-6 y'all. Was that so hard?