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Redskins 2016 Predictions: How Bad Can it Get?

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Tom guides readers through a grim vision of the Redskins' 2016 season, including week-by-week "precaps" of each game.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Your future hasn't been written yet.  No one's has.  Your future is whatever you make it.  So make it a good one.

- Dr. Emmett Brown (1985)

We're mere months removed from our beloved Washington Redskins winning an NFC East title.  Washington pulled off a dramatic reversal in the wake of two abysmal years.  Kirk Cousins had one of the better quarterback seasons in franchise history, and the team ultimately said goodbye to 2012 heroes Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris.  With general manager / savior Scot McCloughan poised to draft another bumper crop of new talent, the Redskins seem to be heading in the right direction for the first time in a long time.

But what if things don't go according to plan?

After all, the NFL is a year-to-year league.  Just ask the Cowboys.

The Redskins' 2016 schedule is particularly challenging in the second half of the season.  This year's slate also features four prime-time games plus a London game.  Thankfully, the Redskins won't face any teams that are coming off of long rest, something Washington endured four times last year.  The timing of the London game also means the bye week comes at mid-season, which is a positive.

Momentarily ignoring the absurdity of trying to make NFL predictions in April, consider this fact pattern.  Let's say that 2015 was the best Kirk Cousins will ever be.  And maybe the first-place schedule catches up to the Redskins.  And maybe Washington gets bitten by the injury bug again, and guys like Jordan Reed can't stay on the field as much as we'd like.  And maybe Matt Jones doesn't overcome his fumbling woes.  And maybe Dallas gets back on track, while New York turns the page on the Coughlin era and Philadelphia remembers what it's like to have competent leadership that doesn't compromise the roster and alienate ownership.

Then what?

I'm normally an optimist when it comes to the Skins.  But it's helpful to look at a worst-case scenario every once in a while.  And, here it is:

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Week 1: Pittsburgh Steelers (MNF, Sept.12, 7:10 PM, ESPN)

Precap: Antonio Brown waltzes his way to 12 catches for 250 yards and three touchdowns, causing a breathless Redskins secondary to wonder if Brown might be even better than Mike EvansSteelers 30, Redskins 27 (0-1)

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Week 2: Dallas Cowboys (Sept. 18, 1 PM, FOX)

Precap: The Redskins overcome a huge afternoon from old friend Alfred Morris to edge the Cowboys at home.  Fans begin to worry about whether Washington's defense can win games without getting six or seven sacks.  Redskins 28, Cowboys 24 (1-1)

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Week 3: @ New York (NFC) (Sept. 25, 1 PM, FOX)

Precap: Washington loses another shootout, with Odell Beckham, Jr. doing much of the damage.  Eli Manning and Kirk Cousins each throw for over 400 yards.  New York 34, Redskins 31 (1-2)

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Week 4: Cleveland Browns (Oct. 2, 1 PM, CBS)

Precap: Robert Griffin III gets a surprisingly warm reception from the home crowd at the outset, and a surprisingly harsh one from Junior Galette, Ryan Kerrigan, and Preston Smith, who combine to sack RG3 five times.  Meanwhile, the Browns' defense appears generally disoriented.  Redskins 29, Browns 17 (2-2)

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Week 5: @Baltimore Ravens (Oct. 9, 1 PM, FOX)

Precap: Although the 2015 Ravens finished 5-11 (their first losing record in eight years), all but two of their games were decided by eight points or less.  This one isn't.  Ravens 24, Redskins 14 (2-3)

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Week 6: Philadelphia Eagles (Oct. 16, 1 PM, FOX)

Precap: The Eagles' post-Kelly healing process is going to take a lot longer than six weeks.  Redskins 21, Eagles 13 (3-3)

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Week 7: @Detroit Lions (Oct. 23, 1 PM, FOX)

Precap: The Lions actually won six of their final eight games last year, with the two losses coming by a combined 11 points.  The bad news is that they lost their best receiver ever (or at least since Cloyce Box). Lions 24, Redskins 23 (3-4)

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Week 8: @Cincinnati Bengals (London, Oct. 30, 9:30 AM, FOX)

Precap: This will either be very cool or very annoying.  I'm just not sure how I feel about a Redskins game that takes place at 9:30 in the morning.  As it turns out, neither are the Redskins.  Bengals 20, Washington 17 (3-5)

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Week 9: BYE

Precap: You googled "Cloyce Box," didn't you?

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Week 10: Minnesota Vikings (Nov. 13, 1 PM, FOX)

Precap: The first game in a grueling, post-bye gauntlet sees the Redskins fall to the Vikings at home as Adrian Peterson punishes Washington to the tune of a 28-carry, 172-yard performance.  Cousins throws three picks in a game for the first time since September of 2014.  Jay Gruden is officially on the hot seat.  Vikings 26, Redskins 20 (3-6)

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Week 11: Green Bay Packers (SNF, Nov. 20, 8:30 PM, NBC)

Precap: The reeling Redskins get embarrassed at home on national television by the same team that beat them in the playoffs in January.  The Washington Post runs a glowing profile on Colt McCoy, cleverly entitled "The Real McCoy," only adding to the turmoil.  Packers 41, Redskins 13 (3-7)

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Week 12: @ Dallas Cowboys (TNF, Nov. 24, 4:30 PM, FOX)

Precap: Just four days later, and with Jordan Reed out with a concussion, the Redskins put up a valiant fight in Dallas on Thanksgiving, but to no avail.  Cousins loses a fumble at the Dallas five with a minute to go in the game to ice it for the Cowboys.  Alfred Morris runs for over 250 yards combined in the two meetings against his old team.  Cowboys 23, Redskins 19 (3-8)

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Week 13: @ Arizona Cardinals (Dec. 4, 4:25 PM, FOX)

Precap: Cousins is replaced after throwing his fourth interception, with speculation after the game as to whether the benching owed to the lopsided score or purely the putrid performance.  Gruden is non-committal after the game, remarking, "I don't even know if I'll be here next week, much less who our starting quarterback will be."  Cardinals 31, Redskins 7 (3-9)

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Week 14: @ Philadelphia Eagles (Dec. 11, 1 PM, FOX)

Precap: On a snowy afternoon in Philadelphia, new starter Colt McCoy plays reasonably well under the circumstances, but three Matt Jones fumbles kill the Redskins' chances as the Washington losing streak grows to seven.  The Redskins are officially eliminated from playoff contention.  Eagles 16, Redskins 14 (3-10)

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Week 15: Carolina Panthers (MNF, Dec. 19, 8:30 PM, ESPN)

Precap: Cam Newton torments the Redskins, throwing for two touchdowns and scoring two more.  After the second of his scores, Newton debuts his new end-zone celebration, the "morning constitutional," the criticism of which mercifully deflects much of the post-game attention away from the Redskins' abysmal play.  Cousins is quietly reinstated as starting quarterback.  Panthers 42, Redskins 20 (3-11)

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Week 16: @ Chicago Bears (Saturday Dec. 24, 1 PM, FOX)

Precap: Following another short week, the Redskins spend Christmas Eve in Chicago.  Dustin Hopkins misses a 42-yarder as time expires in what will be his only miss from inside 50 yards all season.  Jay Gruden is informed after the game that he will not be retained as head coach, although that information is not confirmed publicly.  Bears 19, Redskins 17 (3-12)

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Week 17: New York (NFC) (Jan. 1, 1 PM, FOX)

Precap: Washington rallies for an emotional, final win as Cousins throws for a pair of fourth-quarter scores, one each to DeSean Jackson and Vernon Davis (his only touchdown of the season).  The following day, Gruden's departure is made official.  Meanwhile, for the fifth time this season, the New York Post runs a front-page story with a headline that includes the word "McAdon't."  Redskins 24, New York 20 (4-12)

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If the harrowing account I've just shared unnerves you, fear not.  The nature of worst-case scenarios is that they aren't likely.  The Redskins are facing a tougher overall schedule, but they're still probably more like a .500 team.  Perhaps even a little better.  And we can't ignore the undeniable fact that Scot McCloughan is some kind of sorcerer.  That helps!  I think that Cousins' and Gruden's jobs are both reasonably secure.

However . . . if Washington can't get off to a good start against the soft part of its schedule, and a few breaks go against them, and a couple of key guys get hurt, this dystopian vision could come to pass as the Redskins slide back down into the all-too-familiar abyss of football misery.

See you in September!