Welcome to Redskins.com’s Writers Roundtable, in which Larry Weisman, Matt Terl and Gary Fitzgerald discuss and debate a Redskins question each week.
Question: What's your first impression of the Redskins' 2011 schedule? Do you dare make a prediction of the Redskins' final record?
GARY: My first thought upon seeing the schedule was that it looked like 2005 all over again. The similarities are striking.
That year, the Redskins opened against the Chicago Bears at FedExField on Sept. 11; this year they host the New York Giants on Sept. 11. In 2005, they played the Dallas Cowboys in a Week 2 game on Monday Night Football; this year they play the Cowboys in a Week 3 game on Monday Night Football. And both years the Redskins close out the season in Philadelphia on New Year's Day.
Recall that 2005 was Joe Gibbs' second year back as Redskins head coach. This year it's Mike Shanahan's second year as Redskins head coach.
Are you feeling what I’m feeling?
I see a 10-6 record and a playoff run in the Redskins' 2011 future! (I know, I know, we don’t even know who our quarterback is yet. But allow me to daydream a bit, please. The 2005 season was easily the most fun in the last decade.)
LARRY: I don’t much buy into the strength of schedule argument. I go with the ‘it’s not who you play, it’s when you play them.’
Look at last year. Gimmes were supposed to be St. Louis and Tampa Bay. The Rams wound up almost winning their division (weak as it was) and the Bucs just missed the playoffs at 10-6. The Redskins played the Texans when they were the hot team early but they faded and missed the playoffs.
My concern is division games. The Redskins won two of those. Absent a free-agent signing period, I still see the Redskins trailing the rest of the NFC East. I don’t see how the record improves from last year right now.
MATT: You know what I like about this schedule? Twelve out of the 16 games start at 1 p.m. I know that we’re supposed to revel in the national exposure that primetime games bring and blah blah blah, but there are a few reasons I prefer to see a whole bunch of 1:00 kickoffs on the schedule.
First, routine. One of the things that’s been impressed on me during my three years in the NFL is how important it is for things to be predicatable. Players, coaches, equipment guys, trainers, catering staff ... the more consistently things are run, the easier it is for all of those guys to do their jobs.
Second, recent history. The Redskins have been abysmal during night games over the last decade-plus, and –- despite the brief promise of last-year’s season-opening win over the Cowboys –- there’s no sign that that’s changed yet. Fewer night games equals fewer chances to replicate last year’s Eagles game or 2009’s Giants game.
Third is the feel (for lack of a better word) of day games. The carnival atmosphere of nationally televised games is terrific and all, but as a fan, there’s something about settling into my seats at 1 p.m. on a Sunday after a few hours of tailgating that just FEELS like football. I’ve often said that the season doesn’t feel like it’s really started until the first 1 p.m. kickoff; by that standard, this year should feel an awful lot like a “regular” football season.
(Because I’ve said all of this, you can lock in at least one game being flexed to Sunday night. Lock it in.)
GARY: I’m a little disappointed there’s only one prime time game on the schedule, actually. I like the excitement of national televised games and the attention it brings to the franchise. Of course, a 59-28 result is a major letdown, so maybe it’s for the best. The Redskins have to get over that hump at some point, though.
Prime time aside, you have to be intrigued about the road trip to Toronto to play the Buffalo Bills in Week 8. First-ever Redskins regular season game on international soil –- get your passport ready!
I’m content with the bye coming in Week 5, by the way. It follows consecutive road trips and gives the Redskins two weeks to prepare for the NFC East champion Eagles.
As for the strength of schedule, it’s the last six games –- at Seattle, New York Jets, New England, at New York Giants, Minnesota and at Philadelphia –- that worry me. Four of those teams made the playoffs a year ago, plus the Giants finished 10-6 and the Vikings are still loaded with talent despite a poor 2010 season.
10-6? Okay, I’ll downgrade it to 8-8 until we get a clearer picture of the Redskins’ roster. So much for my daydream.
MATT: I’ve never been to Toronto, but we seem to go to Detroit every year. I imagine it’s sort of similar.
The road trips are actually another thing I’m liking about the 2011 slate: only two multi-game road swings, with one of them (as Gary points out) preceding the bye and the other including the almost-not-really-a-road-trip to Carolina.
As you all keep saying, predicting these things is kind of pointless at this juncture, but I’m finding more things to like about this schedule than to dislike.
LARRY: Our friends at ESPN say the Redskins’ schedule ranks 27th in difficulty (here I go, making a U-turn) because of the games against the NFC West teams, which have played poorly outside (and inside) the division. More of this comes down to how good you are than whom you line up against.
Every team in the NFC East knows who will line up at quarterback but the Redskins don’t. Until that issue is settled, I cannot be your little beam of sunshine.
MATT: You’ll always be our little beam of sunshine, Larry, no matter what you say.