The Washington Times - April 18, 2013, 09:34PM

ANALYSIS/OPINION

The Washington Redskins’ 2013 schedule was announced Thursday:

SEE RELATED:


DATEOPPONENTTIMETV
Mon, Sept. 9vs. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES7:10 PMESPN
Sun, Sept. 15at Green Bay Packers1:00 PMFOX
Sun, Sept. 22vs. DETROIT LIONS1:00 PMFOX
Sun, Sept. 29at Oakland Raiders4:25 PMFOX
Sun, Oct. 6—BYE—

Sun, Oct. 13at Dallas Cowboys8:30 PMNBC
Sun, Oct. 20vs. CHICAGO BEARS1:00 PMFOX
Sun, Oct. 27at Denver Broncos4:25 PMFOX
Sun, Nov. 3vs. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS1:00 PMCBS
Thu, Nov. 7at Minnesota Vikings8:20 PMNFLN
Sun, Nov. 17at Philadelphia Eagles1:00 PM*FOX
Mon, Nov. 25vs. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS8:30 PMESPN
Sun, Dec. 1vs. NEW YORK GIANTS8:30 PMNBC
Sun, Dec. 8vs. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS1:00 PM*CBS
Sun, Dec. 15at Atlanta Falcons1:00 PM*FOX
Sun, Dec. 22vs. DALLAS COWBOYS1:00 PM*FOX
Sun, Dec. 29at New York Giants1:00 PM*FOX

*subject to Flex Scheduling

 

Here’s what I’m thinking about the schedule. We’ve known the opponents for months now, so let’s focus on the sequence of games:

The schedule features five prime-time games, the maximum the league permits for any team. It’s a form of validation for the Redskins’ growth as a program following their division title last season and their star power with QB Robert Griffin III. And, of course, the league knows fans want to see offense, so what better team to showcase in prime time than the reigning top-ranked offense in yards per play?

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The Redskins open on Monday night at home against Philadelphia, which indicates the league is convinced Griffin will be healthy and in the starting lineup. No disrespect to backup QB Kirk Cousins, but he’s not selling ads for ESPN in the first game of the Monday night doubleheader. For what it’s worth, the more I hear about Griffin’s recovery, the more I’m convinced he’ll be ready by Week 1. If there’s no setback in his rehab, I think it’s safe to bet he’ll beat the 8-month recovery time needed for Week 1.

The opening matchup against Philadelphia could be viewed two ways. Washington has an advantage playing a rookie head coach and, possibly, a new quarterback in their first NFL game. On the other hand, the Redskins won’t have any NFL film of new coach Chip Kelly’s offense with which to prepare. The mystery will make Washington’s coaches nervous leading up to the game. They’ll watch Oregon film, but in-game adjustments will be critical, as they are every week.

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If Griffin isn’t healthy and the Redskins put him on the reserve/physically-unable-to-perform list to begin the regular season, he would miss only five games because the Redskins’ bye is in Week 5. Players on the PUP list can begin practicing after the sixth regular-season weekend concludes, according to the 2012 version of the venerable NFL Record & Fact Book. For the Redskins, that includes only five games. (This doesn’t exactly seem fair to me, but that’s how I’m reading the explanation.)

This unlikely scenario would play out only if Griffin began training camp on the PUP list and still was far from being ready at the end of the preseason. That’s not what I foresee, but a setback could change everything. If that inauspicious scenario occurred, the Redskins at least could have him play 11 games instead of only 10.

***

The bye week on Oct. 6 is early in the regular season, but it’s halfway through the 22-week season that begins in late July with training camp and goes through Dec. 29. That’s a nicely-timed hiatus during which players can physically recover.

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Redskins coach Mike Shanahan likes Thursday games because the ensuing weekend off allows players to get away and refresh themselves. After a grueling short turnaround between games on Sunday, Nov. 3 and Thursday, Nov. 7, the 10 days between the next game seem like another bye week.

The Redskins will have that extra bye, so to speak, after visiting Minnesota, a playoff team last season. That layoff precedes a critical stretch of games at Philadelphia (divisional foe, road game),  against San Francisco (reigning NFC champion) and against New York (greatest challenger to the NFC East throne entering the season). It is fortuitously timed.

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Washington avoided playing in cold weather cities late in the season. The Redskins play at Green Bay on Sept. 15, when the temperature averages about 60 degrees. They’re in Denver on Oct. 27, when the temperature averages about 50. That’s probably a positive, although the Redskins beat Dallas last December for the division championship when the wind chill was below freezing.

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Injuries make wins and losses impossible to predict, especially before next week’s draft. But considering last year’s records—again, never a safe assumption—three of the Redskins’ first four games are against teams that won only four games each: Philadelphia, Detroit and Oakland.

If the Redskins struggle through that stretch, it likely would be difficult to get back into the race. However, if Griffin isn’t ready to start the season, perhaps the Redskins could stay afloat against weaker opponents with Cousins at quarterback.

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The Redskins have vowed to re-sod FedEx Field during the season to improve conditions of the playing field, and that will be necessary considering they host three games in a 14-day stretch from Nov. 25 to Dec. 8. That’s about the time the weather turns colder here and the grass stops growing.

The Redskins play two road games between Nov. 3 and 25, which seems an obvious time to re-sod the field. I wonder, though, if they’ll re-sod again after the 14-day stretch of three home games. Three games in 14 days will tear that field to shreds. Maybe it will depend on the Redskins’ playoff positioning at that time.