Quarterback Robert Griffin III debuts in his family’s hometown. Coach Mike Shanahan can finally unleash whatever new wrinkles he has added to his offense with Griffin on the team. The Saints will be led by interim-interim head coach Aaron Kromer in the wake of their bounty scandal.
The Redskins can thank St. Louis brass in person for the blockbuster trade that enabled them to move up in the draft to select Griffin. The Rams (2-14), one of three teams in the conference with a worse record than Washington in 2011, are now coached by longtime Shanahan friend Jeff Fisher.
Griffin debuts at home against a team that made the playoffs in 2011 with a rookie quarterback — Andy Dalton, a second-rounder out of Texas Christian. The Bengals provided a model for success the Redskins could benefit from: the seventh-ranked defense and a serviceable running game.
Another game against a team with fewer wins than the Redskins had last season qualifies as a must-win. The Bucs have a new coach in Greg Schiano, formerly of Rutgers. Schiano replaced Raheem Morris, who now coaches the Redskins’ defensive backs. Morris‘ knowledge of Tampa Bay’s personnel should help.
The Falcons also recently established a blueprint for making the playoffs with a rookie quarterback. Matt Ryan, the third-overall pick in 2008, relied on a running game that ranked second in the NFL that season with 152.7 yards per game. Roddy White and Julio Jones could be the NFL’s best receiving tandem this year.
The Vikings won only three games last season, but one of them was over Washington on Christmas Eve. Running back Adrian Peterson tore left knee ligaments in that game. The Redskins must have a winning record after this one because the schedule becomes much more difficult.
The Redskins, oddly, don’t play an NFC East opponent until Week 7, and this is their only divisional game in the first nine. Griffin will encounter Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who defiantly calls him “Bob Griffin” instead of “RG3.”
The Redskins’ 3-4 defensive scheme spawned from the system Pittsburgh has used for years, so it will be interesting to see how they mirror each other, as well as how each team’s offense attacks the other. Washington has lost four straight to Pittsburgh, including its only trip to Heinz Field, 16-7, in 2004.
Sun., Nov. 4 vs. Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m., Fox
The last two Heisman Trophy winners meet in Washington’s final game before the bye week. Cam Newton showed the Redskins how dangerous a dual-threat quarterback can be in the Panthers’ 33-20 victory in Charlotte last October. Newton accounted for 315 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns.
The Redskins’ back-loaded schedule includes divisional opponents in five of the final seven games. Philadelphia has won three straight against the Redskins dating to Donovan McNabb’s return to Philly in 2010. That includes a 20-13 loss at FedEx Field coming out of last year’s bye.
Thurs., Nov. 22 at Dallas Cowboys, 4:15 p.m., Fox
Griffin takes the national stage during this Thanksgiving Day game. The Redskins have lost all six they’ve ever played against Dallas on Thanksgiving. Washington also has not won in three tries at Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys have won six of the last seven in this series.
Mon., Dec. 3 vs. New York Giants, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
The Redskins have lost their last five games on Monday night as part of a 2-10 run since 2000. They swept the Super Bowl champions last year, though, in two lopsided games. The Redskins like how their receivers match up with New York’s cornerbacks.
This media-driven “rivalry” does not carry over the locker room. These teams play in the regular season only once every four years, so for players it pales in comparison to divisional games. The Ravens, AFC finalists twice in the last four years, were a dropped pass from last year’s Super Bowl.
Sun., Dec. 16 at Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m., Fox
The average high temperature for Cleveland on Dec. 16 is 34 degrees, so weather could be a major factor in this one. The Browns intend to begin the season with rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, whom they settled for after their attempt to trade up to draft Griffin failed.
How hot will Eagles coach Andy Reid’s seat be when the Redskins make this trip? A year after a free-agency spending spree resulted in an 8-8 season, Reid is facing an ultimatum to at least make the playoffs. Receiver DeSean Jackson has six touchdowns in eight career games against Washington.
The Redskins lost twice to Dallas last season by a total of five points. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall was in coverage on two critical third-and-long conversions that positioned Dallas for game-winning field goals. Washington last swept Dallas in 2005. It was the first time since 1995 and only the second since 1988.
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