Column: How will things play out for the Washington Football Team this year?
Game-by-game preview for Ron Rivera’s new team
The newly-minted Washington Football Team has made it through one of the most tumultuous offseasons in the history of the franchise. After a long-overdue name change and the explosive reveal of the toxic workplace within its front office, Washington’s organization and fans will be more than happy to adjust its attention to what takes place on the field. And now the games begin.
Alongside their usual foes in the NFC East, the meat of Washington’s schedule consists of teams from the AFC North and NFC West. According to CBS Sports, Washington has the fifth-easiest schedule in the league based on last year’s standings. After three straight losing seasons, and four without a playoff appearance, are things finally looking up for Washington?
Well, no. If Washington was a good team, this would be the perfect year to try to sneak their way back into the playoff mix. But with few offseason answers to a passing offense that was abysmal last season, not much should be expected on that side of the ball.
Last year’s first-round pick quarterback Dwayne Haskins is returning for his second season, after a so-so rookie campaign. However, the team failed to supply him with any new weapons to work with. Breakout star receiver Terry McLaurin will still line up alongside Haskins, but the rest of the QB’s options are lower-caliber players than you’d see on the average NFL team. It should be noted that former starting quarterback Alex Smith is back following a gruesome knee injury two seasons ago. So if Haskins stumbles, Smith will have a chance to earn back the starting spot.
The defense was pretty bad last year, but not outright terrible, and Washington used the second pick in the NFL draft to add Chase Young to an already-elite pass rush. Washington has every reason to be excited for the future under new head coach Ron Rivera, but there is only so much you can expect from a team in the first year of its rebuild under Rivera, especially with an offense with this much uncertainty.
Week 1: VS. Philadelphia (Home)
In last year’s season opener against Philadelphia, Washington was able to jump out to an early first-half lead before falling apart in the final two frames. The Eagles have struggled with injuries in training camp, so Washington could surprise Philly. But, the Eagles are still a much better team.
Result: Loss (0-1)
Week 2: @ Arizona (Away)
It’ll be easier for Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins to test out their new connection than it will be for Washington’s rebuilt secondary to build the continuity needed to compete by week 2.
Result: Loss (0-2)
Week 3: @ Cleveland (Away)
The Browns are another team with a new coach that hopes to bounce back from a disappointing season. They have more talent than Washington but somehow have even more question marks. This will be Washington’s best chance to steal a win before the schedule gets tough.
Result: Win (1-2)
Week 4: VS. Baltimore (Home)
Washington’s defense is its strength, but shutting down Lamar Jackson and the Ravens is too much to ask.
Result: Loss (1-3)
Week 5: VS. Los Angeles Rams (Home)
The Rams have to travel across the country for an early afternoon game which could benefit Washington; however, at the end of the day, L.A. is just a better team. If Washington wants to win, they will have to figure out a way to contain defensive tackle Aaron Donald, something much better teams than Washington still haven’t figured out.
Result: Loss (1-4)
Week 6: @ New York Giants (Away)
New York is an NFC East rival that has found itself in a very similar position to Washington — both teams enter the year with a new coach and an unproven second-year quarterback. McLaurin should have a field day against New York’s secondary.
Result: Win (2-4)
Week 7: VS. Dallas (Home)
Washington is 1-7 against Dallas since the 2016 season. Expect another loss to their biggest rival. Dallas has Super Bowl aspirations, something Washington is nowhere near right now.
Result: Loss (2-5)
Week 8: Bye Week
Week 9: VS. New York Giants (Home)
Fresh off the bye week, Washington will face the Giants for the second time, who will be playing on a short week after facing the Buccaneers on Monday Night Football. Washington sweeps their NFC East rivals for the first time in nine years.
Result: Win (3-5)
Week 10: @ Detroit (Away)
Detroit’s new secondary will make things difficult for Haskins and his lack of quality receiving options.
Result: Loss (3-6)
Week 11: VS. Cincinnati (Home)
Wahington, the second-worst team of last season, faces the only team that fared worse when Cincinnati comes to town. Despite Cincinnati bringing Joe Burrow into the fold, Washington did slightly more this offseason when it comes to improving their team. Washington grabs the win.
Result: Win (4-6)
Week 12: @ Dallas (Away)
Washington simply is no match for the Cowboys’ talent. Washington gets swept by Dallas for the fourth time in five seasons.
Result: Loss (4-7)
Week 13: @ Pittsburgh (Away)
The Steelers’ stifling defense, led by Minkah Fitzpatrick and T.J. Watt, will completely shut down Washington and its subpar offense.
Result: Loss (4-8)
Week 14: @ San Francisco (Away)
The 2020 NFC champions should be every bit as explosive as they were last year on both sides of the ball. It's hard to see any other outcome: Washington will be completely overmatched by the 49ers this week.
Result: Loss (4-9)
Week 15: VS. Seattle (Home)
There are only a few teams in the league equipped to contain Russell Wilson, and Washington is certainly not one of them. There are cracks in Seattle’s defense that Washington could exploit if they magically become a competent offensive team, but it’s hard to see that happening this year.
Result: Loss (4-10)
Week 16: VS. Carolina (Home)
Ron Rivera faces his former team in the second-to-last game of the season. The Panthers lost a lot of talent this offseason from a defense that already struggled last year. In their places, Carolina opted for talented, but inexperienced players. This game is Washington’s best chance to put up a lot of points. If the defensive line can win its matchup against Carolina’s rebuilt offensive line and keep Christian McCaffrey in check, Washington will have a fighting chance.
Result: Win (5-10)
Week 17: @ Philadelphia (Away)
If the Eagles are as good as everyone expects them to be, there is a chance they will be resting their starters in preparation for the playoffs, opening the door for Washington to steal a win in their last game of the season. There’s no telling what position either of these teams will be in between now and week 17, so the win goes to Philadelphia based on sheer talent.
Result: Loss (5-11)
Final Record: 5-11 (Two-win improvement from last season.)