Wednesday, January 26, 2010 8:00 AM
By Rich Tandler
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While the NFL schedule will not come out until sometime in April, each teams 2011 opponents are known as are the stadiums where the games will be played. Over the next week, we will take a look at the Redskins opponents next year, a look at the history of the series, and a quick assessment of the Redskins chances. We started last week with the four teams in the AFC East and on Monday we looked at the NFC West. Today we have the Panthers and Lions and later this week well wrap it up with the Redskins division foes. Overview Every year, each NFL team plays the three teams in its division twice each, one game against each team in one division in its own conference (the NFC West for the Redskins in 2011), and one game each against a division in the other conference (AFC East). That makes 14 games. For the other two games, you play the teams in the two divisions in your conference that finished in the same place as you did. So, for the Redskins in 2011, who finished in fourth place in the NFC East that means the Vikings of the NFC North and the Panthers of the NFC South. The sites for the games rotate and the draw this year has the North team, Minnesota, coming to the East team and the Redskins will travel south to play the Panthers. vs. Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium The Redskins have a 7-2 lead in the series with the Panthers although Carolina has won two of the last three. They last met in Week 5 of 2009 in Carolina and the game was a typical of the slow-motion train wreck that was the Redskins 09 season. Two takeaways set up touchdowns as the Redskins took a 17-2 lead in the third quarter. But the lead evaporated with a turnover on a punt being the key play and the Redskins fell behind 20-17. Washington had one last chance to gain possession but old, slow Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme got around the defense for a key first down to allow Carolina to run out the clock. This is one of five games the Redskins will play against rookie head coaches, counting Leslie Frazier of the Vikings and Jason Garrett of the Cowboys, who finished up their respective teams seasons. Ron Rivera has been high on many teams lists of head coaching candidates for the past several years and he now has his opportunity with the Panthers. Carolina earned the top pick in the draft by going 2-14 in 2010. They would have taken Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck but he decided to stay in school for another year. It seems likely that they will go in another direction with that pick and see what they have in second-year quarterback Jimmy Clausen. They took him in the second round last year and he had an up and down rookie season. Truth be told it was mostly down as in 10 starts he completed 52.5 percent of his passes and threw for three touchdowns with nine interceptions. Clausen was one of 13 players in their first, second, or third years to start at least half of the Panthers games last year. A rebuilding program already was underway under lame duck coach John Fox. It should continue in 2011. You never know what games will be soft spots on your schedule but looking at it right now, this should be one for the Redskins. Minnesota Vikings at FedEx Field The Vikings also have a rookie head coach in Leslie Frazier although he did get a head start by going 3-3 as the interim coach of the team. One of the wins was a 17-13 win over the Redskins at FedEx Field in Fraziers coaching debut. The clinching play in that game was a bootleg run by Bret Favre for a first down that allowed the Vikings to run out the clock in their 17-13 win. Favre has filed his retirement papers and while we know that nothing is permanent when it comes to him, it appears that the Vikings are ready to move on without him. In fact, they may have to move on without several key players. Linebacker Chad Greenway, wide receiver Sidney Rice, quarterback Tavaris Jackson, who was the QB of the future before Favre was signed, and defensive lineman Pat Williams, half of the Williams Wall, are among the Vikings who will be unrestricted free agents this year. The Redskins and Vikings have played 20 times, including five meetings in the playoffs. The Vikings won the first two of those as Bud Grant and the Purple People Eaters ended the seasons of George Allens teams in 1973 and 1976. The Redskins have won the last three postseason meetings including wins after the 1982 and 1987 seasons on the way to Super Bowl titles. You can reach Rich Tandler by email at RTandlerCSN@comcast.net and follow him on Twitter @RealRedskins. Rich also writes about the Skins at www.RealRedskins.com.