The Redskins were a good, not great, team in 2012. Will they make the leap and become one of the league’s powerhouse teams this year?
They have some of the pieces in place to do so. Assuming Robert Griffin III is healthy—an assumption that requires modest a leap of faith—the Redskins are in great shape at the most important position on the field. The presence of Pierre Garçon and Alfred Morris gives the team the potential to have a potent trio of offensive contributors.
The defense is good against the run, the pass rush should be improved with the return of Brian Orakpo and the secondary should gel as the season goes on.
They won 10 games last year so to show tangible improvement they need at least 11, possibly 12. Let’s take a look at their chances of doing that by dividing the schedule into three parts.
Games they should win (6): Eagles, Lions, @ Raiders, Chargers, @ Eagles, Chiefs
All of these teams except the Chargers posted double-digit loss totals last year and all of them but the Lions have new head coaches. These are the games that the Redskins have lost all too often in the past 20 years or so. Last year two of the Redskins six losses were to teams with losing records, the 7-8-1 Rams and the 7-9 Panthers. If they have shaken that tendency to play down to the level of their competition, they should win five of these six games.
Games they should lose (4): @ Packers, @ Broncos, 49ers, @ Falcons
What do these teams have in common besides being on everyone’s short list of Super Bowl contenders? They all have top shelf quarterbacks. Looking at it right now, the Redskins are likely to be substantial underdogs in all four games. They will be statement games. If they can split these games they will be in good shape, winning three or four of them could indicate a team that is ready to earn a bye and make a deep playoff run.
Tossups (6): @ Cowboys, Bears, @ Vikings, Giants, Cowboys, @ Giants
It’s easy to say that the Redskins were 5-1 in the division last year so they should be again this year. However, predicting who’s up and down in the NFC East from year to year has been a hazardous business. Redskins sweeps of the Cowboys are rare and for all of their problems predicting Washington to again beat Dallas twice is problematic. Outside of the division I think the Redskins are better than both the Bears and the Vikings but both are good enough to pull off the upset. By definition a team should split its tossup games but if the Redskins do they will be right back where they were last year, perhaps worse in terms of record.
Let’s look at the best- and worst-case scenarios here. At the low end, they win four of the six games where they should be strong favorites, pull just one big upset and split the tossups. That comes to an 8-8 record.
The best case is probably five out of six of the “easy” games, splitting the tough ones, and taking four of the tossups. That adds up to an 11-5 record.
Will that be good enough for them to win the NFC East? Again, the division is so up and down that it’s hard to say. But 11 wins has been enough to at least tie for the top spot in the division in each of the last four years.
I think they’re good enough to hit on the best-case scenario. It says here they go 11-5 and lose in the NFC title game. Then it’s back to take the final leap in 2014.