By Mark Pierce
Tuesday evening was huge in the eyes of football fans as the league office officially announced the 2012 NFL schedule. The affair was resplendent with media coverage, highlighted in part by a three hour NFL Network special devoted to team by team in- depth analysis of each contest.
If you have followed this story at all, you know that the league revealed some information concerning the schedule last week, however specific dates and times were not disclosed until yesterday. NFC East teams will face their counterparts from the NFC South in 2012, hence, the burgundy and gold will be taking on Tampa Bay, Carolina, Atlanta, and in week one, on September 9 at the Superdome, the New Orleans Saints.
There are almost too many tantalizing sub-plots in this matchup– RGIII’s first game as a pro. Away. Hostile crowd. No Payton there to shepherd the flock, or even Vitt. A suddenly vulnerable looking Brees, unhappy concerning his lack of a long term deal. What will young master Jedi Kyle draw up? Is he to be haunted by the ghost of Greg Williams past? Or will this be his coming out? Proof positive that breeding will tell?
Nothing like throwing the kid right into the fire, but week two brings another away game for RGIII and the home team, in another dome, on September 16, at Saint Louis. 2012 will be the fifth consecutive year the Redskins wrangle with the Rams, the result of consecutive last place finishes by both teams. Fisher and Shanahan are friends. The Rams dealt the Skins the second pick in this year’s draft, a move met with derision on the part of left-at-the-altar Cleveland GM Mike Holmgren. In an interview, Holmgren raised the specter of backroom deals and collusion on the part of the Redskins and Rams. The mighty river of the NFL has been allowed to roll on toward the draft however, unimpeded by Mr. Holmgren’s concerns.
Week three takes place on September 23, versus one of last season’s surprises, the Cincinnati Bengals. The game is the home opener for the Redskins. The Bengals took major steps toward respectability last year with first year quarter back Andy Dalton, going 9-7 and earning a playoff berth. They’ll be looking to knock off a Redskins team that has playoff dreams of their own with RGIII at the controls.
The sub-plots continue in week four, as the Skins face Tampa Bay in another away contest. Redskins secondary coach Raheem Morris will face the squad he coached for the past three seasons in a game that features NFL iron men London Fletcher and Ronde Barber. Each player (if healthy) will enter this game with 224 consecutive games played on their stat sheets.
Washington is back home at FedEx for week five on October 7th, against the always dangerous Atlanta Falcons. The birds went 10-6 last year, losing to the surging G-men in the playoffs. This is a game that had better be circled in red on the calendar by the remade and somewhat suspect redskins secondary, as the Falcons were seventh in the league in scoring last year. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones will be looking to light up the Redskins deep.
The first back to back home game of the season will occur at FedEx field on October 14th, with the Minnesota Vikings coming to town. The angry norsemen will have taking their third straight contest from the Skins on their minds. Last season they got it done convincingly with a host of second stringers and Joe Webb at the controls. This looks like a very winnable game for the Redskins at the outset, but then again, so did last year’s contest.
The Redskins put on their sailing shoes when they travel to New York for what promises to be a week seven fall classic. In his excellent analysis at the Washington Post, Mike Jones pointed out that Redskins/Giants is the longest standing ongoing rivalry in the NFL. The Skins had the G-men’s number last season, beating them convincingly twice. That is a fact that Jason Pierre-Paul and company are no doubt sick to death of hearing about.
The midpoint of the season will see the Redskins staying on the road in a game at Pittsburgh. This will be the first regular season meeting between the two teams since 2008. Although the Steelers have endured some off-season controversy, they will likely have this game pencilled in as a W. Interestingly, the Redskins lead the series between the two teams, 42-31-3, although this statistic dates back to when Pittsburgh was called the Pirates.
Week nine of the NFL season will feature a matchup that will no doubt be billed as a tussle between the previous two Heisman Trophy winners. Cam Newton, Steve Smith and friends torched the skins last season in Charlotte, however this time the Redskins will face them in the friendly confines of FedEx, and if God really does have unlimited mercy, RGIII will be running the show for Washington.
Week ten of the NFL season, which takes place on November 11, is the bye week for Washington.
The Redskins have been awful after bye week under Shanahan, losing the game after the bye in both years of his leadership. Futher, they have lost three straight at home against this week’s opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles. A great deal of attention will be focused on this game, as it will likely feature the inaugural matchup between Vick and RGII. A case of fighting fire with fire? We’ll see.
Week twelve is evidence that the Redskins are garnering increased media attention this year, as Washington will face Dallas in the Thanksgiving day late afternoon game. When the turkey is in the tummy and the leftovers are conveniently arrayed for easy access, skins fans will be hoping this game serves both as a second dessert and a gobble-call to other teams signaling the overdue return to prominence of their beloved burgundy and gold.
The Redskins face the Giants at home in Week thirteen. Late season home games should be all about the playoffs. This should be a matchup with all kinds of implications. I’m personally looking forward to seeing Eli Manning forming the jiggling middle of an Orakpo and Kerrigan sandwich. Oh, and one more of those pick sixes like Kerrigan pulled off in the last matchup, please.
December 9th. The date of your office Christmas party? Well, maybe, but it’s also week fourteen. This week will bring our beltway rivals the Baltimore Ravens to town. The two teams have played only four times in the regular season, with Baltimore holding the series advantage 3-1. Terrell Suggs and company may be licking their chops in anticipation of going up against a Redskins offensive line that is an unknown quantity at this point.
December 16 brings what will hopefully turn out to be an early Christmas present for coach Shanahan and the boys, as they travel to Cleveland (brrr…) for a tour of the dog pound. It’s not known who Holmgren will eventually draft this year, but you can bet he’ll be thinking about Fisher and Shanahan when he does it.
Two more regular season contests remain, first away at Philadelphia on December 23, where the Redskins look to improve their fortunes at Lincoln Field, followed by the regular season-ender on New Year’s eve-eve, which is bound to be a home thriller against the Cowboys. Don’t you love the photo of Romo going down?