Forget about the Monday night opener and the return of Smootie and Brad “Whiney” Johnson. Never mind the prime-time affair six days later in Texas Stadium for the home debuts of the idiot kicker, Mike Vanderjagt and the idiot receiver, Terrell Owens. At this point, I don’t really care about the season ending clash with the Giants on the eve of New Year’s Eve. Just tell me how the Redskins will do in a stretch of five games in six weeks in October and November and I’ll tell you how the Redskins will finish the 2006 season.
It starts in Week 7 in Indianapolis with a game against the Colts. This is one that you have to put down as an “L” looking at it right now, but despite the prowess of Indy’s passing attack, I don’t think that you can underestimate the impact of the loss of Edgerrin James. After that, it’s the well-placed bye week. Certainly, the timing here is much better than last year when the well-deserved rest came after the second game of the season.
The week off gives the Redskins two weeks to prepare for the rematch with Dallas. We don’t know what state the Cowboys will be in by then. Besides the two idiots mentioned above, they have an immobile, aging quarterback, a supposed star running back who can’t stay on the field for more than half the season, an offensive line that is in the process of being rebuilt for the second straight year and a coach who hasn’t displayed an ounce of enthusiasm about the moves that Jones is making. To mix some metaphors, the team appears to be a toxic mix that could explode into a train wreck at any moment. Certainly if Dan Snyder had tried to pull together so many ill-fitting pieces he would be roundly laughed at for trying to build his own fantasy football team as he was in 2000. However, Jerry Jones is being hailed for having put together the last pieces of the championship puzzle. The main difference is that Deion Sanders was just an egotistical, arrogant hot dog while Owens is an egotistical, arrogant hot dog who is a proven team killer.
After that there are two straight road games, the first one in Philadelphia. The guess here is that with a healthy Donovan McNabb the Eagles will be better than the were last year but not the league powerhouse they were the three years prior to 2005. The Linc will be a tough place to win. Then it’s on to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, the scene of two taught, controversy-filled games between the two teams last year. It wouldn’t be surprising if the 2006 regular-season contest between the two teams was another preview of a playoff matchup.
Then on Thanksgiving weekend there will be a game at FedEx Field against the Carolina Panthers. While there probably wasn’t a good way to do it, the NFL missed the boat by not putting the Skins and Panthers in the same division and guaranteeing twice-yearly games between the two teams. Before the Panthers came along in the late 1990’s, the Redskins were the team of the Carolinas and many Carolinians remain loyal to the Burgundy and Gold while sort of rooting for the teal and black. This game also has the potential to be loaded with playoff implications.
During this stretch, the Redskins will have ample opportunity to make some statements as to whether or not they should be counted among the NFL’s elite teams. A 3-2 record or better over the meat of the schedule would be evidence that the Redskins are indeed candidates for a long playoff run. A losing record in the five games doesn’t doom them to a year of watching the playoffs on TV, but the team’s aspirations for ’06 go beyond a one and done appearance or even a two and done for that matter and a sub .500 mark against the tough teams won’t bode well for postseason success.