WASHINGTON — The NFL released its 2017 schedule on Thursday night and the Redskins will host a Thanksgiving Day game for the first time in franchise history as part of their 16-game, 17-week slate.
Washington has played 10 Thanksgiving Day games before, all of them on the road at Dallas or at Detroit, including a 31-26 loss to the Cowboys last year.
The schedule is chock full of interesting reunions and intriguing opponents and there are five national television games on either Sunday, Monday or Thursday night football. Here’s a full breakdown and analysis:
Sept. 10 – PHILADELPHIA (1 p.m., FOX)
The Redskins host the opener on Sunday afternoon at FedEx Field against the rival Eagles. These are always big games early in the season to set the tone inside the NFC East. Washington has won five consecutive games against Philadelphia. But the Eagles helped quarterback Carson Wentz by adding weapons on offense (WR Alshon Jeffery). Could be a ton of points put up in this game.
Sept. 17 – at Los Angeles Rams (4:25 p.m., FOX)
An old friend makes an appearance on the schedule. Well – old is a poor choice of words there. Sean McVay is still just 31, after all, and was Washington’s offensive coordinator the past two seasons and on staff since 2010. But he so impressed the Rams this January that they overlooked all that and made him one of the youngest head coaches in NFL history. No one who knows McVay is surprised he’s running his own team. He was always going to interview well. The problem? The Rams aren’t good. Not yet. McVay can lean on an experienced defensive coordinator in Wade Phillips and Los Angeles brought in a veteran offensive lineman (Andrew Whitworth) to protect second-year quarterback Jared Goff. Former Redskins assistant coaches Matt LaFleur (offensive coordinator), Joe Barry (assistant head coach/linebackers), Aubrey Pleasant (cornerbacks) and Shane Waldron (tight ends) are also on McVay’s staff. This is a road game the Redskins probably need to win.
Sept. 24 – OAKLAND (8:30 p.m., NBC)
The Redskins get to host a prime-time game on NBC against the Raiders. Oakland hasn’t played a game in Washington since 2005 due to a quirk in the schedule. The Redskins played in the Bay Area in both 2009 and 2013. The Raiders were a surprise playoff team in 2016-17. They are moving to Las Vegas in a few years so this is the last time they will represent Oakland in Washington. The two teams met in the Super Bowl in 1984. That…didn’t go so well for the Redskins in a 38-9 loss to the Raiders, who were then based in…Los Angeles. This is all so confusing. The first of four AFC West opponents on the schedule.
Oct. 2 – at Kansas City (8:30 p.m., ESPN)
The flip side to the Raiders visiting Washington for the first time since 2005 is that the Redskins haven’t played at Arrowhead Stadium since 2005, either. For some reason during the last NFC East-AFC West scheduling cycle those teams stayed put in 2009 and 2013 (road games in Oakland, home games vs. Kansas City). If you were at the last Chiefs game in Washington you are a glutton for punishment. It snowed and sleeted the entire game in an unspeakably ugly 45-10 loss before hundreds of fans who for some reason stayed through the second half. This is a tough one. Kansas City is rolling now under Andy Reid. The Chiefs won the AFC West last year and were a wild card in 2015. They haven’t made it to the AFC title game yet, but they are a contender and are 18-6 at home over the past three seasons. Hard to see Washington winning this one at Arrowhead. Oh – and it’s on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.
Oct. 8 – BYE
Can’t lose this one. It’s the law. Comes a bit earlier than coaches normally like, but a quarter of the season will be down and the Redskins get some time to heal any injuries from the first month. Better than flying home from London and heading into the bye like last season.
Oct. 15 – SAN FRANCISCO (1 p.m., FOX)
Kyle Shanahan is back, too! Sensing a theme to this season. There’s a lot of references in this schedule to the Shanahan era, which began with high expectations in 2010 and skidded into a ditch by 2013 as Kyle and his dad, Mike, appeared desperate to get fired by owner Dan Snyder. He obliged. Eventually. The leaks coming out of Redskins Park from all sides at the end of that season were remarkable. Every Sunday morning there was another explosive report. Anyway – Shanahan skipped town for Cleveland and then built a powerhouse offense in Atlanta. Now, he’s in charge in San Francisco. Provided he doesn’t sign a long-term extension with the Redskins this summer, the Kirk Cousins’ storyline alone will be fantastic. Shanahan, his former offensive coordinator, a man who openly stumped for Cousins to be drafted and to play over Robert Griffin III, could lure his former quarterback to San Francisco next March as a free agent. Maybe. For now, the 49ers were 2-14 last season. They stink. The Redskins have to win this game at home. It also marks the return of former Washington wide receiver Pierre Garcon, who signed with San Francisco as a free agent after five years as a reliable presence on the field and a dispenser of pizza off it in Washington.
Oct. 23 – at Philadelphia (8:30 p.m., ESPN)
The NFC East is so tight. The Eagles were a last place team in 2016, but went 7-9 and were in games against Dallas, New York and, especially, Washington. They have a possible Pro Bowler at quarterback and gave him help this offseason. There are still issues in the secondary, but after a full season under coach Doug Pederson you can imagine Philadelphia making a leap forward. Maybe this won’t be a playoff team. But you get the feeling it will be in the hunt most of the year. This is also another Monday Night Football game. The Redskins have plenty of spotlight games this season. This is one of the best.
Oct. 29 – DALLAS (4:25 p.m., FOX)
We figured the Cowboys could shake off a 4-12 season in 2015 and contend for a playoff spot last year. Everyone just thought it would be with Tony Romo at quarterback. His time has passed. This is Dak Prescott’s team now, which was unthinkable as recently as August. Add in star running back Ezekiel Elliott and a powerhouse offensive line with playmakers at wide receiver and you have a team built to win now. Dallas will be the NFC East favorite after a 13-3 season – even if it blew a playoff game against Green Bay in the NFC divisional round. The Cowboys will be good again, but that defense still looks like it can be exploited some. After losing both games to Dallas last year and getting dethroned as NFC East champs, this will be a measuring-stick contest for the Redskins.
Nov. 5 – at Seattle (4:05 p.m., FOX)
The friendly confines of CenturyLink Field haven’t been too kind to the old Redskins over the years. The place opened in 2004. Washington lost playoff games in Seattle in 2005 and 2007. But they did somehow win there in 2011 somehow during a 5-11 season. The baby Seahawks then were still a year away from the playoffs and two years from making back-to-back Super Bowl appearances and winning their first title in 2013-14. It’s one of the great home-field advantages in sports. Seattle hasn’t missed the playoffs since that 2011 season. And following that 23-17 loss to the Redskins on Nov. 27, 2011? The Seahawks are 41-7 at home, including five playoff wins. Maybe they aren’t what they used to be, but expecting Washington to win here is a stretch.
Nov. 12 – MINNESOTA (1 p.m., FOX)
The Vikings’ season changed last year with the gruesome injury to quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in the preseason. The hung around at 8-8 and just missed the playoffs. There’s still talent here. Minnesota was 11-5 in 2015, after all, and won the NFC North. The Vikings could rebound as they move on from the Adrian Peterson era. The talent level feels about equal between these two teams all in all. But it also has the feel of a game the Redskins can and should win. It’s at home. These are the swing games that can define a season.
Nov. 19 – At New Orleans (1 p.m., FOX)
The Saints were feisty in 2016 and managed to go 7-9 and stay in the playoff race until late into December. Drew Brees still does Drew Brees things. It’s a road game in a tough dome environment. But New Orleans has gone 7-9 three years in a row and the last time they saw the Redskins they were demolished at FedEx Field 47-14 in one of the best games of coach Jay Gruden’s tenure so far. Kirk Cousins threw four touchdowns that day and had a perfect passer rating (158.3). Things probably won’t be that easy this time around, but if you’re contemplating the playoffs this is a road game Washington will need to win.
Nov. 23 – NEW YORK GIANTS (8:30 p.m., NBC)
The first Thanksgiving Day game ever at FedEx Field. The NFL added these night games in 2006 to bring more teams to the holiday party. It’s not ideal for stadium workers, staff, media, players, coaches and whoever else has to trek to Landover in the late afternoon to get ready. But it’s a primetime game on NBC and everyone in the league will be watching. These games are fun. That it’s against an NFC East rival at home makes it even better. The Redskins won’t forget New York ruined their playoff hopes at FedEx Field last Jan. 1 in a 19-10 loss. Every division game is critical. The Giants went 11-5 last season and still finished second to the 13-3 Cowboys.
Nov. 30 – At Dallas (8:25 p.m., NBC/NFL NETWORK)
The Redskins get another Thursday night game against the defending NFC East champs, but it will come the week after Thanksgiving this time. Back-to-back games against the Giants and Cowboys will go a long way toward determining their postseason hopes. Washington has lost three of its last four meetings with Dallas and those losses have been by a combined 12 points. The defense just couldn’t hang last year at AT&T Stadium – aka Jerry World – as it allowed touchdown drives on the first two possessions before solidifying in a 31-26 loss. The Thursday-to-Thursday transition is probably a good thing for player health and provides a mini bye late in the season.
Dec. 10 – at Los Angeles Chargers (4:05 p.m., CBS)
Two games in L.A. in one season? Winner, winner! The Redskins play the former San Diego Chargers in cozy StubHub Center, a soccer venue built to house the Los Angeles Galaxy of MLS. They will spend two years there at a 27,164-seat stadium instead of sharing the Los Angeles Coliseum with the Rams and Southern Cal. Then both teams will move into a gleaming new palace in Inglewood, Calif. It’s hard to figure out this new version of the L.A Chargers. Phillip Rivers is still the quarterback. But new head coach Anthony Lynn needs his front office to stockpile more young talent. Recent drafts are promising. But consecutive losing seasons and a three-year playoff drought leave doubters. It will be fascinating to see the crowds that pile into the Chargers’ temporary home. San Diego fans feel betrayed and loathe their larger neighbor to the north. But will local fans, who were without football for 22 years, gravitate to the Chargers? The Rams played here for 50 years and returned to the city last season. Who, exactly, is rooting for the Chargers here? This is absolutely one road game the Redskins should win.
Dec. 17 – ARIZONA (1 p.m., FOX)
These two teams have become familiar with each other in recent years. This is their third meeting in four years. The Redskins have lost twice to the Cardinals in Arizona in reasonably competitive games. Last year’s 31-23 defeat was frustrating. It came during a playoff push where Washington sputtered to a 2-4 finish. The Redskins weren’t blown out in any of those losses. They weren’t good enough to win, either. The Cardinals have plenty to prove this season. A team picked to go deep into the postseason missed the playoffs entirely at 7-8-1. The year before Arizona was 13-3 and played in the NFC title game. Fortunes swing quickly in the NFL. The Cardinals hope it’s just a one-year dip. They won 11 games in 2014 and made the playoffs and won 10 in 2013 and just missed. The Redskins signed safety D.J. Swearinger away from Arizona in March. It’s a tough home game. If Washington is in the playoff hunt at the end of the season, owning a tiebreaker over the Cardinals will likely matter.
Dec. 24 – DENVER (1 p.m., CBS)
From the penthouse to the – well, outhouse is too strong. The Broncos won a Super Bowl in 2015-16 and dropped back to the pack in 2016-17 at 9-7. They weren’t bad at all. But injuries and personnel losses on defense proved costly and Denver’s quarterback play never truly came around. Add in a resurgent Raiders team and the Broncos fell out of the playoff picture. You can probably expect a rebound and this is the second-to-last game of the season so if the Redskins need a late push to make the postseason, it won’t be easy given their closing stretch. This is Washington’s second straight season playing on Christmas Eve.
Dec. 31 – At New York Giants (1 p.m., FOX)
The Redskins have this “playing games on or near holidays” thing down pat. Two years in a row on Thanksgiving. Two years in a row on Christmas Eve. Last year on New Year’s Day against these same Giants. This time it’s a road game so if things go south, players and media can swing over to Times Square to watch the ball drop before returning home for breakdown day on Monday. Washington wants no part of that, of course. It seeks a second playoff berth in three years and a third straight winning season. This game could decide all of that. Or it could be like the 2013 regular-season finale at Met Life Stadium where both teams were already eliminated from the playoff race, it sleeted the entire time on a half-empty stadium and time ran out on the Mike Shanahan era. Those were the days!
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