Everybody gets better in the off-season. Everybody.
At least in the minds of most football fans, their accompanying media, and most likely the coaches and personnel department: “We’re better this year, right? If we can just stay healthy!”
Unless you lose an iconic franchise QB, who ever thinks their NFL team just got WORSE after signing Players A, B, and C in free agency, and drafting players X, Y, and Z for depth and the future?
Everybody that was hurt, has now healed. Hope always springs eternal in August, right?
Reality says, however, some teams DO get worse. They may not know it, but they are. Either some players they let go were more important than they thought. Or the players they re-signed now put forth dramatically less effort once paid.
Draft picks end up as busts.
Then there’s the breaks, the injuries… and the schedule.
Which is the only real reason I am going to predict my beloved Redskins to finish 8-8, and miss the playoffs.
(Wait, WHAT! You just tried to sneak that blashphemy in NOW, almost 150 words into this post! You heretic! You suck!)
So okay, here we go.
For starters, I have no major gripes about the off-season Scot McLoughan just directed as our GM. The big splurge purchase was Josh Norman, and I signed off on that one completely. I may come to regret it, if a pedestrian front-7 push proves Norman to be ordinary, and not a field-tilter.
The draft was fine, and there’s no need to nit pick it.
When I look for the Redskins’ weak points, they are easy to spot. The D-line looks very pedestrian, and there doesn’t seem to be any reliable running backs on the roster.
I love Kirk with a full off-season of prep and no drama surrounding him this year, and I love the weapons. Love, love, love. But this team has the feeling of being like the Saints: either outscore everybody 35-31 or lose a lot of games.
Now, let’s talk about the schedule. Last year, was a once-in-a-decade convergence of luck and timing.
The NFC East just collapsed around the Redskins. Two coaches were fired, and Tony Romo missed both meetings with the Skins due to injury. The Giants lost 6 of 7 coming home, but their late-game luck/lack of closing ability was really the story. The Giants had games flat out WON vs. the likes of Carolina, New England, the Jets, and Saints…. and yet blew them all.
In short, the Giants weren’t as bad as what their record said they were, no matter what Bill Parcells says!
So let’s assume the NFC East is at least “1 game harder” than last year. Now, let’s look at the Redskins so-called “dance partner” divisions: the AFC North and NFC North.
Last year, the Skins danced with the NFC South and AFC East. Both of those divisions only had one real “strong” team (Carolina and New England). This year, the “dance partner” divisions present at least FIVE “strong” opponents. (Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Green Bay, Minnesota).
So let’s say that makes the schedule 1.5 games harder than last year.
Now, the two “weighted” games for finishing in first place: Carolina and Arizona. They replace last year’s last-place chumps Chicago and St. Louis.
I’m gonna call that 0.5 games harder.
So we’re sledding uphill by about 3 games by my estimation, with a defense that just doesn’t feel very championship caliber up front, or in depth.
Best case scenario would be 11-5 in my book, and after adjusting for the schedule I’ve got them down for, sadly, 8-8.
Now, let’s remember. NFL seasons are organic, growing things. They either blossom like miraculous butterflies into something you never saw coming, or collapse in flames like the last day at Burning Man.
So I hope I’m wonderfully, stupidly WRONG about this.
If I’m right, then it’s the same old Redskins since the glory days of Gibbs 1.0. Since 1991, the Redskins have not made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.
It’s 25 years of being “one-hit wonders” which is insanely frustrating. But at least we’re not the Buffalo Bills.
They begin the season owning the league’s longest non-playoff streak: a 16 year “walk in the wilderness” as I call it. Sixteen years without having even snuck in ONCE as a wildcard. Yikes.
I like where my team is right now, even though I am bracing for disappointment. It’s not a sexy prediction, but it’s honest.
Now… let’s go have ourselves a season!