During July, the Last Word On Sports NFL department will be analyzing the schedules of every team in the NFL and ranking each game in order of difficulty (with one being the most difficult). This series will be split up into the eight most difficult games (ranked 1-8) and the eight easiest games (ranked 9-16) for each team. In this article, the Washington Redskins are the focus.
Washington Redskins Most Difficult Games in 2016
1. Week 13 at Arizona Cardinals
Don’t forget that the Cardinals were 13-3 last season. Fresh off an NFC Championship loss, they’ll be even more motivated this year. Arizona has a locker room full of seasoned veterans accompanied by promising players like David Johnson and John Brown. The Redskins don’t match up well with the NFL’s newfound rock stars. That makes Week 13’s showdown in the desert a daunting one.
2. Week 15 vs Carolina Panthers
This late-season match up would be number one easily if Carolina was the venue. The reigning NFC champions will be on a warpath all year. The one-two punch tandem of Cam Newton and Jonathan Stewart will challenge the Redskins’ unproven run defense. On the other side of the ball, linebacker Luke Kuechly leads the defense. He was also an MVP candidate, leading the Panthers to a 15-1 record last year. One of those 15 wins, of course, was a 44-16 drubbing of the Redskins. With this type of difficulty level, Washington may see a similar outcome.
3. Week 11 vs Green Bay Packers
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers statistically had his worst season in eight years. Despite that, his numbers ranked well above average. Chances are that he bounces back in a big way this season. For the Redskins, it doesn’t help that Pro Bowl wide receiver Jordy Nelson is back from injury. The Week 11 contest looks to be a high scoring affair as the Packers secondary leaves much to be desired. This game will be difficult mainly because asking Kirk Cousins to out-duel Aaron Rodgers is a tall task.
4. Week 8 at Cincinnati Bengals (fron Wembley Stadium in London)
Regardless of the opponent, international games are no easy task. It’s worse when facing the Bengals, one of the most well-rounded teams in football. Week 8 is right in the middle of the season. Habits and routines have been formed, only for London’s irregular schedules to throw off the Redskins chemistry. Along with being challenged by time, key Bengals Andy Dalton, Vontaze Burfict, and AJ Green look to snag a “Home” win away from home. Facing the AFC North champions makes Week 8 a tough one.
5. Week 1 vs Pittsburgh Steelers
This will be the first test of the Redskins new secondary. Recently acquired cornerback Josh Norman has the privilege of lining up against Antonio Brown, the NFL’s premier wide receiver. This game should also be an aerial show, as the Steelers secondary was one of the NFL’s worst last season. Thus, expect Redskins tight end Jordan Reed to have a big day. This game isn’t ranked higher in difficulty due to the recent suspension of Le’veon Bell. While the Steelers will miss Bell and Martavis Bryant, it still looks to be an uphill battle as they face a potent offense to open the 2016 season.
6. Week 10 vs Minnesota Vikings
Adrian Peterson leads the Vikings into FedEx Field for a Week 10 matchup. The NFL’s best running back is a lock-in for the Hall of Fame five years after his retirement. Veteran nose tackle Kedric Golston will have his hands full on the interior trying to stop the run. Another match-up to watch is the chess match between DeAngelo Hall and Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater is a dual threat quarterback, aided by targets like Kyle Rudolph and Stefon Diggs. This game looks to be a low scoring physical game. The Redskins may struggle due to the offseason loss Alfred Morris. That leaves them devoid of a physical running back who has proven to grind out these physical games.
7. Week 3 at New York Giants
The Redskins-Giants rivalry continues in an even more heated fashion. The feud between Norman and Odell Beckham has become a bi-annual NFC East event. The last time they matched up, Beckham was able to get plenty of separation, but only tallied 30 yards and a touchdown. Outside of Prince Amukamara, the Giants lack a threatening secondary. Quality pass catchers Pierre Garcon and Desean Jackson should have their way, especially going deep. The same can be said for the Giants offense too. Victor Cruz and Dwayne Harris both prefer to lining up in the slot. That can be an advantage with the only other standout corner, Bashaud Breeland, spending most of his time outside the hashes. The Redskins may find themselves in another shootout, but facing the Giants in the Meadowlands won’t be a cakewalk.
8. Week 17 vs New York Giants
Another NFC East adversary, another classic duel. The animosity between the Giants and Redskins needs no introduction. At least one of these teams will need this Week 17 win to determine their playoff status, and there will be fireworks. Eli Manning lives for this kind of game, and he has two Super Bowl rings to prove it. This game ranks at eight because of the Giants coaching change. Tom Coughlin’s experience better suits a game of this caliber, as opposed to rookie head coach Ben McAdoo. Accompanying that fact with the Redskins getting the luxury of playing at home makes a big difference. This game is one that they should win, barring major mistakes on their own turf.
Be sure and check out the eight easiest games on the Redskins schedule.