The Redskins approach the 2019 season with low expectations from experts and oddsmakers. Despite solid investments on the defense, It's easy enough to understand why.
Offensively, Jay Gruden's team is loaded with question marks and settled at very few spots. Their best players are either returning from injury, like Jordan Reed, or holding out, like Trent Williams. At quarterback, the options are a first-round rookie or a pair of veterans, but that doesn't really tell the full story. Case Keenum has had one great year in an eight-year career. Colt McCoy has been a backup most of his ten-year NFL career, and while rookie Dwayne Haskins could be a star, many expect his transition from college to the pros to take time. The team struggled to score in 2018, ranking in the bottom of the NFL in points, and many of the concerns remain.
Add all that up, and the playoffs could be out of reach for the Redskins. That makes winning these five games of paramount importance:
Week 4 @ New York - The Redskins face a brutal early-season slate, opening in Philadelphia before hosting Dallas and then the Bears in Week 3 on Monday night. All three of those teams made the playoffs last year. An 0-3 start is quite realistic, and after the Giants, the Burgundy and Gold face the Patriots at home in Week 5. This team can absolutely not afford to start 0-5, and even though it's at the Meadowlands, the Redskins must beat the Giants here. A 3-2 start would be incredible for this team, and a 2-3 start would honestly be okay. Even 1-4 is salvageable given the competition. Anyway it's sliced, grabbing the victory in New York must happen.
Week 7 vs San Francisco - Oddly enough, the Redskins have performed better on the road than they have at home the last few seasons, but this is a home game the team must win. The Niners will be the first team that travel to FedEx Field where Washington could be favored. The first three visitors to FedEx will be the Cowboys, Bears, and Patriots. They will have plenty of fans in the stands and Vegas will probably expect each road team to win that game.
Week 8 Redskins @ Vikings - If Gruden is going to get his team back to the playoffs, they will have to pick off some road wins. Everyone inside the beltway knows about Kirk Cousins struggles in primetime, and this just seems like a game the Redskins will be very motivated for. The same might be true of Cousins, but even on a short week for Washington, the Redskins must string a few wins together in a row to make a postseason push.
Week 11 Redskins vs New York Jets - Coming off the bye and facing a Jets team that went 4-12 last season is very obviously a must win. New York spent a lot of money this offseason to add free agents LeVeon Bell, CJ Mosley and Jamison Crowder, not to mention hiring a new coach in Adam Gase, but still, it's the Jets. To avoid being lumped in with the Jets in the bottom of the standings, the Redskins must beat the Jets.
Week 13 Redskins @ Carolina - On paper, this doesn't seem like a good spot for the Redskins, but paper might not matter. There will be tens of thousands of Washington fans in Charlotte, and Gruden's teams have historically played well in front of passionate road fans. Big wins in Los Angeles in 2017 and Tampa in 2018 back that up. There will be one of those wins in 2019, and against the Panthers seems like the best chance. Besides, the Redskins last four games feature road trips to Green Bay and Dallas along with hosting the Giants and Eagles. Washington would be well served adding a victory over Carolina before that final stretch.
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