When the NFL released its 2020 schedule in May, the Washington Football Team was one of two franchises not slotted for any prime time games this fall.
The other? The Detroit Lions. The two teams combined for just six wins a season ago. So, it makes sense for the league to limit the amount of national expose both squads get in 2020.
However, recent developments in college football could cause the NFL to change its current schedule. Reports surfaced Sunday evening that major Power 5 conferences could either cancel or postpone fall sports as early as this week due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, more reports came out that the Big Ten is leaning toward pulling the plug on 2020 on Tuesday.
As college football currently sits in limbo, the NFL is planning on conducting its full 16-game season. Both the league and the NFL Players Association have agreed on protocols to conduct the season in as safe an environment as possible. Teams have begun training camp already, and the protocols in place seem to have worked thus far.
If college football is ultimately canceled or postponed, the NFL will almost certainly adjust its schedule to have games played on Saturdays, the day college football usually dominates the TV audience.
So, if the NFL does ultimately alter its slate for 2020, here are three Washington Football games that should be flexed to national television.
Week 4: Washington vs. Baltimore Ravens
On paper, this matchup may seem a bit lopsided, considering the Ravens finished with a 14-2 record a season ago and only the Cincinnati Bengals finished with fewer wins in 2019 than the Burgundy and Gold did.
However, moving this game to a Saturday slate makes a lot of sense for multiple reasons.
For one, proximity alone. Baltimore's training facility is just 53 miles north of FedExField, where this Week 4 contest will be played. Travel can cause plenty of issues in the current coronavirus world, but hypothetically, the Ravens wouldn't even need to stay in a hotel the day prior and could make the short drive down on the day of the game.
Second, while Baltimore and Washington play in separate conferences and only face another every four years, the players keep tabs on what the other organization is doing. While there isn't a true Beltway rivalry between the two teams, several Washington players -- including rookie Chase Young -- have already said playing Baltimore is one game they are looking forward to the most. They play all the time in the preseason. But the NFL should do as much as possible to make regular-season games between the two teams matter given that four-year gap between real games.
Week 11: Washington vs. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals and the Washington Football Team held the first two picks in the 2020 NFL Draft, respectively, so it's fair to wonder why a matchup between two teams that combined for four wins in 2019 should be moved to prime time.
However, the storylines in this game are endless.
Cincinnati selected LSU quarterback Joe Burrow No. 1 overall in April, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner who originally started his career at Ohio State. Burrow moved on from OSU following spring practices in 2018 after losing the competition for the starting QB gig to none other than Dwayne Haskins.
The Washington QB was recently asked about the competition between the two, and while Haskins said they are great friends now, he admitted they "couldn't stand each other" during the battle for the starting spot. This Week 11 matchup between Washington and Cincinnati will be the first time Haskins and Burrow face one another at the professional level.
Burrow versus Haskins may not even be the most intriguing storyline, however. Rather, leading up to the game, Burrow will be a lot more focused on the player who was selected one pick after him in April's draft in Young.
Young was considered a generational prospect by many experts entering the draft, and the 21-year-old likely would have been the top selection had Cincinnati not needed a quarterback. Although Young was selected by his hometown team in Washington and joins a loaded defensive front, the pass rusher still has a little chip on his shoulder that he was passed on by the Bengals.
Week 16: Washington vs. Carolina Panthers
The reason to flex this matchup into prime time is a simple one: it's Washington head coach Ron Rivera's first game against the team he spent nearly the past decade coaching.
By all accounts, Rivera is the most successful coach in Panthers' history. He led Carolina to four division titles during his nine-year tenure with the team, peaking with a 15-1 record and a Super Bowl appearance in 2015.
Now, he's tasked with turning around another franchise in Washington, which football-wise is in a similar situation to where the Panthers were in 2011. While Rivera has said that this matchup is "just another game" to him, he knows the media storylines leading up to it will make it a bigger deal than he thinks it is.
“Everybody wants it, the media wants it," Rivera said in May. "They want to build that up, they want to hype that."
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