BY PETER HAILEY
Early Thursday, news broke that both Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson and Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain were each suspended four games by the NFL for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
Understandably, the first reaction after word of these suspensions is made public is to evaluate how they will affect the teams that employ the players. But something else worth examining is how it will affect those team's opponents.
The NFC East and the AFC East will be playing each other this year, meaning that Richardson's suspension means more to the Redskins, Eagles, Giants and Cowboys more than it normally would. McClain's suspension, meanwhile, obviously matters a lot to Washington, New York and Philadelphia, because those teams play Dallas twice a year.
So which NFC East organizations will benefit from playing against a weakened Jets' defense, and how will the division's three teams not located in Dallas be affected by McClain's absence? Let's take a look (Redskins fans, you won't be pleased by what you're about to see):
- Philadelphia is the team that will gain the most from the two suspensions. The Eagles play the Cowboys in Week 2 and the Jets in Week 3, so they'll get to face both defenses when they're missing key pieces in their respective front sevens.
- New York is only affected by the McClain news. They start their season in Dallas, but don't play the Jets until Week 13, so they'll have to face the Jets defense when they're at 100%.
- Dallas is obviously hurt by McClain's suspension, as they'll miss a player who had a very productive season last year for them for the first quarter of their 2015 schedule. They also won't be able to reap the benefits from playing a Richardson-less New York, as the Cowboys play the Jets in Week 15.
- And as for the Redskins, Thursday's news won't really affect them at all. Their two matchups against Dallas come in Week 13 and Week 17, and they don't play New York until a week after Richardson makes his return.
To review, the Eagles get to play the Cowboys once without McClain and also get their Jets game out of the way before Richardson comes back, while the Giants get to play the McClain-less Cowboys once. The Redskins, on the other hand, don't get either advantage, and the Cowboys will miss out on Richardson's suspension and also have to deal with the consequences of McClain's decision, too.
However (cue that corny informercial voice), that's not all, Redskins fans. Here's something else to think about that will make even more upset.
McClain isn't the only Dallas defender in trouble with the NFL. New defensive end Greg Hardy is also currently suspended by the NFL. As of now, he's set to sit out the first ten games of 2015. Will that help the Redskins at all, at least?
The short answer: no.
The Eagles and the Giants play both of their games against Dallas while Hardy is suspended, while (as stated above) the Redskins play both of their contests against their rival in the last five weeks of the regular season. So, though their other divisional foes will get to deal with a weakened Cowboys pass rush two times, Robert Griffin III and company will be going up against the Cowboys' full repertoire of lineman.
For a team that looks like it'll need as many breaks as they can get, they won't find any of them in these three suspensions.