The Washington Football 2021 schedule is a challenging grind. But it's nowhere near as difficult, on paper, as a) was expected or as b) recent schedules have been over the last decade.
When Washington last year finished in first place of the NFC 'Least' and even with a 7-9 record, the first thing coach Ron Rivera said to the media was team would have to deal with a first-place docket.
That meant even more here in 2021 because of the addition of the 17th game and another first-place opponent (Buffalo), and because the NFC East teams were going to play that extra game on the road.
There was also a concern that you could wind up in Buffalo in January. As a graduate of Buffalo State College, there's many places I'd rather be in January than Western New York.
So when the schedule officially came out, at a first hard glance? The map to success isn't as brutal as we were expecting.
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It's hard. But not insanely so. For once.
There are no three consecutive-game road trips as was the case last year and in 2017. There are no silly London (2016) or Mexico City trips. There are no major holidays are ruined (seemingly the WFT case every year) and Washington doesn't finish the schedule with consecutive road games.
Especially after starting two games at home, that last aspect was expected ... and yet somehow it was avoided.
They also don't get any dreaded Monday Night Football road games followed by another Sunday road game ... like they did last year (by default) and in 2011, 2014, 2016 and 2019.
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Oh, and Washington gets the albatross known as the annual Thursday game out of the way early (Week 2) when their bodies are fresher.
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No schedule is perfect or easy and everyone of them is likely to look very different at the end of the season than right now.
For instance: Last year, it was brutally unfair that Washington had three straight road games in late November into mid-December.
That was further complicated by playing on two short weeks in that span.
But ... they won all three games ... and then proceeded to lose two winnable home games on normal rest.
In 2021? Washington's toughest grind is a five-game NFC East gauntlet to finish up the year.
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They are home against Dallas in Week 14, followed by road games in Philadelphia and against the Cowboys (a scheduled Sunday night game) and then they close out the schedule with the Eagles at FedExField and the Giants on the road.
That's tough. But if you're the best in the East? You get to show it.
The tougher part of the schedule comes in the form of hosting Russell Wilson and the Seahawks on Monday Night Football in Week 12, followed by a long trip on a short week to Las Vegas for the Raiders.
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Also in late October, Washington goes to Lambeau Field and Green Bay followed the next week by a longer trip to Denver.
Outside of that, the schedule is nowhere near as bad - or dare I say, "unfair'' - as many have been in the past decade. The NFL finally decided to not punish the WFT in this way - the biggest "scheduling break'' Washington can ask for.