The Washington Football Team finished at the top of the NFC East a season ago and they were rewarded with a difficult schedule in 2021.
The scheduled opponents for the WFT finished with a combined record of 136-134-2 for a .504 winning percentage in 2020. This puts Washington in the middle of the pack as far as most-difficult schedules around the league. Of course, the record of the division will take this down a notch.
The Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants are expected to be improved this season. Washington will face each of them twice along with non-division games against the likes of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, Seattle Seahawks, and Green Bay Packers -- which is a different game if Aaron Rodgers is not under center.
For the first time in a long time, there are expectations in D.C heading into the season. If they want to reach those expectations, they will have to win the important games and that includes these five.
5. Sunday, Sept. 12: Week 1 vs. Los Angeles Chargers
In a season with expectations, a team always wants to begin the season with a win. Washington did this in Week 1 last season with a surprise victory over the Philadelphia Eagles and they will have a chance to do so once again.
Washington will open the season against another team that finished 7-9 in 2020. The Los Angeles Chargers will visit FedEx Field with Justin Herbert under center looking to take the next step in year two. The WFT defense should be able to make things difficult for a young quarterback. When looking at the career of Ryan Fitzpatrick, he has been known to get off to good starts.
An 0-1 start to the season means that Washington would have to win a game somewhere that they might not be expecting. That is a difficult situation for a team to be in. Washington can avoid that destiny by opening the year with a win at home.
4. Sunday, Oct. 3: Week 4 at Atlanta Falcons
This is a game that might be easy to look over for the WFT. They will be playing their second-straight game on the road after a difficult matchup with the Bills. Washington cannot get caught in the trap.
The Atlanta Falcons will be able to put up some points this season with Matt Ryan under center and Kyle Pitts as a new weapon. Washington might have to score in this game to keep pace but it should be possible against that Falcon defense. This is an important victory for Washington if they can get it with some other big-name opponents coming up.
A loss in this game could potentially spark a downward spiral with the New Orleans Saints, Chiefs, and Packers in the next three. A win would keep Washington on pace and give the team more momentum moving forward.
NFC East: No Unbeatens Heading Into Week 3
Cowboys rally and Eagles flop as division remains tight early in season
Week 2 Games to Watch for Washington Fans
Important games going on, as Washington enjoys victory weekend
Too Soon to Consider Taylor Heinicke WFT's 'Franchise' QB?
One clutch drive and one rally over an NFC East rival has fans convinced they've found their QB of the future
3. Sunday, Dec. 5: Week 13 at Las Vegas Raiders
There might not be a team in the league that is as unpredictable as the Las Vegas Raiders. Jon Gruden has yet to have a winning season since his return to the Raiders but he led them to 8-8 in 2020, which is the best in his tenure.
Allegiant Stadium is going to be a tough environment this season. Washington will have to travel across the country in this game with a huge game against the Dallas Cowboys the following week. If there is any spot for a look ahead, it would be here for the WFT.
A win in this game would say a lot about Washington and the culture that Ron Rivera has built.
2. Sunday, Dec. 12: Week 14 vs. Dallas Cowboys
After a matchup with the Raiders, Washington will return home to host Dallas. This will be the first of five-straight division games to close out the season. The WFT will alternate between the Cowboys and Eagles over a four-week stretch before closing out the year with the New York Giants.
This will be the first matchup of the year between Washington and Dallas. This could be an extremely important game in regards for the division title, if all goes right for both teams. The WFT swept the Cowboys last season with both victories coming after Dak Prescott's season-ending ankle injury. With that being said, Washington outscored Dallas 66-19 in those two wins.
The offense is improved, the defense is supposed to be elite, and Washington is looking to show they are for real. This is a chance to do that against a division rival.
1. Thursday, Sept. 16: Week 2 vs. New York Giants
Is Week 2 too early to be the most-important game on the schedule? Obviously results will begin to play themselves out over the course of the year and the biggest game could come near the end. Sitting here looking at the schedule nine weeks before the start of the season, this is a massive game for Washington.
The Giants have won five in a row against Washington. In 2020, the Giants won two games over the WFT by a total of four points, including one where Rivera decided to go for two instead of kicking a game-tying extra point. This is a 'Thursday Night Football' game where Washington will have a chance to showcase themselves on national television. This is the only game within the division for Washington until that Week 14 game against the Cowboys. That is a long time for the WFT to think about a game until they can avenge it.
Washington has to split with the Giants this season. It is unrealistic to expect a sweep with how the Giants have dominated the rivalry in recent years. The WFT will have a chance to change the narrative very early in the season.
CONTINUE READING: Washington Football Team: Model For NIL In College?