Hog Heaven Previews the Redskins’ 2010 Season: Part III

In Part I, Anthony and Greg looked at the biggest changes on the Redskins this offseason, all of which on the offensive side.  In part II, which will look at the players who will be helping McNabb on offense, as well as the defense.  This is part III, where you’ll get our predictions for the Redskins this season.

Hog Heaven’s 2010 Redskins Preview, Part III

Washington Redskins' Anthony Armstrong (13) stretches for a touchdown against the against the Buffalo Bills' during the first quarter at FedEx Field in Washington on August 13, 2010.  UPI/Kevin Dietsch Photo via Newscom

Anthony Brown’s 2010 Redskins Prediction

The Redskins’ won-loss record since 2000 averages 7-9. They should revert to type and finish 8-8 this season. That won’t make diehard fans happy. They think Shanahan plus McNabb equals automatic playoffs. This unwarranted sense of entitlement is why those people in Baltimore don’t like us.

To say 8-8 isn’t a bold prediction. So how about this: the Shannyskins will get off to a fast start, winning three of their first four games. Dallas won’t be one of those wins. We’re going to be swept by the Cowboys and split with the Eagles and Giants.

The Houston Texans visit for game two. They’ll be emotionally hung over after their Week One game against the Colts. They can be had. The Shanahans should have insight in how Texans coach Gary Kubiak thinks. That will pay off in turnovers and points.

The Rams are in town for game three. If we can crush them for a 9-7 beat down under Jim Zorn, we should be able to finesse Sam Bradford for a 21-6 win. Donovan McNabb has something to prove when the Skins visit the Eagles for game four. Washington will win even if McNabb has to catch his own touchdown passes. It gets tougher after that, with the Packers and the Colts next up on the schedule and the Vikings later in the season.

After the first six games or so, there’ll be enough video on the Skins for remaining opponents to see what the Shanahans are up to and to counter it. However, there is a dream scenario where Washington could win nine or 10 games. It involves Albert Haynesworth, of all people, as game-changer.

The Indianapolis Colts visit for Sunday Night Football on October 17. The Tennessee Titans come a-calling November 21. Putting a big hit or two on Peyton Manning on national TV with every GM is watching should motivate even Big Al, especially with the trading deadline just two days later.

An impressive showing against your old team, where you still maintain a home and would like to return in 2011, might change a few minds in the Titans front office. If Washington upsets anyone, it’s likely to be one, or both, of these two teams.

Thank the scheduling gods that we don’t play Oakland. The Raiders alone are not so hot. The Raiders with Jason Campbell are scary. The Redskins have no more chance to beat Campbell than they did to beat Norv Turner when he returned with the Raiders in 2005. The Skins were up by 10 point at the half in that game. Then stuff happened.

It’s the Snyder jinx where the people you dump on come back to haunt you. It worked for Brad Johnson, Norv Turner, Stephen Davis, Gregg Williams, Al Saunders, LaVar Arrington and Jon Jansen. Johnson and Williams already have Super Bowl rings. Turner is closer to one than Snyder. There’s a price to be paid for Campbell’s treatment  and there’s nothing Shanahan could have done about it anyway.

Redskins coaches not named Gibbs don’t last more than two years under Dan Snyder. No prediction on whether Shanahan is still here after 2011.

Greg Trippiedi’s 2010 Redskins Prediction

Writing passionately about a large-market football team offers a chance to be competitive every year.  If you’re a Bills fan, you know you aren’t competing this year.  This year, the Redskins aren’t in too much different a spot than the New York Jets were at this time last year.  That team wasn’t expected to do much, and it might have finished 7-9 if the Colts and Bengals had gone all out to beat them.  As it was, they won 11 games, including playoffs.  That’s a reason to be optimistic about the Redskins’ chances this year: in the NFL, most teams are in the middle of the pack, so you don’t have to be a great team to achieve great things.

Objective predictions from this team have ranged from 6.7 wins to 9.4 wins.  That’s a large range because the team has undergone so much change, and different systems are going to interpret the change in different ways.  Heck, we as fans are all going to interpret change in different ways.  But I already know, before looking at the schedule, that the Redskins are very likely to finish somewhere between 7 and 10 wins.

That’s an accurate prediction for at least 14 NFL teams, so let’s see if we can’t narrow that down further.  We’re looking at a defense that will probably rate in the same range that it did in the last two years.  We’ll play smarter than last year’s defense, and we’ll be more opportunistic than last year’s defense, but there isn’t quite the same level of talent as on last years defense.  Cornelius Griffin is oft-injured, but this team will miss his presence on the field.  Albert Haynesworth is unlikely to play at the level he did last year, and that’s even assuming he plays as much as he did last year.  Adam Carriker is a nice pickup, who is also oft injured (he’s the Griffin replacement).  They’re thinner as well, with Phillip Daniels a year older.  What that unit gives up from last year, the secondary should take back in overall unit-wide improvement.  The key to any 3-4 defense is the linebackers, which typify this defense: sound tacklers, good enough overall, but with a weak link in coverage (converted DE Carter).

So if we’re predicting that the offense isn’t going to get a lot of help from the defense to score points, then whether they win 7 games or 10 games depends on the quality of the offense (and an improved kicking game).  And I think the decisions that the offensive coaching staff made to release a bunch of competent lineman and keep Will Montgomery instead is going to come back to bite them in the long run.  I think the offensive line is vastly improved — perhaps even good — but there’s little evidence it can survive injury better than an average line.  Trent Williams needs to hold up all year, if only because Jammal Brown cannot.  Artis Hicks is a starter on this team, and he can be exploited.  Casey Rabach has been dreadful within the division.  There’s not a lot of depth behind them — because they cut it all.  Still, good tackles are what this team needs to succeed, and they have that.

The argument for extending Donovan McNabb’s playing career is that he’s finally going to have help in the form of a running game to lean on.  I think that will really help Donovan if he has that.  This is clearly a run-blocking line first and foremost.  So if Clinton Portis can have a big rebound year, they’ll probably hit the upper limit of that win range.  If Portis struggles again, they’re closer to the lower limit.  Passing efficiency is always king, but in our case, it’s dependent on our rushing efficiency.  If we can’t run, we won’t be able to sustain a passing game.  That’s not McNabb’s fault, that would be a failure of his teammates.

I feel generally optimistic about their chances, but reality is reality.  Coming off of an 0-6 record in the NFC East, it’s going to be hard to improve back to even 3-3 in the division, and almost impossible to do it without a win against Dallas tomorrow night.  At 2-4 in the division, and at 2-2 in the AFC South (as Anthony predicted), the Redskins would have to run the table against their NFC opponents to win 10 games.  I think this ability to gameplan is one of Mike Shanahan’s biggest strength, but I’m not predicting miracles so much as an incremental increase.  St. Louis is only a little bit improved and Tampa Bay isn’t at our level just yet.  I think Donovan can go off against Green Bay’s defense, but he’s going to succumb to the pressure of the Vikings line.  Rex Grossman could be an asset against NFC North competition, having played in that division the first six years of his career.  He can beat those teams if we need him.

I like this team to suffer few real disappointments this season, but ultimately, they probably aren’t good enough to make a splash in the NFC without winning at least three NFC East games.  I’m predicting a 7-9 finish.  Beating Dallas, however, completely changes the expectation from being an after-thought to being a playoff contender.

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