The NFL released the 2011 Preseason schedule yesterday without the game dates. It would be a rough line-up–if it were a regular season game.
Redskins vs. Pittsburgh Steelers at FedEx Field
Redskins at Indianapolis Colts
Redskins at Baltimore Ravens, nationally televised game
Redskins vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers at FedEx Field
The Redskins finished 6-10 in Mike Shanahan’s tumultuous inaugural season as Washington’s head coach. The combined 2010 record for Washington’s preseason opponents is 44-20. The Buccaneers are the only opponent not to make the playoffs and it was a near miss at that.
In the regular season, Washington faces two games against division rivals New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys. Games against the tough AFC East teams are balanced out against the soft NFC West. The Minnesota Vikings and Carolina Panthers round out the season.
Some of those preseason games could be in jeopardy if the owners and players fail to resolve their labor dispute by the end of June. Both the league and players want to preserve as much of the regular season as possible.
Preseason games are a pretense even under normal circumstances. Teams audition rookie players for the roster while working out free agents, all without revealing anything about their true offensive or defensive schemes. Likely starters might play for one-half of the third preseason game. At least 30 players listed on the roster for preseason game one will be released by September.
The Washington-Baltimore Series
The NFL schedules a preseason game against each team’s nearest neighbor, so we see a continuation of the Washington-Baltimore series. The league calls it a rivalry, but it really is not. Baltimore feels an antipathy to all things Washington that Washington tends not to reciprocate. Baltimore is a great place for steamed crabs, after all.
Why the hate? I’ve heard Baltimoreans accuse Jack Kent Cooke opposing a replacement franchise for Baltimore after the Colts bolted to Indianapolis. I cannot find any documentation supporting that assertion. Washington was selling out every game in undersized RFK Stadium and maximizing broadcast revenue in the years between the Colts 1983 departure and the 1995 arrival of the Cleveland Browns to become the Ravens. The Redskins successfully coexisted with the Colts in Baltimore since 1953. Cooke was indifferent to a franchise in Baltimore.
Proximity and one-sided fan antipathy do not a rivalry make. Games have to mean something. Losses have to cost more than a loss to the opposing team. They have to cost a title, or a playoff spot, at least. Since they are in different conferences, the two teams don’t meet frequently enough for a true rivalry to develop.
Rivalries have to be competitive. Washington is 2-4 against Baltimore preseason over the last decade. With Washington in such disarray, the ‘Skins figure to be underdogs when (if) the teams meet in August.
The one feeder of any sense of rivalry is insufferable Baltimoronic behavior that follows every win against the ‘Skins, itself an all too frequent occurrence. I do envy Baltimore for one thing, their first-class front office that knows how to evaluate players, build rosters, manage salary caps to field perennial playoff contenders against their true rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
They are the anti-Redskins in that regard. But that doesn’t make them rivals.