We already know what teams the Redskins will play in 2013 and where they will play them. We don’t know when they will play as the schedule is not announced until mid-April. The league is working on the schedule right now and you can be certain that they will be following the news surrounding the rehab to the right knee of Robert Griffin III every bit as closely as any Redskins fan or beat writer will.
Both NBC and ESPN, rights holders to the Sunday and Monday night football packages respectively, are going to want their shares of the NFC East champs and their quarterback. This could mean the maximum of five prime time games for the Redskins next year but only if it looks like Griffin will be playing soon enough in 2013.
There are some very attractive matchups involving the Redskins next year. Here’s a look at the opponents:
Home: Cowboys, Eagles,
Giants, Bears, Lions, Raiders, Chargers, 49ers
Away: Cowboys, Eagles, Giants, Packers, Vikings, Broncos, Chiefs, Falcons
With the Redskins having swept the Cowboys and Eagles last year and having split with the Giants, all six of the NFC East games will pack some juice. Mike Shanahan returns to Denver for the first time since he was fired. Games against the 49ers, Falcons, Packers, and Vikings will match up two 2013 playoff teams.
But all of those matchups would lack sizzle if Griffin is still sidelined rehabbing that knee. Estimates of his possible recovery time range from six to 12 months. The more optimistic time frame would have him back before training camp starts; the longer one would have him missing the entire season.
A reasonable estimate would have him returning sometime between the beginning of the season, which would be eight months after his surgery, and sometime during October. But we won’t be much closer to knowing when Griffin will be back when it’s time to finalize the schedule in mid-April.
So what is a schedule maker to do? A Shanahan return to the Mile High City, where his teams won the only two Super Bowl titles in the team’s history, would make for a great Sunday night opener. But do you schedule that game not knowing if it will be Peyton Manning vs. RG3 or Manning vs. Kirk Cousins?
The same goes for the division games and the other attractive matchups. No offense to Cousins, who is capable of doing a good job holding down the fort while Griffin heals up, but the networks are going to be hesitant to give a precious prime-time slot to an RG3-less Redskins team.
The solution for the networks would be to backload the more attractive games into the latter part of the season when there is a reasonably good chance that Griffin will be back.
That might be the best for the Redskins as well. Again, Cousins is quite capable of winning some games but it might be best to line him up against teams that lost double-digit games and/or have new coaches like the Chiefs, Raider, and Lions. Then let a healthy RG3, who will be determined not only to show that that he has come all way back from the knee surgery but to show that his 2012 season was not a fluke.