Redskins need quick start to avoid another narrow playoff miss

Kirk Cousins and the Redskins have the toughest strength of schedule among all NFC teams. Patrick Gorski/USA TODAY Sports

The NFL has released its 2017 regular-season schedule. Here's a look at what's in store for the Washington Redskins.

Breakdown: The RWashington edskins opened with consecutive home games and a chance for a quick start. Instead, they opened 2016 with back-to-back losses, digging a hole for themselves from which they never quite emerged. They did win eight of the next 13 games, but still missed the playoffs.

This time, the Redskins have another chance for a good start with a home game against Philadelphia and a road trip to Los Angeles to face the Rams and former offensive coordinator Sean McVay. The Redskins finished 1.5 games ahead of the Eagles last year and McVay inherits a 4-12 team with a young quarterback that has a lot to prove.

Not that a 2-0 record guarantees anything. They've started 2-0 on four occasions since 1991. They made the playoffs twice (2005, 2007), but the other two times they finished 5-11 (2003, 2011). Also, it gets tougher after those opening games with Oakland and Kansas City up next before the bye week. And two weeks after that it gets even tougher. A good start then becomes a must.

Tough stretch: The Redskins' toughest stretch of the season begins on Oct. 29. And that follows a road game at Philadelphia, never an easy place to play. But after that Eagles' game the Redskins play four of their next six games against teams that made the postseason in 2016, including two versus division-rival Dallas. In that stretch they also play Seattle, Minnesota, New Orleans and the New York Giants. The cumulative 2016 record of those teams plus Dallas: 49-30-1. Two of those games will be night contests: on Thanksgiving night against the Giants and a week later at Dallas.

This stretch will define Washington's season, especially because all these are NFC opponents and, therefore, critical playoff tiebreakers. The Redskins went 6-6 in the conference last season; a 7-5 mark would have resulted in a playoff berth.

Prime-time disasters: The NFL took pity on the Redskins and, to help their fans, scheduled both Monday night games -- at Kansas City and at Philadelphia -- on the road. Here's why that matters: Since FedEx Field opened in 1997, the Redskins are 2-16 at home on Monday night. They're 4-3 on the road in that same period. Washington is better at home on Sunday night with a 5-6 record; the Redskins host Oakland on this night. The positive spin: Washington has never lost on Thanksgiving Day at home.

Washington's inability to play well in night games, especially at home, is confounding. Since 1998, the Redskins are 8-25 at home in games played on Monday, Sunday or Thursday nights. They also host the Giants on Thanksgiving this year, their first home game on this holiday.

Strength of schedule: 7th, .543

Redskins Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)

  • Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 10, Philadelphia, 1 p.m.

  • Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 17, at Los Angeles Rams, 4:25 p.m.

  • Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 24, Oakland, 8:30 p.m.

  • Week 4: Monday, Oct. 2, at Kansas City, 8:30 p.m.

  • Week 5: BYE

  • Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 15, San Francisco, 1 p.m.

  • Week 7: Monday, Oct. 23, at Philadelphia, 8:30 p.m.

  • Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 29, Dallas, 4:25 p.m.

  • Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 5, at Seattle, 4:05 p.m.

  • Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 12, Minnesota, 1 p.m.

  • Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 19, at New Orleans, 1 p.m.

  • Week 12: Thursday, Nov. 23, NY Giants, 8:30 p.m.

  • Week 13: Thursday, Nov. 30, at Dallas, 8:25 p.m.

  • Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 10, at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 p.m.

  • Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 17, Arizona, 1 p.m.

  • Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 24, Denver, 1 p.m.

  • Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 31, at NY Giants, 1 p.m.