2016 Washington Redskins game-by-game predictions

If the Washington Redskins want to repeat as NFC East champions, they’d better get off to a fast start. We’re counting on that, though it takes a leap of faith in general manager Scot McCloughan because more work remains to fix the defense.

Week 1: Monday, Sept. 12 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 7:10 p.m. ET

The Redskins failed to beat a team with a winning record in 2015 (0-3), but they get a good chance to do one in the opener. The Steelers are a Super Bowl contender with an explosive offense but a defense that has work to do -- but is further along than Washington’s. Record: 0-1

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 18 vs. Dallas Cowboys, 1 p.m. ET

Former Redskins standout running back Alfred Morris was allowed to leave in free agency; he returns for the first time since his departure. A lot more will be made about Robert Griffin III’s return to Washington in October, but Morris has a stronger chance to hurt his old team. But not in this game. Record 1-1

Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 25 at New York Giants, 1 p.m. ET

The Giants had the third-highest scoring offense in the NFC last season, but also allowed the second-most points. In the past three seasons, the Giants are 5-1 against the Redskins; quarterback Eli Manning has thrown 13 touchdowns to six interceptions and owned a 94.6 passer rating in those games (though it was only 82.4 last year). Record: 2-1

Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2 Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m. ET

This can be summed up quite easily: RG III’s return. It’ll make for quite an atmosphere in Washington, and probably leave some fans a bit confused as to their emotions. The reality is, the team Griffin has joined is a lot worse than the one he left. Record: 3-1

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9, at Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m. ET

It’s billed as the Battle of the Beltway even though there are two different beltways that surround the respective cities. A Battle of Maryland? Sure thing. Of their six meetings, this will be only the second time they play in Baltimore and first since 2008. They’re neighbors, but not rivals. Record: 4-1

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 16, Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m. ET

The Eagles will be in transition this season; the Redskins are not. Washington has won three straight against the Eagles, but they haven’t won four in a row over them since 1985-87. Record: 4-2

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 23, at Detroit Lions, 1 p.m. ET

Detroit will be without Calvin Johnson and who knows how mercurial quarterback Matthew Stafford will fare. The Redskins will need this game with the difficult seven games following this one. Record: 5-2

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30, at Cincinnati Bengals (London), 9:30 a.m. ET

The Redskins' first trip to London will pit Jay Gruden against his former boss, Marvin Lewis. And it’ll match Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins against a player he’s often compared to: Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton. This will be a close one. Record: 5-3

Week 9: Bye

Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 13, Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m. ET

A matchup between two former coordinators in Cincinnati with Mike Zimmer and Jay Gruden. In five career games against the Redskins, running back Adrian Peterson has just one 100-yard game, but he also has had only one game with more than 17 carries against them (and three games with fewer than 13).

Record: 6-3

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 20, Green Bay Packers, 8:30 p.m. ET

A rematch of last year’s wild-card playoff game won by the Packers. That game served as a stark reminder for McCloughan that he must bolster the pass rush. Heading into the draft, work remains defensively and Aaron Rodgers will have Jordy Nelson back. Record: 6-4

Week 12: Thursday, Nov. 24, at Cowboys, 4:30 p.m. ET

The last time Washington played Dallas on Thanksgiving, Griffin starred. But the Redskins only other win on this day occurred in 1968 over the Cowboys. They’re 2-6 overall (and 2-5 against Dallas). But a Thursday game after a Sunday nighter? Thanks, NFL. Record: 6-5

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4, at Arizona Cardinals, 4:25 p.m. ET

Arizona’s defense was in the top 10 last season in yards per play allowed, points allowed, third-down efficiency and against the run. In other words, the Cardinals are really good defensively. Record: 6-6

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11, at Eagles, 1 p.m. ET

This will be a pivotal game after the last several weeks -- and if the Redskins want to keep their playoff hopes alive they’ll have to beat the Eagles on the road. It won’t be easy but it will be done. Record: 7-6

Week 15: Monday, Dec. 19, Carolina Panthers, 8:30 p.m. ET

The Panthers’ defense ranked second in yards per play allowed (4.88) last season; the Redskins ranked second in their last eight regular-season games (6.16). But during that stretch the Panthers held the Redskins to 3.96 yards per play in a 28-point win. The Redskins get their first prime-time win at home this season in the upset. Record: 8-6

Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24, at Chicago Bears, 1 p.m. ET

Chicago should be improved in its second season under coach John Fox. This should be a game that matters for the postseason, as it did last season. The Bears have retooled their roster and should be playing well late in the season. Record: 8-7

Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, Giants, 1 p.m. ET

In Cousins' first four games against the Giants, he threw two touchdowns and eight interceptions. But he played well when the Redskins snapped a five-game skid against them last season. The Giants defense should be better, but it was pretty bad last year. Cousins needs to just avoid mistakes here. This assumes the Redskins have anything left after a difficult stretch. Record: 9-7