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Washington Football Team's 2021 schedule: Five division games to close season

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The Washington Football Team's 2021 schedule was released along with the rest of the NFL slate on Wednesday.

The 2021 NFL season will kick off on Thursday, Sept. 9 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosting the Dallas Cowboys (8:20 p.m. ET). ESPN’s Monday Night Football opener on Sept. 13 will feature the Las Vegas Raiders hosting the Baltimore Ravens (8:15 p.m. ET).

The NFL will change its schedule for the first time in 44 years, expanding to 17 regular-season games. The final regular-season games will be played Jan. 9, 2022. The playoffs begin Jan. 15, 2022 and continue through Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13, 2022 at Los Angeles' SoFi Stadium.

Here's what is in store for the Washington Football Team:

Schedule

Sept. 12: vs. Los Angeles Chargers

Sept. 16: vs. New York Giants

Sept. 26: at Buffalo

Oct. 3: at Atlanta

Oct. 10: vs. New Orleans

Oct. 17: vs. Kansas City

Oct. 24: at Green Bay

Oct. 31: at Denver

Nov. 7: Bye

Nov. 14: vs. Tampa Bay

Nov. 21: at Carolina

Nov. 29: vs. Seattle

Dec. 5: at Las Vegas

Dec. 12: vs. Dallas

Dec. 18/19 (TBD): at Philadelphia

Dec. 26: at Dallas

Jan. 2: vs. Philadelphia

Jan. 9: at New York Giants

Strength of schedule: T-15th, .504

Biggest takeaway

The NFC East will be interesting down the stretch, at least for Washington. It finishes with five straight division games for the first time since 1970, also the initial year of the NFC East, when Washington finished with six in a row. Since that time, the most they closed with is three. So even if Washington enters this stretch a couple games behind, it can make up ground. Of course, it could also lose ground if it has what appears to be a comfortable lead.

Also, in one six-game stretch Washington will face quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City), Aaron Rodgers (assuming he's still in Green Bay), Tom Brady (Tampa Bay) and Russell Wilson (Seattle). That will challenge a pass defense that finished second in 2021.

One storyline to watch

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's quest to play in the postseason. Fitzpatrick, 38, has started 146 games, but none in the postseason. In 2015, the Jets went 10-6 with him as the every-game starter, but missed the postseason by a game. Miami might have made it last season had it stuck with him rather than play rookie Tua Tagovailoa.

Regardless, Fitzpatrick is in the best position perhaps to achieve this goal. Washington has no obvious young quarterback of the future behind him. It also strengthened its offense with wide receivers Curtis Samuel, Adam Humphries and Dyami Brown. And it solidified a top-five defense with cornerback William Jackson III and linebacker Jamin Davis. It could be now or never for Fitzpatrick.

What Vegas thinks

The oddsmakers have pegged Washington as the team to beat with a win total of eight -- one more than it had last season. Take the over: Washington upgraded the offense at multiple spots, starting with Fitzpatrick. Samuel and Brown add speed alongside Terry McLaurin. And Washington's young defensive front should improve with Chase Young entering his second season.

Bold prediction

Washington gives the NFC East its first repeat winner since 2004 -- and Fitzpatrick plays in his first playoff game. Washington will make the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since 1992.