The NFL will announce official dates for regular season games in about an hour. Here are the five most intriguing games on my list. That means, these are the games I am most likely to buy a ticket to see live, away from the comforts of a friendly sports bar where food and drink are much more reasonably priced.
NFC East games are not on this list because all of those games are intriguing in their own right.
Carolina Panthers at Washington Redskins, August 2012 — Cam Newton vs. RG3 (or, AL1). The very idea of Newton and Robert Griffin III on the same field at once is tease enough. These young players may define the evolution of the quarterback in 21st-Century football. Newton is a dominant player who throws with power and runs like a power back. Griffin is elusive with a stronger arm than he appears to have. We are not likely to see this match-up again until some future playoff game. The Panthers beat the John Beck-led Redskins 33-20 last October. That's behind us now.
Story corrected - now shows this game as a regular season game, not preseason when I had Andrew Luck and the Colts in mind. I haven't had my coffee today.
UPDATE - Carolina visits Washington Sunday, November 4 for a 1:00 PM ET kick-off. I am shocked this is not a Sunday or Monday night game. The league saved that gem for Panthers at Eagles, Monday Night Football, November 26.
Washington Redskins at Cleveland Browns — This drama has a soap opera feel. What will the Cleveland media say when RG3 comes to town? Mike Holmgren had to explain himself to season ticket holders when he failed to close the deal on a trade with St. Louis. The fact that he would have matched or enriched Mike Shanahan's offer silenced all dissent that the 'Skins gave up too much to get the second overall draft position.
Don't feel badly for Cleveland. Holmgren is as crafty as Mike Shanahan, so expect the Browns to be better in 2012. The Redskins play down to the level of bad opponents, especially for away games. Everyone expects that Griffin III with change that. That's to be proven, not assumed.
UPDATE - The Redskins visit the Browns on NFL Week 15, Sunday, December 16, 1:00 PM ET. Lake Erie in December! I feel cold already. Tell the kid from Texas to bring thermals and mittens.
Washington Redskins at New Orleans Saints — This game is all about where the Saints fall in the Redskins schedule. Any team that faces New Orleans early will have an advantage as the Saints cope with coach and player Bountygate suspensions. I hope this game is early. If Gregg Williams were still with the Saints, I would have started Rex Grossman here. Just saying....
UPDATE - The Redskins open against the Saints Sunday, September 9, 1:00 PM ET
Washington Redskins at St. Louis Rams — What we said about the Browns applies to the Rams. The Redskins struggle against bad teams. Washington is 2-2 against St. Louis who they faced for four consecutive years because each franchise played the division fourth-place schedules. The Rams outscored the 'Skins 66-59 in that run.
Can the Shanahans fix Washington's offense before Jeff Fisher fixes St. Louis' defense? Struggling against fourth-place teams like the Rams and Browns would show that the Redskins are not ready to challenge for the division lead. We hope for better. Who did the Rams get with the Draft picks the Redskins traded away?
UPDATE - The Redskins face the Rams in NFL Week Two in a double-header game. Kick-off is 4:05 PM ET.
Baltimore Ravens at Washington Redskins — The NFL thinks it can engineer "rivalries" between teams in adjacent cities. There's so much more to it than that. Washington faces Baltimore in a real game once every four-years. It's Leap Year, so here comes Baltimore.
The Ravens are a tough opponent known for its rugged defense. They have one of the league's best-managed front offices and they do a stellar job harvesting the NFL Draft for talent. I don't want to see the Ravens, or the Steelers, until late in the season when RG3 has a better grasp of pro defenses.
There is bad blood between communities in this mostly one-sided rivalry. When I ask Ravens/ex-Colts fans why the venom towards Washington, their answers fall into two categories. The Baltimoreans either mumble something like, "They do not like what's going on in Washington," or they have some sense of persecution that Jack Kent Cooke stood in the way if the NFL's return to Baltimore.
To the first, I remind that Washingtonians who are residents of the District of Columbia have no say whatever in stupid stuff that Congress does. (Someone should get mad that U.S. citizens who live in the USA have no Congressional voting rights.) The voting pattern of Washingtonians who live in Maryland are not any different than the rest of the state. If one doesn't like what's going on in Washington, see the man in the mirror. He has more say than District residents have.
I cannot find a quote or link or any hint anywhere that The Squire hindered the NFL's return to Baltimore. He had nothing to gain or lose by it, unlike Peter Angelos, the Baltimore Orioles owner who pointed to a MLB contract that gave his franchise the broadcast rights to baseball in DC when he blockaded the Expos relocation to DC. The two cities have separate media markets and the Redskins were selling out every game. Cooke was indifferent. If you know differently, say something in the comments, but come armed with links to proof.
For our part, Washingtonians are indifferent about the Ravens. That seems to incense Ravens fans even more. What we don't like how insufferable Baltimoron coworkers become when the Ravens win, which is a regular occurrence. Cheering for the Redskins to win is for peace of mind at work, not for any rivalry.
UPDATE - We get our wish. Baltimore visits on NFL Week 14, Sunday December 9 for a 1:00 PM ET kick-off.
The Redskins host the New York Giants for Monday Night Football in Week 13 and they will visit the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksbiving Day. Yesss!
They Redskins' BYE falls in NFL Week 10.
Redskins.com -- Complete 2012 Schedule