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Contrary to previous thought, the Redskins schedule gets easier

Does the Redskins schedule get easier?

When the Washington Redskins' schedule was released, it was popular belief that the team would have to get off to a fast start if they wanted to repeat as division champions.

Six months later and that is no longer the case.

Yes, it is good that the Redskins are 4-2 a third of the way through the regular season, but they have a chance to keep up that pace. Washington is currently on track to finish the year with 10 or 11 victories, which should be good for at least a wild card spot.

The Redskins first six opponents, Pittsburgh, Dallas, New York, Cleveland, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, have a combined record of 18-17, which is good for a 0.514 strength of schedule. Based on last season's records, the SOS contributed from these six teams was a mere 0.365 (35-61).

Washington's remaining ten opponents have a cumulative record of 29-28 for a 0.509 SOS. That is noticeably lower than the 0.569 (91-69) SOS when considering 2015's results. The difference would be even greater it not for the rebounding NFC East.

Some assumed the Redskins would struggle in December matchups with the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers because they were the two best teams in the NFC last year. That may no longer be the case.

Arizona is sitting in third place of the NFC West with a 3-3 record, while Carolina is tied for last in the entire conference with a 1-5 record.

Similarly, Washington was expected to be underdogs against Cincinnati, the reigning AFC North champions, and Green Bay, the team that ended the Redskins season. All of a sudden, the Bengals are fighting for their playoff lives at 2-4, while the Packers are dealing with significant injuries and just got handed an embarrassing loss at home from the Cowboys.

Four potential losses all of a sudden look like four winnable games, which changes the entire outlook of the Redskins remaining regular season. Throw in Detroit and Chicago, a combined 4-8 so far in 2016, and Washington has two more games that they have a good shot at winning.

Objectively speaking, the Redskins only have one game where they will be significant underdogs: Week 10 against undefeated Minnesota. However, a home game following a bye week would be the perfect time for Washington to pull out all the tricks to steal a victory.

Realistically, if the Redskins split their games with Arizona, Carolina, Cincinnati, and Green Bay, beat Detroit and Chicago, and lose to Minnesota, then they are already sitting at 8 wins. If Washington is able to steal back the tiebreak with Dallas with a victory on Thanksgiving on top of beating the Giants and Eagles once again, 11 wins should be enough for the division title.

If the Burgundy and Gold are able to lock up the NFC East for the second time in a row, it would be the first time any team has done so since 2004 and the first time the franchise has accomplished it since 1984.

Nine wins is not going to cut it in the NFC (B)East this year so the Redskins are going to have to keep on winning just to get back into the postseason. It certainly helps that the remaining opponents are not as good as last year based on a six week sample size.

Follow Neil on Twitter @NeilDalal96.

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