Sept. 11, Minnesota, 7 p.m. ESPN/Monday Night Football. OK, it will be weird for those of us on the East Coast to see a Monday night game start when it's still light out. But as long as they play that theme music, it'll be good. Fred Smoot returns to his first NFL home. But will he be as chatty after last year's rough season -- on and off the field?
Sept. 17 at Dallas, 8:15 (ET), NBC. Think the NFL likes to highlight this rivalry just a little bit? Well, they should. Both teams expect to contend for the playoffs again so this game should mean everything. And you know last year's Redskins sweep has some of the oil tycoons ready for revenge in the Big D, especially after last year's fourth quarter rally. All the big-haired ladies of Texas will be out for this dramatic showdown.
Sept. 24 at Houston, 1 p.m. (ET). Back to the blase time slot facing a team with a new coach. That's never easy; the Texans had better talent than their record indicated last year. How much difference will a new coach make? But David Carr's penchant for holding the ball too long, and a porous line, should make Gregg Williams anxious.
Oct. 1, Jacksonville. Hmmm, do you think Mark Brunell will be ready for this game? Maybe just a little bit? Should be a defensive struggle.
Oct. 8 at New York. Nothing like a smelly drive to the swamp in New Jersey to get your heart going. But here's what could make this game real interesting: if the Giants eventually sign LaVar Arrington, as we keep hearing they will do.
Oct. 15, Tennessee. The Titans have had a good offseason, but that shouldn't turn them into contenders just yet. Williams and Jeff Fisher are very tight -- hey, maybe Williams taught Fisher everything he knows! Just kidding, Double G.
Oct. 22 at Indianapolis. It's not the postseason so Peyton Manning should be in top form. Marcus Washington would love to have a big game in his return to Indianapolis. This should be a big game for Nehemiah Broughton. Why, you ask? Well, because nobody wore their scouting combine sweatshirt more than Broughton. Clearly the combine meant a lot to him.
Oct. 29, bye week. Yeah! In the middle of the season! Now that's the time to have a bye; no more of this early-season garbage.
Nov. 5, Dallas. And two weeks to prepare for the Cowboys to boot. Think Al Saunders can cook something up in two weeks? Will Terrell Owens be suspended by the time this game rolls around? Will he tick off his teammates or say something inflammatory? It's really hard to imagine any of that happening, isn't it?
Nov. 12, at Philly. Here's the hard part for Washington this season: the division should be improved as well, just like last year. And no team could take a bigger step up than the Eagles if only because the injured guys return.
Nov. 19, at Tampa Bay. Let's hope they can duplicate that offensive drama of the playoffs! OK, the regular-season meeting was a good one last year.
Nov. 26, Carolina. Notice anything about this stretch of games? Yeah, they're all tough. So playing the Panthers after the previous three games is difficult.
Dec. 3, Atlanta. Michael Vick will struggle against a Williams' defense. Our guess? Williams will blitz him into running too early and into traffic. Just a hunch.
Dec. 10, Philly. Nothing like drunken Eagles fans invading D.C. so soon before X-mas to spread their good cheer. Another pivotal game and the end of a tough six-game stretch.
Dec. 17, at New Orleans. Let's hope the city has recovered strong by the time this game rolls around. The Saints could be difficult to beat next season with Drew Brees in control.
Dec. 24, at St. Louis. Thanks, NFL, for pretending the Christmas is meant only for football. It's shameful they play games this weekend. Given how tight the race should be, this game will be a big one for Washington.
Dec. 30, New York. An 8 p.m. Saturday night game on the NFL Network. This could be a great way to ring in the New Year, or a frustrating one. Regardless, it's a darned good matchup to close the season. Both teams should need this game, either to make the playoffs or win the division.