A Crash Course In The Pistol Formation, West Coast Offense, and RG3 as a Passer

Washington Redskins fans may be crazy, but they are not (always) dumb. Robert Griffin III’s 3,200 yards and 20 touchdowns with 5 interceptions proved that he is for real. You don’t have those kind of stats by accident, and that takes into account he actually missed a full game.

However, we are a fretful bunch. One of the those things that have crept up; Robert Griffin III becoming a “pocket passer”, and learning how to play “under center”. What that means, is playing what’s typically described as a traditional style as quarterback, in the vein of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and the like. 3 and 5 step drops, from under center. The NFL has created the “myth” of the pocket passer, the guy who stands in there with chaos all around him taking all the shots and performing accurately from the pocket.

And with that there has been a certain degree of worry that the Redskins’ use of the pistol formation will stunt his growth. There seems to be a lot of misinformation about what the pistol is, how it works, and whether or not it hampers the growth of quarterbacks. So I think it’s time for a crash course, to better inform people of it’s use and what it means for Robert Griffin III going forward.

The Pistol’s Invention

The Pistol offense was first innovated and used heavily by former University of Nevada head coach Chris Ault as as a means to add a greater dimension to the run game while still keeping the spread concepts that made passing out of the shotgun successful.

A typical shotgun formation (pictured above) is a great tool at spreading defenses out and attacking them versus the pass. But your options in the running game are extremely limited, mostly to outside runs. You could run a spread offense, but you wouldn’t have the threat of the run in the shotgun the same way you would under center.

Ault’s solution was to take the quarterback and set him four yards behind the center, with the running back lining up three yards behind the quarterback.

In this formation, it became much easier to to have a traditional run game, while still be able to run spread shotgun concepts. In a traditional shotgun, for example, typically the running back will always run to the opposite side of where he’s lined up. For example, if the running back is lined up on the right hip of the quarterback, he will almost always run to the left.

In the pistol, you have you full package of run plays, to either side of the formation. In addition, unlike most shotgun plays, you can maintain your 3-step and 5-step rhythm passing plays. A.K.A, some of the core principles of the…

West Coast Offense

Better that you watch this and learn from the master himself than me try to explain it…

Naturally, though, with decades passing since it’s inception, things have changed a little bit. The fundamentals are there, though; shallow crosses, rhythm passing and timing routes.

But the Shanahans’ offense does thing a little bit differently. For one, the reads are inverted. Where as a more traditional West Coast Offense (such as the one Colin Kaepernick runs in San Francisco), the reads move from low to high. In a Mike Shanahan offense, the reads start high and work their way low.

Operating out of the Pistol formation allows the Redskins to run the exact same offense as they always have, while giving Robert a better snap shot of the defense than he’d get under center and enabling the read option run game. The Pistol is the best combination of the shotgun spread principles Robert ran while at Baylor, and the West Coast Offense run by Mike Shanahan and Kyle Shanahan in the NFL, marrying the two to provide an easier bridge for RG3 to acclimate to the NFL.

Pre-Snap Recognition

One of the more frustrating things to hear about Robert Griffin III’s evolution as a passer in the idea that he plays in a “simple” offense where he doesn’t make many reads or progressions. This is usually said by people that don’t have a full and refined knowledge of how the Redskins offense works. For some quarterbacks in other styles of offense, they begin their reads post snap, having a defined set of progressions. They begin their decision making process after the ball is snapped based on what the defense is doing.

The quarterback in a Redskins offense. will typically use pre-snap motion to determine whether or not the coverage is zone or man. Based on his read, he will then determine the weakness of the defense. That tells him where to go with the football.

rg31sttd

Robert Griffin III’s first touchdown pass is a good example of this. Robert comes to the line and send Fred Davis in motion. The defense shifts with Davis indicating the defense is in a cover 3 shell. This alerts him that there is one rusher likely to come free, which means he’s throwing hot to Niles Paul. Unfortunately, Niles gets covered in the flat by the linebacker. But, Robert has enough time to get his eyes back down field and find his number one target Pierre Garçon.

Another good example of RG3 reading a defense with pre-snap motion is actually this touchdown run. This play was wrongly referred to as a “called run” by John Lynch on commentary, but it wasn’t. Robert sends Fred Davis in motion to get the Vikings to declare coverage, and safety Harrison Smith moves with him, indicating man-coverage. The Vikings “sugar” their linebackers, or put them up close to the line of scrimmage between the two tackles.

When the ball is snapped, Robert identifies that the two linebackers blitz the same gap. That leaves a big hole in the defense. Robert hits the hole, breaks a tackle, and it’s six.

You can see more examples of the Redskins using pre-snap movement in Kevin’s article about a change-of-pace receiver.

The Shanahan’s system is really a quarterback friendly system, provided you know your stuff. It’s all about reading the defense, taking the proper amount of hitch steps and delivering the ball to the (usually) open receiver. Mike Shanahan and Kyle Shanahan both have a knack for designing plays that get wide receivers wide open, which may be why analyst insist on saying that Robert plays in a simple offense with receivers that are wide open. Receivers have been wide open for a while; just no one’s been able to get them the football.

Furthermore, Robert has far more latitude and ability to audible and change plays at the line of scrimmage than any quarterback that’s played under Kyle or Mike Shanahan in recent memory.

The Pistol Formation is NOT the zone-read offense.

Besides a nagging insistence that Robert was hurt using the zone-read (he wasn’t), another thing people tend to get confused on is separating the pistol formation away from the zone-read.

The two are not one in the same. You can go a whole game in pistol and never run one zone-read play. You can run the zone-read option in nothing but shotgun (which is mainly what RG3 did at Baylor).

Just because the offense lines up in the pistol does not mean it’s a zone-read play. The Pistol is a formation. The zone-read is a play that can occasionally be run out of pistol.

It’s why any one claiming that the pistol can be stopped is being ridiculous. The Pistol can’t be stopped anymore than the shotgun can.

The Pistol FORMATION is not the Pistol OFFENSE

There really is no such thing as a “Pistol Offense.” The pistol is formation, like the shotgun is a formation, like the I-formation or “Ace/Singleback” formation. A team could in theory run absolutely any offensive scheme — West Coast Offense, Air Coryell, Run & Shoot, Air Raid, The Spread — out of the Pistol formation.

Chris Ault’s Wolfpack did, technically, play in the “Pistol Offense”. But the formation itself is just a formation; Ault built his own schemes and concepts into the formation.

Media analyst can’t seem to separate the formation from some of the plays that are used in the formation, such as the aforementioned read-option. There were times during the season when the Redskins heavily utilized the pistol, but Robert didn’t run much read-option at all.

The Pistol is means to an end. It is not in itself an offense with it’s own core set of principals. It is a tool to which you can apply offensive concepts to.

Robert’s Development In The Pistol

Fans seem to worry that because Robert operates in the pistol a lot, his growth as a dropback passer will be stunted.

The truth is that the utilizing the pistol likely helped ease Robert’s transition, and allowed us to run our base, conventional offense. There is some risk that taking lots of snaps from shotgun, as it can adversely effect your footwork and since of timing. But the pistol actually helps ease that problem, by keeping the quarterback in rhythm and maintain the same sense of timing.

In addition, Robert Griffin III actually spent far more time under center on pass plays than he spent in the gun or in the pistol. In 393 pass attempts, Griffin lined up in the gun or the pistol on 54.1% of his pass attempts.

Compare that with some of his contemporaries. Andrew Luck spent 66.5% of his time in the shotgun his rookie year. Cam Newton spent around 77.3% of his passing snaps in the shotgun or pistol, and Ryan Tannehill was in the gun for 69.6% percent of the time. Nick Foles was in shotgun 80% of the time.

That’s to say nothing of veteran quarterbacks like Peyton Manning (80%), Tom Brady (72.3%), Joe Flacco (59.8%), Aaron Rodgers, (78.6%), and Eli Manning (62.6%).

Roberts time in the gun and pistol is much more in line with Matt Ryan (56.0%), and his contemporaries Colin Kaepernick (46%) and Russell Wilson (57%).

Robert’s not losing anything by being in the pistol or the shotgun; in fact he’s in it far less than a lot of quarterbacks in the NFL. Mike Shanahan has always run a play action heavy offense, and Kyle Shanahan has always been successful at getting receivers open in his scheme. Robert threw for 3,200 yards, 20 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions.

You don’t throw 5 interceptions if you don’t go throw progressions and reads, and you don’t get a 3,000 yard passer, 1,600+ yard rusher, and four receivers with over 500 yards if you run a “simple” offense where the quarterback is a passenger.

Let’s get RG3 healthy, and then watch him take the next step in a long, brilliant career. The offense will continue to grow, and the pistol will stay, even when Robert Griffin III isn’t running the read-option.

Dear Daniel Snyder; You’re Embarrassing Redskins Nation

Dear Dan Snyder;

You’re embarrassing us. Please stop.

I thought about starting this letter yesterday. And then I reconsidered. And then I awoke to find that you had written an open letter to season ticket holder of the Washington Redskins. Some would call it “emotional”. I’d personally call it schlocky. But it is just one of the many PR goofs that you’ve made on this issue, ever since the team you owned returned from relative obscurity after last season’s 10-6 season and NFC East Championship.

It’s frustrating, because last season’s 7 game winning streak, and the first division title since you bought the team, signified just how far you’ve come as an owner. At the end of the 2009 season, an abysmal 4-12 mess, something clearly changed. You realized you weren’t handling things the right way, and so you stepped back. You found a general manager who could restore some of the history and tradition of your program. You found a head coach that could build a winner. And though the ride was bumpy, ultimately, you stepping away from the football operations has proven to be the best thing that’s happened to the franchise. Few people realize how little you’re involved in basic day-to-day operations anymore. They still think you’re the puppet master. But that’s fine. Let them be misinformed. You stepping away has undoubtedly helped.

But all that good work has been undone by how poorly you’ve handled yourself away from the field. The near constant public relations failures of this team are as baffling as they are frustrating, if not occasionally maddening. For a multi-billion dollar sports franchise to have a public relations department with so little self-awareness is inexcusable.

This isn’t even about the name. I used to defend the Redskins name with a passion. The more PR blunders that came from the team, though, the more I started to change my mind, and I became pro-name change.

Now I’m indifferent. I’m neither pro-keep-the-name or pro-name change. What I am is exhausted. I’d change the name to the Washington Whatevers if it meant not having to engage in the debate anymore, and not having to watch you fumble your way through the dark on this issue, incapable of finding a way of expressing your pride over the name without also showing the kind of maturity that made Redskins fans despise a younger, more naive Dan Snyder.

For whatever reason, you have embraced the role of the heel in the narrative that today’s media culture has created for you. There are far, far worse owners in sports. You are not being indicted on federal charges like Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam. You’ve never been on trial for fraud and racketeering like Ziggy Wilf. That is not to say you’ve been an angel and you haven’t done your fair share of occasionally shady things. But with owners like Haslam, and Wilf, and Donald Sterling, and others, somehow you have surpassed them all and been labeled one of the worst owners in sports.

In your own division, there is an owner that has been more meddlesome and more detrimental to their teams Super Bowl chances than you could ever hope to be. Jerry Jones has given out just as many bad contracts. He’s traded just as many draft picks away. He’s drafted more busts, and somehow managed to have even worse quarterbacks. Since you took over the team, the Redskins have a record of 102-126. Jerry Jones’ Cowboys has 114-116. And Jerry Jones runs every last facet of the team. What most people don’t know about you is how much you did defer to your coach and general manager, particularly when Coach Joe Gibbs returned. You run less on the team than he does. You’ve been practically non-existent in the press since handing the keys to the franchise to Allen and Shanahan. And yet he get infinitely less guff from the media than you do.

Why? Because Jerry Jones has learned a skill you either haven’t learned, or refuse to learn. He has learned how to work the media. He has worked his charm, with that southern drawl, and the smile, and always saying exactly what they always want to here, and keeping his off-the-field issues in the dark. And when he does get criticism from the media, both nationally and local, 90% of the time, he lets it roll off his back. You are not a worse owner than Jerry Jones. The mere fact that you were able to self-evaluate and see that the level of involvement you had with the team was too much more than suggests that. But everyone on the planet still thinks you are.

Because you seem intent on going out of your way to prove them right. The press has branded you a thin-skinned, insecure owner with a Napoleon complex who treats his football team like his own fantasy league. And while most Redskins fans know that you haven’t ever really treated your team like a fantasy team, or think that even though you once did, you have embraced a new commitment to not doing so, that whole first part, that’s the part you seem intent on replaying.

Dave McKenna was a small-time reporter, at a small-time paper, who seemed to have a weird personal vendetta against you. He published a sort-of-funny, sort of dumb “Guide to the Cranky Redskins fan”, which was the kind of “journalism” you’d find on your high-brow, sophisticated news site like Bleacher Report or Buzzfeed. In it he insulted you, which was, admittedly, unfair and stupid. McKenna made it personal, and I can understand why it mad you mad.

I can not understand why you then sued McKenna and the Washington City-Paper for libel. That gave small timer Dave McKenna a big national platform with which to shout your alleged evilness from the roof tops, including a valuable ally in the folks at Deadspin. That gave McKenna an even bigger reason to continue his personal vendetta against you. It prompted ESPN the Magazine to call you the NFL’s most despised owner after Al Davis died, and branded McKenna — the guy who insulted you unprompted — as the every man trying to stick it to your evil corporate douchebag stereotype.

A better owner would have ignored that, would have just let it slide off their back. But you didn’t. Just as you continue to have an unending feud with the Washington Post, who continue to antagonize you, and you continue to try and restrict their access.

But I’m getting off track. This is about how you’ve handled this particular issue. The name issue. I have no doubt that you have a personal stake in the team’s name, just like millions of fans. And you are first and foremost a fan, a man who grew cheering for the team with your father. One thing that people should always understand is how everything you’ve done is not motivated by ego, but by the unending desire to see your team — figuratively and literally your team — continue to succeed in flourish. I doubt there is an owner in sports that wants to win a Super Bowl more than you. It’s personal to you.

It’s time to put the personal pride aside an re-evaluate how you’re attacking the issue. Because you, Mr. Snyder, are embarrassing us.

I was embarrassed when the name issue flared up once more; when columnist like Mike Wise used the emergence of quarterback Robert Griffin III to push their agenda, more or less calling RGIII a coward for not speaking up, and when Courtland Milloy suggested that RGIII’s torn ACL was “karma” for the name. I was embarrassed because, rather than let these attention seekers continue to wallow in the smug superiority and their moronic responses to a complex issue, you fed right into them.

Through the team’s blog, you began to point out the high school’s that used the team. Seriously. You forced the great people who work at the Redskins Blog to go out and search out high school’s that used the name. This, if you’re not sure, is the rough equivalent of dropping the n-word in mixed company and then saying “No, it’s cool, I have a black friend and they let me use it all the time”. I was more embarrassed when it became apparent that a few of those schools actually had changed their names in a bid to be more sensitive, and that those name changes were actually driven by students.

Teenagers have showed more maturity on this issue than a multi-billion dollar sports empire. This is a problem.

The reaction to those posts was all negative. No one liked them. And yet they persisted. And they only made the issue larger, as symposiums were formed, and national media outlets began to rally against the name. Your immaturity on the issue had taken something that was mainly local, and made it national.

I have no bones about the team-sanctioned television program “Redskins Nation” being used primarily as a vessel to promote the team; most teams in the league have shows that are identical in their homerness. But man, I was embarrassed when I and found out that you had gone out of your way to find an “Indian” Chief.

I was embarrassed that you were so chaffed by the name issue, you actively had to go out and find an Indian chief. And that was bad enough, and it was sort of racist. But I could’ve dealt with that, if you didn’t find an Indian chief who wasn’t even a Redskins fan. And worse yet, he was a Philadelphia Eagles fan. That was insulting as all hell to me, and an embarrassment. But at least that seemed like it would only be a local embarrassment.

…Until your old friend Dave McKenna went ahead and did some research, and found out that “Chief Dodson”, the one Native American you could find to come on your program and defend the name, was a complete and utter phony. “Chief Dodson” is not an Indian chief, and in fact, he may not even be any sort of Indian period. Because you either 1.) knew he was a fake and didn’t care or (and this one is more likely) 2.) didn’t do you research and didn’t know that the Eagles fan you had gotten to come on your show and defend the name wasn’t who he said he was.

But just days after that, in another bone-headed move, at a charitable event no less, at an event where your franchise quarterback raised $33,000 for the American Cancer Society (this is what one would call “positive press”), once again, when asked about the name, instead of being smart and deferring, or making some small, innocuous comment in the vain of “It’s a complex issue , we’re taking it under advisement, we’ll talk about it another time”, you proudly (and dumbly) proclaimed “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER. You can use all caps.”

For some jerk on the internet like me, this response would be perfectly acceptable. For you, Mr. Snyder, as the owner of this franchise, as much as it seemed to earn you brownie points with the fans, I thought that response was despicable. It was tone deaf. It detracted from all the good work you had done. And one again, it made the issue explode nationally. And then everyone found out about the fake Indian chief, which only made things worse.

The President was asked about the name. He’s been getting asked about it for months, and he always deferred, but in a sitdown interview, he gave his opinion on it. However you feel about Barack Obama, he was asked a question, he gave a fairly static answer that wasn’t inflammatory in any way. In light of a government shutdown and a looming fight over the debt ceiling, the issue of the Redskins name probably would be dead…

Had you not, once again, felt the need to respond, again. And this time you did it through Lanny Davis. Davis is a personal friends of yours and has acted as a lawyer and adviser. That’s fine. But at no time has Lanny Davis ever, ever been a spokesman for the Redskins. Nearly every person on the Redskins beat was confused by the distinction. But again, in your hamfisted way, it seemed as though you had searched up a guy who voted for Obama, just to be able to tell him off.

The Obama issue did not need a response. It did not need a prepared team statement. It should have died. It was an interesting nugget in interesting times. And instead of letting it die, you, once again, made it a bigger issue. You made it an issue that was debated on all the Sunday debate shows. You, Mr. Snyder, embarrassed me. Again.

And your open letter to the fans — also known as the only people who you think agree unilaterally on this issue with you — is embarrassing. It’s insipid. It speaks directly to the kind of people who will gobble it up and keep their heads buried in the sand on the issue, whether they want the name changed or not. Despite playing lip service to listening to the issue and respecting people’s opinion, time and time and time and time and time and time, and yes, even more time again, you prove you don’t respect people’s opinions. You don’t respect them, because you will never change the name. Did you forget you said that?

That is not showing anyone respect. Being thin-skinned and unable to, occasionally, let the controversy of the moment not bloom into the controversy of the week doesn’t show respect to your team. Loudly proclaiming you’ll never change doesn’t respect the fans who line your pockets while simultaneously being called willing enablers of racism by other teams fans.

Every fan should be embarrassed over the things you’ve done. They show none of the growth you’ve exhibited in handling your football team. It feeds into every mean, ill-informed stereotype ever written about you.

As for that “emotional” letter, a history lesson. When George Preston Marshall moved the then Boston Braves to Fenway Park, he made the monetary decision that he couldn’t keep them named the Braves. So he changed the name to a hybrid to pay tribute to the Redsox and keep part of the Braves heritage; the Boston Redskins. And then they hired Lone Star Dietz, who, despite your romanticizing of him as an American Indian head coach, actually wasn’t, as he’d been accused of stealing the identity of an actual Native American, in order to get out of going to the first World War. (Ain’t that a proud heritage.) It was was a pretty obvious bid to say “Hey, come watch the Indian guy coach the team named for Indians! And they even have Indian players!”, from an owner who had to be forced by the federal government to integrate his football team, otherwise he wouldn’t be allowed to play in RFK Stadium.

Which once again shows the kind of thought provoking research you put into defending the name. Or that you don’t care.

Mr. Snyder. I understand that you don’t want to change the name. I understand that you have a personal stake in it. I understand (like no one else does) that even if you were to have a spontaneous change of heart and wanted to change the name, the NFL has to improve it, and they have a business stake. I understand that crafting a new brand for an 81-year old franchise can be pain-staking, expensive work. I understand that some fans would never forgive you for changing it. I understand there are legitimate reasons for not changing the name, just like I understand there are legitimate reasons to change it.

What I don’t understand is how tone deaf all these responses are. What I don’t understand is how you don’t have people around you, constantly face palming as you careen through this issue, one horrific response at a time, completely unaware of how bad it makes you and the team look. I’m a little tired of seeing my Twitter and Facebook timelines filled with Redskins fans fighting about it, and I’m sort of tired of this issue being an issue and you not letting sleeping dogs lie. I’m tired of head coach Mike Shanahan, and general manager Bruce Allen, and Robert Griffin III, and Fred Davis, and all the players who have been asked, being asked this question. I’m tired of hearing Mike Wise’s meek voice asking the same question over and over again, sneaking into the frame behind RGIII press conferences wearing shirts with American Indians on them. I’m tired of seeing the issue debated on ESPN, and on cable news, and now on broadcast news shows. Poor Dan Steinberg is going to go crazy writing about this every day. I’m sick of it being in the paper, I’m sick of seeing your face on Deadspin, I’m sick of news outlets making bold proclamations that they’re not going to use the name Redskins, usually prompted by something the team did or something you said.

Some fights are going to be loss. You are not going to “win” on this issue, Mr. Snyder. You are not going to wake up and find that the world suddenly agrees with you that because other teams use Native American imagery and because some high school uses it and because the team once had a fake Native American coach and you found a fake Indian guy who liked it and you’ve been using it for 81 years that you people will just agree with you. As I said, this is a complex issue, sir, and complex issues deserve legitimate, adult conversations, of which there have been far too few. Particularly from the team side of things.

You’ve come along way, Mr. Snyder. But the more gasoline you pour on this fire, the bigger the chance that it’ll blow up in your face, and eventually the public pressure will get so high that it won’t matter if you want to change the name, Roger Goodell will force you to change the name. Hire a new PR department, or maybe do some soul searching and ask if what you’re doing is helping or hurting the franchise. Really think about it, and then maybe put some brain power into never responding the way you have before.

Despite a slow start, this is still the most exciting it has been to be a Redskins fan in a long time.

You’ve gotten really good as not becoming a distraction. I’d appreciate it very much if you didn’t continue on this path.

With Regards

Kenneth Clyburn

2013 Redskins Predictions

Glancing at the 2013 schedule, I decided that I’d take a shot at predicting how things might turn out. With so many variables still undecided (health, final roster, etc.) I decided to weigh all the pros and cons while considering the best- and worst-case scenarios. In the end, I tried to blend it all together into predictions that were as objective as I’m capable of.

Week 1, Eagles at Redskins (Monday Night Football)
I think Chip Kelly will be successful in the NFL and believe the early stages of this opener could be dicey. However, I think the Redskins will look sharp and efficient on offense, disciplined on defense, and dominate the second half. Robert Griffin III will look completely healthy and thrive in a game plan that more resembles Mike Shanahan’s traditional offense (but still features the pistol formation).
Redskins 31 Eagles 20 (1-0)

Week 2, Redskins at Packers
In an early-season battle of great quarterbacks, Griffin will look every bit like he belongs in a showdown with Aaron Rodgers. I see the running game keeping things close into the fourth quarter as well. But, something about Aaron Rodgers going against a still-questionable defense makes it tough for me to think the Redskins will get the big stops when they need to.
Packers 30 Redskins 24 (1-1)

Week 3, Lions at Redskins
Another game, another shoot out. The defense will once again have its hands full trying to slow down a very dynamic Lion offense that features Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush. This time I see the running game doing enough to keep Detroit off the field while the defense tightens up in the red zone to minimize damage.
Redskins 27 Lions 23 (2-1)

Week 4, Redskins at Raiders
I’m tempted to look at a west coast game and factor in some sluggishness. But, sitting here in late-July and just analyzing match ups on paper, I think this is the first comfortable win of the year for the Redskins. The defense makes a couple big plays and the offense stays safely in cruise control for much of the second half. I think Alfred Morris will lead a 200-yard team rushing effort and Griffin will hand the keys over to Kirk Cousins at some point in the fourth quarter.
Redskins 38 Raiders 14 (3-1)

Week 6, Redskins at Cowboys (Sunday Night Football)
Since becoming the coach of the Redskins, Shanahan has only won once after a bye week. The good news is that win came in his only season being paired with Griffin. The passing game will pick up where it left off this past Thanksgiving and the defense will make the Cowboys earn every yard. Both quarterbacks will eclipse 300 passing yards, but Tony Romo’s numbers will come in catch-up mode, including a late, cosmetic touchdown.
Redskins 27 Cowboys 21 (4-1)

Week 7, Bears at Redskins
I think the Bears are a very good, under the radar team in 2013 and see them coming in and handing the Redskins the first home loss of the season. Jay Cutler will get revenge for sending DeAngelo Hall to the Pro Bowl a couple years ago and the Redskins will not be able to keep up, playing from behind most of the afternoon.
Bears 24 Redskins 17 (4-2)

Week 8, Redskins at Broncos
The schedule stays tough for the Redskins as they travel to Denver to play arguably last year’s best AFC team. Given the recent issues with covering shifty slot-receivers, I have a bad feeling about how Wes Welker will look with Peyton Manning throwing him the ball. I know this is based in nothing but superstition, but Halloween week has meant nothing but ugly road losses under Shanahan (2010 Lions, 2011 Bills, and 2012 Steelers).
Broncos 34 Redskins 21 (4-3)

Week 9, Chargers at Redskins
In the only home game in a four-week span, the Redskins will treat their fans to a solid win over San Diego. The long trip east with the early start time will help the hosts in jumping out on the Chargers. A couple late turnovers will put the exclamation point on the game and close out the first half of the season on a high note.
Redskins 37 Chargers 17 (5-3)

Week 10, Redskins at Vikings (Thursday Night Football)
A quick turnaround will lead to a low-scoring and slugging game between the Skins and Vikings. On just four days of rest, I have to give this one to the home team boasting the best running back in the league.
Vikings 20 Redskins 13 (5-4)

Week 11, Redskins at Eagles
The silver lining of a short week is that it becomes a long week. With the bye coming so early (week 5), the Redskins will benefit from the extra half week of rest and hit the home stretch of the season with relatively fresh legs. Despite a now-dangerous Eagles team hitting its stride at home, I believe the Redskins find a way to control the line of scrimmage and clock to complete yet another sweep of the Eagles.
Redskins 28 Eagles 24 (6-4)

Week 12, 49ers at Redskins (Monday Night Football)
The Skins kick off a three-game home stand by hosting the defending NFC champions. In a battle of very similar quarterbacks, Griffin will take this one personally and will the Redskins to victory. I look for him to carry the ball more in this game than any other game during the year. Of course, he’ll wisely get to the sideline or slide to avoid hard contact. The Redskins’ defense will do a nice job against the read-option and stifle Colin Kaepernick. In nationally televised statement game, the Skins will prevail.
Redskins 24 49ers 16 (7-4)

Week 13, Giants at Redskins (Sunday Night Football)
Recent history suggests that the Giants usually figure out a way to beat the Redskins in their first match up of the season. Even during seasons in which the teams split their games, the Redskins tend to drop the first game and rally to win the second one. I see this being a close one, but the Skins drop their first December game of the year.
Giants 23 Redskins 21 (7-5)

Week 14, Chiefs at Redskins
This one scares me, but for the Redskins to make the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time in over 20 years, they will have to find a way to beat Andy Reid and the Chiefs. The Redskins have only beaten Kansas City once…ever. Combine that with Reid’s familiarity with the Skins and I see the underdog Chiefs giving the home team all that they can handle. Kai Forbath will be the hero and put the game out of reach late.
Redskins 26 Chiefs 17 (8-5)

Week 15, Redskins at Falcons
In what I believe should have been last season’s NFC Divisional Playoff match up, the Redskin offense will take full advantage of the fast track in Atlanta. But, the pass defense will struggle to contain the Falcon passing game and the Skins will lose a shootout.
Falcons 42 Redskins 31 (8-6)

Week 16, Cowboys at Redskins
Similar to last year, the Redskins will have late division games that will make or break their season. First, they host the Cowboys who will have no margin for error and be looking up at the Skins in the NFC East standings. Unfortunately, I think the more desperate team will win here, and Dallas will finally get the best of Griffin’s Redskins. Humbug.
Cowboys 21 Redskins 20 (8-7)

Week 17, Redskins at Giants
It’s tough to tell how much will be at stake in New York right before New Year’s. I can’t see 9 wins being enough to win the East, so I’m going to project that the Giants will have the East won and be gearing up to host a wild card game the following week. Here’s the cool part, when the Redskins claw their way to the W at Giants Stadium, they will clinch the opportunity to be New York’s opponent the following week. One more interesting note, the winner of the first round matchup will be one step closer to playing in Giants Stadium AGAIN in the Super Bowl.
Redskins 23 Giants 10 (9-7)

Final Record: 9-7 Overall, 4-2 vs. NFC East, 6-6 vs. NFC, 3-1 vs. AFC

So, there you have it. I’m projecting a slight backslide record-wise, but it would be tough to disappointed with 9 wins against this schedule. I see the Redskins beating the Giants in New York in the first round and having every chance to win on the west coast (San Francisco or Seattle) in the divisional round. A win out there could potentially set up a return trip to Green Bay for the NFC Championship Game. Once a team gets that far, you never know.

What do you guys think? How do you see the season unfolding?