The home opener for the Washington Redskins is still nearly five months away, but the NFL never takes a day off. On Thursday night, the league released the schedule of every franchise, with the Redskins dealt one of the toughest schedules in the NFL.After winning the division in 2015, Washington fell just short of the postseason in 2016. With a brutal schedule this season, here are a few highlights to look forward to as the Skins look to get back to playing January football.Home for Turkey DayFor the first time in franchise history, there will be a home game at FedEx Field on Thanksgiving Day. Washington will play host to the New York Giants, pitting one of the league’s best offenses from 2016 against one of the strongest defenses down the stretch.The Thanksgiving night game features the matchup of Josh Norman and Odell Beckham Jr. again. And another chance for Norman to portray his role as Batman.”I’m the villain every time, so it doesn’t matter,” Norman said. “I’m accepting it and I’m stepping into my role. Of course, I’m going to be the ‘Dark Knight.’ I’m going to kill it.”The Thursday night game will be a massive feast for NFL fans given Kirk Cousins’ huge arm against a secondary full of young talent in Eli Apple and Landon Collins. Sprinkle in a little Beckham and Brandon Marshall on the other side of the ball and this one has the makings of an all-out brawl.Daunting OctoberEvery year, playoff teams are created or destroyed by difficult stretches in the season. Carrying the seventh-hardest strength of schedule into 2017, the Skins have several tough stretches, the first of which comes from the end of September through the start of November.During that stretch, Washington starts with a showdown against Oakland on Sunday Night Football before traveling to Kansas City for a Monday Night Football. The extra day is nice but the AFC West opponents are brutal.The bye week and the 49ers will help the Skins recover before another rough stretch. They head to Philadelphia, then host Dallas before traveling to Seattle. Four of those six teams made the playoffs last year and Philly on a Monday night is a brutal draw for an “easy” game. Good luck with that.Redskins Under the LightsFor those who haven’t figured it out yet, the Skins have a ton of games on primetime this season. Five to be exact, with two different sets of back-to-back matchups on the big stage thanks to the Thanksgiving home game.As you can guess from the primetime placement, none of the games are easy. No game in the NFL is easy, but those matchups typically tend to feature a pair of quality teams. We’ve already alluded to the games with the Raiders, Chiefs, Eagles and Giants, but the final one is a doozy a rivalry showdown in Dallas. That makes three of the five matchups under the lights on the road. Not exactly ideal for a team that narrowly made it to above .500 last season.Defensive DecemberThe other tough stretch comes in December. Following a date with the Los Angeles Chargers yeah, that still feels weird the Skins head home to face the Arizona Cardinals and Denver Broncos. Both teams ranked top five in 2016 in overall defense and passing defense, Washington’s bread and butter.Then it all wraps up with that pesky Giants team again, which could mean the difference between a playoff berth or staying home in January for both franchises. There’s also the fact that New York ranked second in the league last year in points allowed (17.8 ppg) against one of the toughest divisions in football. That a stingy string of games.Win the WestIn most years, the Redskins would need to worry solely about winning the NFC East to make it to the playoffs. But much of Washington’s success in 2017 will rely on taking down teams from the two West divisions with all eight AFC and NFC West teams on the docket.It’s always nice to see the likes of the Rams, 49ers and Chargers on the schedule, but two of those will be road games in Los Angeles. As for facing the Raiders, Chiefs, Seahawks, Cardinals and Broncos who have a combined 10 playoff appearances, two Super Bowl appearances and one Super Bowl win in the last three seasons pulling out a winning record against the West is not for the faint of heart.
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