Coming out of a bye week, the Washington Redskins face the NFL’s toughest schedule from Week 9 onwards, comparing the opponents winning percentages for all 32 NFL teams.

Despite all the issues the Redskins have dealt with, I have tried to remain optimistic.  I’ve been hoping that Jim Zorn will find a way to put the pieces together and make a turn-around now that he doesn’t have as much responsibility to divide his focus.  I’ve also been hoping that Jason Campbell will battle through all of the adversity he’s faced – from the off-season courting of Mark Sanchez and Jay Cutler, to the offensive line injuries to Randy Thomas and Chris Samuels, to the lack of productivity in the Red Zone, to the new play-caller who was given Jim Zorn’s favorite gameday task.

Looking at the rest of the schedule, I’d be foolishly optimistic to think the Redskins were going to get anywhere near 8 wins.

Week 9 – @ Atlanta Falcons (4-2)
If the Redskins can somehow emerge from the bye week with an improved offense, this could be a game where the Redskins could steal a victory.  The Falcons made it to the playoffs last year, I wouldn’t be surprised if they get back there again this season, but they’re not nearly as potent a scoring offense as I thought they would be.  Because they play on Monday Night Football tonight, they have a short week to prepare for Washington.  The Falcons have yet to win a game this season where they score less than 19 points, so if the Redskins can score in the double digits and allow less than two touchdowns (field goals are probably inevitable, since Atlanta will most likely be able to move the ball into range), Washington could find itself with a road game victory to build momentum on.

Week 10 – Denver Broncos (6-1)
I didn’t like the Broncos’ chances before the season began, and they really surprised me to start the year.  They’re definitely better than I gave them credit for, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they mirrored what the Redskins did last year to see Josh McDaniels (first year head coach) lose the majority of his games in the second half of the year – starting with the Redskins game.  It’s to be played in Washington, and the Broncos will likely be on a two-game losing streak at that point after hosting the Steelers in week 9 on Monday Night.  Could this be a two-game winning streak built off of teams who had a short week due to a nationally televised game on ESPN the week before?  I wouldn’t count on it, but it wouldn’t surprise me.  If the Broncos find a way to return to how they were playing the first 6 weeks of the season, this would be a very tough game for the Washington Redskins.

Week 11 – @ Dallas Cowboys (5-2)
In games between the Redskins and the Cowboys, anything is possible.  I doubt Chris Cooley will be back for this game, and he usually does really well against Dallas.  The Cowboys have two personas – the one that looked good in beating Seattle and Atlanta, and the other that looked questionable in losses to the Giants, Broncos, and an overtime win over the Chiefs.  Which one will show up?  Who knows.

Week 12 – @ Philadelphia Eagles (5-2)
Sure, the Redskins lost to the Eagles on Monday Night Football by 10 points, but the Redskins outscored Philly 14-0 in the second half despite a few miscues inside the Red Zone.  Week 12’s matchup is being played in Philly, but if the Eagles have any more injuries or don’t fully show up for the game, the Redskins could surprise them and pull out a victory.  A 35-10 Eagles win wouldn’t surprise me, though.  It’s the NFC East, the games are always up in the air, and record has very little to do with it.

Week 13 – New Orleans Saints (6-0)
This game should be tough to watch for the Burgundy & Gold faithful (the non-faithful stopped watching before the bye-week).  The Saints will be coming off of a Monday Night game against the Patriots – giving the Redskins another opponent on a short week, but given the Saints’ ability to score points, it might not matter unless Drew Brees and Tom Brady get into a shoot-out.  Former Redskins assistant coach Gregg Williams is now in New Orleans and will probably want some revenge in this game, and you can bet that he brings the Saints Marching On In with the blitz, which could probably spell disaster unless the Redskins find a way to fix their offensive line troubles, which I somewhat doubt.

Week 14 – @ Oakland Raiders (2-6)
Some people will look at this game and see it as a good chance to pick up a victory, but the Raiders have a strong defense and an under-producing offense which is built to be explosive.  They already hold a victory over Philly this season, and given how difficult it seems to be for East Coast teams to travel to the West Coast, I wouldn’t chalk this one up in the Skins’ favor just yet.

Week 15 – New York Giants (5-3)
No one should’ve been surprised by the Giants beating the Redskins in week 1 of this season.  People should’ve been surprised at how close the game was – decided by 6 points – which the Giants got by forcing Jason Campbell to fumble as they sacked him, the fumble returned for a touchdown.  Don’t be surprised if the Redskins find a way to beat the Giants at home in a Monday Night game Week 15, especially if Eli Manning is still looking shaky due to injury like he is now.  That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Giants get all healed up and use this game to gain momentum going into a run to try to get into the playoffs.

Week 16 – Dallas Cowboys (5-2)
Hosting Dallas in the penultimate week of the season, it won’t matter if there are any playoff implications on this game or not, the Redskins will want to win this game, and the Burgundy & Gold faithful will be loud at FedEx Field.  I don’t care if there are more Saints fans Week 13, or if the Washington fans boycott other games, but Dallas Week In Washington should be unaffected by the fans’ feelings towards Daniel Snyder / Jim Zorn / Jason Campbell / Vinnie Cerrato.  It should be all about beating Dallas.  It’s a pride thing, and anyone in uniform for the Redskins who don’t give it 110% during this Week 16 matchup should leave town and not look back.

Week 17 – @ San Diego Chargers (4-3)
The last game of the year and the Redskins travel to the West Coast.  Not a good combination unless somehow Washington managed to put themselves into position for this to be a meaningful game (it would have to be the case that the Redskins were 8-7 and looking to try to squeak into the playoffs at 9-7, because I don’t see any possibility of 10-6).  Regardless of what the ramifications behind the game’s outcome are, it’ll be a tough game, and at that point, I’m just hoping that the Chargers are on some sort of losing streak, because they have two extra days of rest that Washington doesn’t have (week 16 San Diego plays December 25, Washington plays December 27).  This could be a good game, but its outcome will be determined by whether or not the Redskins can find a way to have their offense gel before then, the extent to which travelling cross-country affects them, and the injuries involved.  I don’t like the Redskins’ chances in that game, but I won’t chalk it up as an automatic loss either.

The remainder of the schedule looks tough, but it could be worse.  There’s no Colts / Vikings / Patriots / Steelers / Ravens on there, all of whom could present a VERY tough (read: virtually insurmountable) challenge.  Aside from the Saints, there’s really no one on the schedule who are unbeatable, there’s just a lot of teams with really good records to this point.  I’ve heard that the Redskins have tended to take winless teams lightly… so maybe they’ll get extra motivated for teams with good records, which could make the rest of the season more interesting to watch than the first 7 games.

Prediction:  No Playoffs, but the Redskins will be better than 4-12 which is the predicted record I keep hearing from people.