Washington Redskins face tough opening stretch in 2019 schedule

The Washington Redskins are 1-4 in season openers under coach Jay Gruden. Can they change that in their Week 1 opener at Philadelphia?

The NFL has released its 2019 regular-season schedule. Here’s a look at what’s in store for the Washington Redskins.

Game-by-game prediction

Redskins reporter John Keim is predicting a 7-9 finish:

Sept. 8: at Philadelphia, Loss

Sept. 15: vs. Dallas, Win

Sept. 23: vs. Chicago, Loss

Sept. 29: at N.Y. Giants, Win

Oct. 6: vs. New England, Loss

Oct. 13: at Miami, Win

Oct. 20: vs. San Francisco, Win

Oct. 24: at Minnesota, Loss

Nov. 3: at Buffalo, Loss

Nov. 17: vs. N.Y. Jets, Loss

Nov. 24: vs. Detroit, Win

Dec. 1: at Carolina, Loss

Dec. 8: at Green Bay, Loss

Dec. 15: at Philadelphia, Win

Dec. 22: vs. N.Y. Giants, Win

Dec. 29: at Dallas, Loss

Strength of schedule: 32nd, .469

Breakdown

The Redskins play three division games in the first four weeks, which will provide a great clue for how their season will play out. They also close the season with three straight division games. They need to start well against their division for a simple reason: In the past seven seasons, the Redskins have made the playoffs twice. Both times they finished above .500 in the division. In the other five years, they were a combined 8-22 in the NFC East. Also, having a Thursday night game with 11 days off followed two weeks later by a bye might help them get healthy for a late push. They had early byes the past two seasons and the injuries mounted late. Players’ health is a big reason for subdued expectations.

Welcome, old friend

The Oct. 24 game in Minnesota will be especially interesting for two players — Redskins running back Adrian Peterson and Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Peterson has faced the Vikings, whom he played for from 2007 through 2016. Two years ago, in Peterson’s first game in a non-Vikings uniform, he rushed for only 18 yards on a then-career low six carries for New Orleans. That game became infamous for the glare he gave Saints coach Sean Payton on the sideline. Cousins, the Redskins’ starter from 2015 through 2017, left via free agency last season — and there’s not much love lost on either side. Some of his former teammates dubbed him “Pick-Six Kirk” the day after one particular Vikings loss last season.

Rough start

The Redskins are 1-4 in season openers under coach Jay Gruden, but they have been 3-2 in each of the past three seasons after five games. It would qualify as a heck of a start if they can duplicate that success in 2019. Four of their first five games are against teams that made the playoffs in 2018, including a home game against the Super Bowl champion Patriots to close that stretch. The Redskins have not made the postseason for three straight years, putting Gruden on the hot seat. The Redskins can’t afford a tepid opening.

Philadelphia Eagles’ schedule includes Super Bowl rematch with Patriots

Carson Wentz and the Eagles are on the road for the last three weeks of October before coming home to face the Bears in what should be a key stretch of their 2019 season.

The NFL has released its 2019 regular-season schedule. Here’s a look at what’s in store for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Game-by-game prediction

Eagles reporter Tim McManus is predicting an 11-5 finish:

Sept 8: vs. Washington — win

Sept. 15: at Atlanta — loss

Sept. 22: vs. Detroit — win

Sept. 26: at Green Bay — loss

Oct. 6: vs. N.Y. Jets — win

Oct. 13: at Minnesota — win

Oct. 20: at Dallas — loss

Oct. 27: at Buffalo — win

Nov. 3: vs. Chicago — win

Nov. 17: vs. New England — loss

Nov. 24: vs Seattle — win

Dec. 1: at Miami — win

Dec. 9: vs. N.Y. Giants — win

Dec. 15: at Washington — loss

Dec. 22: vs. Dallas — win

Dec. 29: at N.Y. Giants — win

Strength of schedule: 26th, .477 opponent win percentage

Breakdown

The Eagles play five games against teams that made the playoffs in 2018 (Seahawks, Patriots, Bears and Cowboys twice), with four of those matchups at home. This schedule might have more bite to it than one might think, with the Falcons, Vikings and Packers all capable of having bounce-back seasons. A Thursday night tilt at Lambeau Field is a tough draw. It will take some mental fortitude for the Eagles to escape Green Bay with a win on a short week. Philly will have a chance to rack up some wins in December, with a pair of games against a retooling Giants team.

Super Bowl redux

A rematch of Super Bowl LII, the Nov. 17 matchup between the Eagles and the Patriots, pits the past two championship teams against each other. It ought to be good theater, and Philly has the benefit of playing at home. An interesting twist is that both the Pats and Eagles will be coming off a bye. The teams will be fresh, and coaches Bill Belichick and Doug Pederson will have an extra week to concoct their game plans. It should be “special.”

The key stretch

Philadelphia is on the road for the last three weeks of October before returning home to face the Bears, who will have revenge on the brain after last season’s wild-card loss to the Eagles at Soldier Field. That’s followed by home games against the Patriots and Seahawks right after the bye. If they can navigate that, they should be in good shape for a division-heavy home stretch that ought to treat them well.

Buffalo Bills’ schedule includes first Thanksgiving game since 1994

Josh Allen and the Bills face a stretch of five road trips over seven weeks in November and December.

The NFL has released its 2019 regular-season schedule. Here’s a look at what’s in store for the Buffalo Bills.

Game-by-game prediction

Bills reporter Mike Rodak is predicting a 7-9 finish:

Sept. 9: at N.Y. Jets, Loss

Sept. 15: at N.Y. Giants, Win

Sept. 22: vs. Bengals, Win

Sept. 29: vs. Patriots, Loss

Oct. 6: at Titans, Loss

Oct. 20: vs. Dolphins, Win

Oct. 27: vs. Eagles, Loss

Nov. 3: vs. Redskins, Win

Nov. 10: at Browns, Loss

Nov. 17: at Dolphins, Win

Nov. 24: vs. Broncos, Win

Nov. 28: at Cowboys, Loss

Dec. 8: vs. Ravens, Loss

Dec. 15: at Steelers, Loss

Dec. 21 or 22: at Patriots, Loss

Dec. 29: vs. Jets, Win

Strength of schedule: 24th, .480

Breakdown

The Bills will open the 2019 season with two games in the same stadium — just not their own. Before playing a regular-season down in New Era Field, Buffalo will travel twice to MetLife Stadium for games against the Jets and Giants. Their ensuing stretch could be the key to their playoff hopes. Between Weeks 3 through 9, the Bills will travel only once, making a trip to Tennessee in Week 5. Otherwise, they will play five times at home and also have a bye in Week 6. They will pay for it on the back end of their schedule, with a stretch of five road trips over seven weeks in November and December.

First Thanksgiving tilt since 1994

Time to trade in your turkey legs for chicken wings. For the first time since 1994, the Bills will play on Thanksgiving, facing the Dallas Cowboys in a 4:30 p.m. ET kickoff on CBS. It will be Buffalo’s second-ever trip to AT&T Stadium and only the teams’ sixth meeting since Super Bowl XXVIII in 1994. The last time Buffalo played on Thanksgiving, the Marv Levy-coached Bills lost 35-21 to the Detroit Lions. Quarterback Jim Kelly and running back Barry Sanders both scored touchdowns.

No prime-time games

Aside from their national television appearance in the early evening on Thanksgiving, the Bills are not scheduled to play in prime time at all during 2019. Depending on the yet-to-be-announced kickoff of a Week 16 trip to New England, the Bills could have as many as 15 games at 1 p.m. ET, matching their total from the 2018 season. That means the Bills are not scheduled to appear on “Sunday Night Football” again in 2019, extending the NFL’s longest drought on the telecast. It is still possible that a game involving the Bills could be flexed, after Week 5, into the Sunday night time slot. The last time the Bills appeared on NBC’s prime-time game was in 2007, when Randy Moss scored four first-half touchdowns in a 56-10 win by the New England Patriots.

Kansas City Chiefs’ schedule looks easy early, but difficult late

Kansas City Chiefs

The NFL has released its 2019 regular-season schedule. Here’s a look at what’s in store for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Game-by-game predictions:

Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher is predicting an 11-5 finish.

Sept. 8: at Jacksonville, Win

Sept. 15: at Oakland, Win

Sept. 22: vs. Baltimore, Win

Sept. 29: at Detroit, Win

Oct. 6 (Sunday night): vs. Indianapolis, Loss

Oct. 13: vs. Houston, Win

Oct. 17 (Thursday): at Denver, Loss

Oct. 27 (Sunday night): vs. Green Bay, Win

Nov. 3: vs. Minnesota, Win

Nov. 10: at Tennessee, Loss

Nov. 18 (Monday): vs. L.A. Chargers, Win

Nov. 24: Bye

Dec. 1: vs. Oakland, Win

Dec. 8: at New England, Loss

Dec. 15: vs. Denver, Win

Dec. 22 (Sunday night): at Chicago, Loss

Dec. 29: vs. L.A. Chargers, Win

Strength of schedule: T-5, .520

Breakdown

The Chiefs need to get off to a strong start. Just one of their first four games is against a 2018 playoff team and that one opponent is Baltimore, which is a team in transition. But the Chiefs play three of their final four games against teams that made the 2018 postseason, including a trip to New England for the third consecutive season. If the Chiefs are to win a fourth straight AFC West title, they’d better have a lead heading into that final stretch.

Winning in the AFC West

The Chiefs have won three AFC West crowns in a row because they’ve played so well in division games, having won 16 of 18. They tied for first in two of those three seasons but were the champions each time because they held the tiebreakers. So the six-game stretch at the end of the season looms large. The Chiefs will play four of those games against divisional rivals, including two games against the Chargers. The two teams tied at 12-4 last season, with the Chiefs winning the division because of a better AFC West record.

Home for the holidays

The Chiefs will play three games at Arrowhead Stadium in December for the fifth consecutive season and they’ve been difficult to beat at home late in the year. The Chiefs are 10-2 at home in December over the past four seasons. The late-season home games are particularly important this year. They will play each of their AFC West rivals at Arrowhead in December and finish the season at home against the Chargers.

Pittsburgh Steelers’ schedule has Tom Brady, Le’Veon Bell and tons of prime time

Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers have five prime-time games on the 2019 schedule.

The NFL has released its 2019 regular-season schedule. Here’s a look at what’s in store for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Game-by-game prediction

Steelers reporter Jeremy Fowler is predicting a 9-7 finish:

Sept. 8: at New England, Loss

Sept. 15: vs. Seattle, Win

Sept. 22: at San Francisco, Win

Sept. 30: vs. Cincinnati, Win

Oct. 6: vs. Baltimore, Loss

Oct. 13: at L.A. Chargers, Loss

Oct. 28: vs. Miami, Win

Nov. 3: vs. Indianapolis, Loss

Nov. 10: vs. L.A. Rams, Win

Nov. 17: at Cleveland, Win

Nov. 24: at Cincinnati, Loss

Dec. 1: vs. Cleveland, Loss

Dec. 8: at Arizona, Win

Dec. 15: vs. Buffalo, Win

Dec. 22: At N.Y. Jets, Win

Dec. 29: at Baltimore, Loss

Strength of schedule: .496 (T-14)

Breakdown

For the fifth consecutive year, the Steelers open up the season away from Heinz Field, including their third prime-time road opener in the past five years. Pittsburgh will enter that opener coming off two straight preseason road games. On the back end, the Steelers will end the regular season with back-to-back road games for the first time since 2015. The trip to New York will be especially sweet, with former Steelers tailback Le’Veon Bell waiting in Jets green. But the NFL gave the Steelers quite the midseason break with a Week 7 bye, followed by three straight home games against the Dolphins, Colts and Rams. The Steelers will go 32 days between road games with that setup. Though success doesn’t carry over from year to year, it should be noted that six of the Steelers’ opponents posted at least 10 wins last season. Four of the Steelers’ last seven games will come against divisional opponents.

Standing Pat

The Steelers and Patriots are tied for the most Super Bowls in NFL history with six apiece, which must make it painful for Pittsburgh to watch New England celebrate its Super Bowl 53 victory on opening night. The Patriots and Steelers open the season on “Sunday Night Football” in Foxborough, Massachusetts, where Pittsburgh hasn’t won with Tom Brady in the lineup (0-5). Pittsburgh’s last showing in New England was a lopsided 36-17 loss in the 2017 AFC title game. But the Steelers gained confidence with a 17-10 win over New England in Heinz Field last season, and they will be eager to start hot in Gillette Stadium — especially with Steelers killer Rob Gronkowski out of the lineup.

Night vision

The Steelers have become a fixture on the prime-time schedule, and 2018 is no different with five appearances, including two Monday Night Football matchups. The loss of Bell and Antonio Brown didn’t sway the networks from selecting Pittsburgh, which gets two “Sunday Night Football” games in the first six weeks. The Steelers are usually an easy call because they win games, have a loyal fan base and heighten drama. And they could add prime-time games if networks flex them late in the year. But with the Cleveland Browns serving as the trendy pick in the AFC North, the Steelers must earn their billing. The Steelers and Ravens are set to break a 12-year streak of prime-time games against against each other.

Tough start to Oakland Raiders’ schedule could have them in early hole

Oakland Raiders.

The NFL has released its 2019 regular-season schedule. Here’s a look at what’s in store for the Oakland Raiders.

Game-by-game prediction

Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez is predicting a 7-9 finish:

Sept. 9 (Monday): vs. Denver, Win

Sept. 15: vs. Kansas City, Loss

Sept. 22: at Minnesota, Win

Sept. 29: at Indianapolis, Loss

Oct. 6: vs. Chicago in London, Loss

Oct. 13: Bye

Oct. 20: at Green Bay, Loss

Oct. 27: at Houston, Loss

Nov. 3: vs. Detroit, Win

Nov. 7 (Thursday): vs. L.A. Chargers, Loss

Nov. 17: vs. Cincinnati, Win

Nov. 24: at N.Y. Jets, Win

Dec. 1: at Kansas City, Loss

Dec. 8: vs. Tennessee, Win

Dec. 15 vs. Jacksonville, Win

Dec. 21/22: at L.A. Chargers, Loss

Dec. 29: at Denver, Loss

Strength of schedule: 1, .539

Breakdown

Sure, business might be, as new receiver Antonio Brown likes to say, boomin’, with 20 new players on the Raiders’ roster for their final season in Oakland, California. But only two games in prime time? With outsized personalities with likewise contracts on the roster, with one foot in the East Bay and the other in Las Vegas, you’d think even a team coming off a 4-12 pratfall would warrant more national attention. After all, Jon Gruden is still the coach and Mike Mayock is learning the general-manager gig on the fly. In fact, Oakland has seven 1 p.m. ET start times in 2019, the most for any West Coast team since 2002, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The Raiders might get homesick after playing their first two games on the baseball dirt infield, because after that Sept. 15 game against the Chiefs, they will not play in Oakland again until Nov. 3. If the Raiders can survive the early-season grind, they could get on a nice run in November and early December. Even if four of their final six games are also on the road. Maybe the NFL schedule-makers are punishing the Raiders for taking so long to find a home for 2019?

Khalil Mack over tea and crumpets?

No, the Oakland faithful will not get a chance to bid a farewell, fond or otherwise, to their 2016 NFL defensive player of the year, who was traded to Chicago for a haul of draft picks in the midst of his holdout last Sept. 1. Instead, the Raiders will face off against Mack in the new Tottenham Hotspur soccer stadium in London, a city where the Raiders have not fared well in losing to Miami and Seattle by a combined score of 55-17 in 2014 and 2018, respectively. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr always insisted he was faster than Mack. We’ll see if he can elude him across the pond.

Oakland finale redux

You thought last Christmas Eve was bittersweet, the Raiders beating an ancient rival in the Broncos in what was thought to be the final game in Oakland? This time, the Jaguars get to play in an emotional cauldron Dec. 15 in what will be — we mean it this time — the final Raiders game in Oakland … unless, of course, their Las Vegas stadium is not ready for the 2020 season. Team officials, though, fully expect to be in Southern Nevada by next year. The Raiders called the Oakland Coliseum home from 1966-81 and have again since 1995.

Los Angeles Rams’ schedule includes five prime-time games

Los Angeles Rams.

The NFL has released its 2019 regular-season schedule. Here’s a look at what’s in store for the Los Angeles Rams.

Game-by-game predictions:

Rams reporter Lindsey Thiry predicts a 12-4 season.

Sept. 8: at Carolina, Win

Sept. 15: vs. New Orleans, Win

Sept. 22: at Cleveland, Loss

Sept. 29: vs. Buccaneers, Win

Oct. 3: at Seattle, Loss

Oct. 13: vs. San Francisco, Win

Oct. 20: at Atlanta, Win

Oct. 27: vs. Cincinnati, Win

Nov. 10: at Pittsburgh, Loss

Nov. 17: vs. Chicago, Win

Nov. 25: vs. Baltimore, Win

Dec. 1: at Arizona, Win

Dec. 8: vs. Seattle, Win

Dec. 15: at Dallas, Loss

Dec. 21 or 22: at San Francisco, Win

Dec. 29: vs. Arizona, Win

Strength of schedule: T-27, .423

Breakdown

The defending NFC champions, who swept their division last season, will play a first-place schedule and also take on teams from the NFC South in 2019. The Rams start with a tough five-game stretch that includes opening on the East Coast for the first time since 2012 as they take on the Panthers. The Rams will spend nearly a month on the road with a three-game span that includes games in Atlanta, London (against the Bengals), followed with a bye week and then Pittsburgh. When they return home, they will be met with a gauntlet that includes the defending NFC North champion Bears and defending AFC North champion Ravens, a trip to AT&T Stadium to play the reigning NFC East champion Cowboys, and four division contests.

Prime-time Rams

For a second consecutive season, the Rams are scheduled to play five games in prime time, the most allowed on an initial schedule by the NFL. In Week 3, they will get a rowdy crowd in Cleveland against Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham Jr., who the Rams were once rumored to have interest in. In Week 5, they must play a Thursday night game against Russell Wilson, the highest-paid player in the NFL, at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. In Week 11 and 12, the Rams will play under the L.A. Memorial Coliseum lights against the Bears and Ravens, on Sunday Night Football and Monday Night Football, respectively. Then they get another prime-time matchup against the Seahawks on Sunday Night Football in Week 14. Last season, the Rams finished 3-2 in prime time.

Bonding time

The Rams will log more than 16,500 miles in a span of four weeks when they play the Falcons in Atlanta, where they will likely stay for a week following the game before flying to London to face former assistant Zac Taylor, now the head coach of the Bengals. The Rams will return to L.A. for a bye, only to fly again to the Eastern time zone to play the Steelers. The four-week span is reminiscent of a stretch in 2017, when the Rams played at Jacksonville, then continued on to London before they returned home for a bye week, after which they flew to New York to face the Giants. The Rams went 3-0 in that stretch, and several coaches and players credited the seemingly monthlong journey, which included a weeklong stay at a resort in Ponte Vedra, Florida, before flying to London, for building team camaraderie that helped carry them to their first division title since 2003.