The NFL finally did the Washington Redskins a favor.
The schedule released on Tuesday is back-loaded with NFC East games. Five of the last seven involve Dallas, Philadelphia and the New York Giants. It gives expected rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III an opportunity to mature early and then have a chance against divisional opponents over the season's second half.
Translation: survive the nondivision games, fare well late against NFC East foes and hope to win a wild card tie-breaker through a better divisional mark.
Oh wait, that's nuts.
The Redskins are heading for another bad season. Free agency did little to truly upgrade the roster aside from receiver Pierre Garcon. The draft will bring a rookie quarterback and maybe some reserve help. The best hope for improvement is several injured and suspended starters returning to play well.
Maybe the Redskins go 6-10. My first read through the schedule saw four wins -- St. Louis, Minnesota, New York Giants and Cleveland. But let's say Washington surprises Carolina and Cincinnati to reach six.
Last year's downfall provides insight into this season's schedule. The team collapsed after a 3-1 start. The scores weren't too lopsided, but there were some real stinkers over the final weeks.
What happens if the Redskins get off to a bad start? Will they muster a comeback while playing five divisional rivals after their Week 10 bye?
Can a rookie quarterback inspire teammates when playoffs are a long shot? Look at Washington Wizards guard John Wall. The 2010 first overall selection is a solid player, but he can't lift a bad team and sometimes seems pulled into the gloom. How will Griffin or Andrew Luck, should Indianapolis take Griffin with the first overall choice in the April 26 draft, respond? They're used to heading to a major bowl after Thanksgiving, not simply playing for 2013.
The upside of playing the first eight of nine games against nondivisional teams is it still gives Washington some motivation against rivals should they somehow manage even a 4-5 start. The downside is 2-7 could quickly slip to 4-12.
FedEx Field might also see plenty of empty seats early no matter how many are ripped out by the team. Seriously, having Cincinnati as the home opener is like eating broccoli. Atlanta, Minnesota and Carolina follow and no one locally cares. Parking passes will sell for more than the tickets.
Even worse, the final four home games against Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore and Dallas may feel like road games with so many visiting fans buying tickets to follow potential playoff teams.
And then there's the first Washington-Dallas meeting on Thanksgiving in 10 years. The Redskins have never beaten the Cowboys on Turkey Day. Pass the humble pie.
At least there's only one night home game against New York on Dec. 3 so fans will only have to take off work once after arriving home at 2 a.m.
It's going to be a long season.