The 2021 schedule is here! Go to https://www.washingtonfootball.com/tickets/ to purchase your single-game tickets.
The Washington Football Team now has its full 2021 schedule locked in place, and that means it is time for people to start scouring through it to make predictions and debate over difficult stretches.
Rivera is not someone who looks at Washington's slate of 17 games and starts to make rash assumptions about teams with at least four months until the season begins. Instead, he has a list of questions he asks himself, such as when are the division games, which games will be played in primetime and where does the bye week fall? That helps him get a better feel of what to expect, which allows him to focus on what is more important: winning.
"You want to win as many games as you can," Rivera told senior vice president of media and content Julie Donaldson. "It's a simple mathematical equation: for every game you win, that's just one you don't have to worry about as far as a loss. That's how simple I look at it."
Rivera has long stood by his stance that winning within the division offers the best chance to win the NFC East, so that's what he looks for first. He had to skim all the way to the bottom for most of the division matchups, as Washington will play five straight NFC East opponents -- the first time since 1970 -- to close out the regular season.
In a way, most of what Rivera said throughout the 2020 season is just as significant now. Despite starting the year 1-5, Rivera insisted Washington still had a chance as long as it took care of its division opponents. That preaching turned out to be prophetic, as Washington went 3-1 in the NFC East after Week 6 and capped off the regular season with a division-clinching win against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The same rules apply in 2021, although bunching all the division games together at the end of the season is only going to intensify a race for a division crown that has not seen a repeat winner since 2004.
"It's really going to be a...romping tournament is what it really turns out to be for us, unless you have a commanding lead over it," Rivera said. "It's really going to create a lot of interest in our division for sure."
From there, Rivera looks at the number of primetime games -- Washington has three -- and where they fall on the schedule. This year, Washington has its Thursday night matchup against the New York Giants in Week 2, followed by hosting the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night in Week 12 and visiting the Dallas Cowboys for Sunday Night Football in Week 16.
Washington is still a young team, which normally might concern some about whether it can handle the spotlight, but there are plenty of reasons for confidence after it initially only received one primetime game in 2020. The team added two more, one against the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers and one against the Eagles to claim the NFC East in Week 17, on top of the Thanksgiving game against the Cowboys.. That might have been enough to rattle some teams, but Rivera said during the season that "our guys came out and played well and had fun," and that approach led to three wins.
"It's been interesting...seeing how this team has developed," Rivera said. "They seem to rise to those occasions."
Finally, Rivera looks at where Washington's bye week falls, which this year is during Week 9. That makes Rivera happy, because he was hoping it would fall somewhere in the Week 9-11 range. "It's just a really great breather," as punter Tress Way put it, and it offers the chance to prepare for a postseason push. It certainly worked for them last year, as the team finished the year 5-4, including a four-game win streak.
It will likely need to take advantage of the midseason breather once again with the Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the final nine games on top of the division opponents. But don't count on Rivera to circle any stretch of games as more difficult than the other. After all, this is still the NFL, and every team is difficult to beat.
"I always look at the whole schedule itself and say it's challenging," Rivera said. "One thing that I tried to make clear last year was I try to take the season in quarters. You obviously worry about the game that you're about to play, but to me, it's every four games...where you want to take a look and say 'How does this flow work here?' And then you start working for the next four after that fourth game and now all of a sudden you're looking at it and you say 'Wow, this is a different challenge.'
Don't expect Rivera to come put out a record prediction, even in private. For that, fans will just have to wait and see how the season unfolds.
"I don't want to create any expectations," Rivera said, "Other than the fact that we expect our team to go out and win.