October 16, 2019

Redskins defense struggled to keep up with pace of Eagles revamped offense

The scene was set for drama on the national stage Monday night. Not only did the game mark the return of Robert Griffin III from offseason knee surgery for the hometown Washington Redskins, but it was also the debut for Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, straight out of the University of Oregon with his zone-read offense. 

What no one could anticipate before was that the latter was much more prepared to take the field right off the bat than the former. 

Griffin, quite famously, never played a down in the preseason as he rehabbed the reconstruction of his right knee. Kelly’s offense, not quite as prominently though just as accurately, didn’t show anything in the preseason that would indicate that his zone-read offense would not only be NFL-ready, but as devastatingly effective as it was in the first half against a Redskins defense rife with rookies, some p laying out of position due to injury need already in the young season.               

On the opening possession, the Eagles marched down the field at an unreal pace, catching the Redskins defense completely off guard in the process. Once the Eagles reached the Redskins 25 yard line, though, the Skins stepped up and made a play. Michael Vick attempted a lateral pass to running back LeSean McCoy, but defensive lineman Ryan Kerrigan knocked the pass down, making the lateral a live ball. DeAngelo Hall picked up the loose football and ran it back 75 yards for a Redskins touchdown. 

The play was reviewed to ensure that it was indeed a lateral and the touchdown stood. Despite the defense being shredded during the opening drive, the Skins were able to stem the tide with the big play and open up a 7-0 lead over their division rival. 

However, that good feeling didn’t last long. 

That one play, which resulted in the defensive touchdown for the Redskins, was the only highlight – and points – the home team scored in the first half. The defense looked sloppy and undisciplined, committing unnecessary penalties and generally being run ragged by the Eagles no-huddle attack.  Add to that several missed tackles in the open field and severe breakdowns in coverage, and the recipe added up to total disaster. 

The Eagles’ high-tempo offense resulted in less substitution time – and weary defensive linemen – for the Redskins. Vick seemed to have no trouble throwing against the Redskins secondary, which was a big question mark going into the game due to starting two rookies in their first NFL game. 

At the end of the first half, the Eagles held a 26-7 lead, and it wasn’t that close. The Redskins had no answers on defense and the offense gave them no help. Griffin was rusty, throwing two interceptions. Alfred Morris fumbled twice to allow the Eagles to dominate field possession. Lack of offensive production forced the defense back on the field before they could catch their breath. 

Asked if the Eagles surprised the Redskins with their offensive attack, head coach Mike Shanahan said, “[It was] kind of what we thought. It was what they’ve done before in the past. One thing you have to be able to do is tackle McCoy. You have to tackle Vick. I thought [wide receiver DeSean] Jackson made a couple of plays in there. They out-executed us.” 

Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett made some drastic adjustments at halftime in order to slow down the impressive Eagles spread offense. It helped that the Eagles seemed to let their foot off the gas in a game they were seemingly in control of, but the Skins D did make some plays that helped spark the team. 

Down 33-14 at the start of the fourth quarter, veteran cornerback Josh Wilson forced Philly wide-out Jason Avant to fumble, which set up the Redskins at the Eagles 27 yard line. The ensuing drive lasted five plays, resulting in a 10-yard touchdown throw from Griffin to Leonard Hankerson (five catches, 80 yards), his first of two scores for the evening. 

There were more bright sides. Barry Cofield, Perry Riley, and Ryan Kerrigan all had sacks. Riley finished with eight tackles, Kerrigan with seven. The defense played much better in the second half – not coincidentally when the offense picked up its game. 

However there were three players that stood out with disappointing nights. 

Rookie Baccari Rambo finished with six solo tackles and four assists. Granted, he was needed to make a lot of plays as the Redskins last line of defense as free safety, but at times he looked a step slow against the Eagles up-tempo game plan. He also had a couple of missed tackles in the open field against the shifty McCoy, which continues a pattern that plagued him in the preseason. 

Linebacker Brian Orakpo, returning from his season-ending torn pectoral muscle of last season, was not much of a factor against Jason Peters, the rather average starting left tackle for the Eagles. Most of the night, Orakpo was absent from the Eagles’ backfield. Instead, he spent much of his time trailing the play, trying to chase down Vick or McCoy from behind. 

And then there was DeAngelo Hall. 

Hall made the big play with the fumble recovery. There’s no doubting his playmaking ability with the ball in his hands. There is also no doubting his penchant for making dumb mistakes and blowing coverage. The Eagles’ first touchdown was a direct result of Hall getting beat to the post by Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson. Hall looked like he thought help was coming from the safety, but he has to know in that situation the safety is a raw rookie. 

“[I] spoke with a couple guys back there,” Hall said. “Like I said, we’ll go back to the drawing board. I don’t even know exactly what went wrong; it was supposed to be a couple guys [on coverage]. But it is what it is. [The Eagles] came out, executed their game plan and they got a win.” 

Hall also took a personal foul penalty with a horse-collar tackle of Jackson along the sideline later in the second quarter. Jackson gained 14 yards on the play; Hall’s unnecessary penalty added 15 yards to the play, which pushed the Eagles to the Skins 31 yard line. Two plays later, Vick hit tight end Brent Celek for 28 yards to increase Philly’s lead.

Overall the performance by the Redskins defense was sub par in the first half, and clearly improvements need to be made. But they played much better in the second half, allowing just seven points, while the offense started to click and take some of the pressure off the clearly struggling-to-keep-up defense.

There will be some growing pains with the defense this season. Rambo and fellow rookies E.J. Biggers and David Amerson are all going to be counted on to play big minutes in the secondary, especially if continually injured Brandon Meriweather can’t get back on the field for the Skins. But Haslett and the defensive coaches need to figure out how to get more pressure up front to take some of the heat off the raw and inconsistent secondary.

Monday night’s first half was a perfect storm of high-level execution by the Eagles and lack of execution — and maybe a little lack of preparation — by the Redskins, especially breaking in three rookies on the back line. The Redskins defense will get better with experience. Will Chip Kelly’s offense do the same? Or will teams be able to better game plan for it now that there’s full-speed film on it? These teams match up again later in the season in what will certainly be an even more intriguing matchup.

[District Sports Page intern Brandon Enroth contributed to this article]

Washington Redskins Postgame Quotes & Audio: Week 1 loss to Eagles

Audio courtesy Sky Kerstein

Head coach Mike Shanahan

“We couldn’t get a lot going offensively. Anytime you have three first downs in the half, you are putting your defense out there quite a bit. I thought defensively we put them in a heck of a jam. We did have a couple of missed assignments and missed tackles. But at the end of the day, it’s over and we have to get ready [for Green Bay] in a short week.”

“If your offense doesn’t go, you’re always going to try and put it on your quarterback. It’s kind of the nature of the business. It wasn’t the quarterback, it was the combination of a lot of people not working together. One guy is a little off here and there. We need to play much better than we did.”

“You can’t change those expectations. They found a way to win the football game, and we didn’t. It’s a 16-round fight, and we lost the first round, and you just take them one at a time. I was pleased with the way they fought back. We did some things well in the second half. We just have to keep rolling.”

Robert Griffin III

“We didn’t play well in the first half at all. We had a serious case of the ‘can’t-get-rights,’ just penalties, hurting ourselves – you know, I don’t throw picks, [running back] Alfred [Morris] doesn’t fumble and [kicker] Kai [Forbath] doesn’t miss field goals and all three of those happened tonight. So we’ll get better, no doubt. I’m proud of the way the team fought back. You know we can’t put our defense in those kinds of situations – having them on the field the majority of the game, but everybody fought back real hard in the second half. You know we got it within six, and that’s all you can ask for. You don’t want your team to come out in the second half and just fold, so I’m proud of the way we fought and that’s what I told them in the locker room.”

Brian Orakpo

On second-half changes: “Just the way our front line was aligned. We changed that – guys playing more in the box. What they try to do, they try to spread you out and kind of leave the box wide open, so we just made a few adjustments to get more guys in the box so we could play the run a little better. Then, we had some very successful third downs where we were finally able to start getting off the field.”

For Shanahan, Griffin’s full comments, plus those of many others, please click the links below.

09-09-13 Mike Shanahan Postgame RAW

09-09-13 Robert Griffin III Postgame RAW

09-09-13 Bacarri Rambo Postgame RAW

09-09-13 Darrel Young Postgame RAW

09-09-13 Deangelo Hall Postgame RAW

09-09-13 Fred Davis Postgame RAW

09-09-13 Leonard Hankerson Postgame RAW

09-09-13 London Fletcher Postgame RAW

09-09-13 Pierre Garcon Postgame RAW

09-09-13 Trent Williams Postgame RAW

09-09-13 Will Montgomery Postgame RAW

 

Redskins Wrap Postgame Show — Week 1 vs Eagles

Dave Nichols and Andy Holmes of District Sports Page digest and discuss the Washington Redskins opening night 33-27 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. RGIII definitely looked rusty early but found some rhythm in the second half to make the final score respectable. The Eagles new head coach Chip Kelly’s read-option ran roughshod over the Skins defense in the first quarter but the second half was encouraging going forward.

Fantasy Football: Week 1 Survivor Pool and Thursday Night Game Preview

Welcome to Week 1 of the 2013 NFL season and fantasy football season. And welcome back to DSP’s fantasy football coverage. We’re going to try to keep the same schedule as last year with a Thursday column previewing the Survivor pool for the week and touching on the Thursday night game.

Then, over the weekend, we’ll have a final Survivor column up and a discussion of who to sit and start that week. We’ll look at some of the best matchups as we head into the Sunday schedule.

Your drafts are complete. Darren McFadden is still healthy. Let’s take a look at Survivor – Week 1.

Bye week: None

Survivor Pool – Week 1 selections

Here is what we have for a top 10 from Office Football Pool and Yahoo! as of Thursday morning:

Office Football Pool

Yahoo! Survival Football

Team

Picks

Team Picks

1

Indianapolis Colts

42.10%

1

Indianapolis Colts

47.81%

2

New England Patriots

17.60%

2

New England Patriots

17.13%

3

Pittsburgh Steelers

11.80%

3

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

7.57%

4

Denver Broncos

6.40%

4

Pittsburgh Steelers

7.38%

5

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

5.70%

5

Houston Texans

4.29%

6

Kansas City Chiefs

2.90%

6

Kansas City Chiefs

3.96%

7

Houston Texans

2.60%

7

Seattle Seahawks

2.41%

8

St. Louis Rams

2.40%

8

Denver Broncos

2.35%

9

Detroit Lions

1.90%

9

St. Louis Rams

1.35%

10

Seattle Seahawks

1.80%

10

Detroit Lions

1.13%

Oh those Raiders….they are going to be everyone’s favorite punching bag this year. If you are in an Anti-Survivor pool you almost have to save them (and I never think you should save any team).

My early picks for this week are below (my final column will be up Sunday):

  1. Indianapolis Colts – I know the math will tell you to look elsewhere, but I want to get through Week 1 unscathed. The Colts aren’t a great defensive team and the Raiders do have some weapons on offense. That said, I can’t see them outgunning Andrew Luck and the WRs he has. I give the Colts an 88% chance to win.
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers – Yes, the Steelers have no running backs. Yes, they have no tight ends. Yes, they have very few wide receivers. Still, they are at home against a Titans team that still has Jake Locker at QB and a suspect defense. I’d rather have the Steelers at home on opening day then the other favorites on the road. I give the Steelers an 80% chance of winning.
  3. New England Patriots – The Bills just aren’t very good and the Patriots are. At least on offense. The Bills will be starting a rookie QB and you have to imagine that Bill Belichick can dream up something to confuse the man. I give the Pats a 77% chance of winning.

Other teams I like early in the week: Kansas City Chiefs, Cleveland Browns, and St. Louis Rams.

As for the avoid list, I would stay away from the Denver Broncos Yes, they are big favorites at home against a team that’s gone through a lot of change since the Super Bowl last year. However, the Broncos are without Von Miller and Champ Bailey on defense and the Ravens have some weapons to exploit them. I’d stay way this week.

If you get bonus points for picking an underdog, I’d think about Carolina Panthers at home against Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks seemed to have everything break right for them last year and the Panthers  seemed to have everything break wrong. The Panthers are healthy and the Seahawks are missing a few of their key cogs in Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin and Bruce Irvin.

Just a reminder, if you ever wanted to see what Vegas thinks each team’s “chances of winning” are, use this handy little converter to transform money lines into win percentages. You can also create a spreadsheet if you’d like (or use this one – scroll to the bottom) to do it for fun at home. This percentage chance to win is another quick way to gauge win expectations for each team each week. You can get a variety of money lines here or here.

Thursday night game preview – Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos

Baltimore

Baltimore brings back most of their offense from the Super Bowl winning team of a year ago. They are a ball control team that will likely look to feed Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce the ball as much as they can and rely on long strikes to Torrey Smith. Rice makes a good RB1 and Pierce is a flex option in deeper leagues and PPR leagues.

The Broncos defense is without Von Miller and Champ Bailey which should make Joe Flacco’s job easier. I think he’s just outside QB1 territory this week as I think the Ravens will attempt to control the clock to keep the Denver offense off the field as much as possible.

Torrey Smith is likely good for at least one long catch and potentially a TD. He’s got a solid shot to get over 100 yards in the game so pay attention bonus league players.

Ed Dickson could be a sneaky TE2 play as the Ravens’ WRs are either not good (Jacoby Jones), old (Brandon Stokley) or unproven (Marlon Moore and Aaron Mellette).

The Ravens defense has a lot of new faces and should be held out of your lineup against a high powered Broncos offense.

Denver Broncos

As I noted above, the Ravens defense has some new faces and it will be interesting to see how the defense performs without Ray Lewis and Ed Reed in the backfield. As a result, I like Peyton Manning and all of his WRs to perform well tonight. I especially like Demaryius Thomas with a chance for 100+ yards. Wes Welker likely pushes Eric Decker down the pecking order such that Decker is probably a WR3/4 option at this point. It’s unclear how all three will fit into Manning’s reads.

The Broncos’ RBs are a mess and I wouldn’t touch any of them tonight except as a deep league flex play. Montee Ball, Ronnie Hillman and Knowshon Moreno all have holes in their games. There has been speculation that Moreno will get the majority of the snaps tonight due to his pass protection abilities. If that’s the case, you want no one in this backfield out there.

Julius Thomas makes an intriguing deep league TE as it’s unclear what the Ravens’ linebacking situation will look like. Thomas has all of the athletic tools to be a superior TE, but he hasn’t put it all together.

The Broncos defense is probably a no start as well as they are missing Von Miller and Champ Bailey and the Ravens do have some weapons on offense.

Chris Garosi is a contributor for District Sports Page. One of his favorite sports memories is witnessing Wilson Alvarez’s no-hitter at Memorial Stadium in 1991. Chris has played fantasy sports since the pre-Internet days and participates in any league for any sport to which he’s invited. He even won an XFL fantasy league. Really. You can follow him on Twitter at @chrisgarosi

Fantasy Football: Week 11 Notes and Survivor Pool; Start ‘em and Sit ‘em

It’s our last week of byes for the season.  A string of QBs went down last week. Are any of the replacements useful this week? Will the Steelers run the wishbone with Big Ben injured and all three RBs healthy?

Let’s take a look at who to start and sit this week. Survivor is full of tough choices for me this week. A lot of key injuries on the defensive side of the ball could make or break my decisions. Or I may have succumbed to paralysis by analysis. I’ve made a subtle, but important move for one of my top two teams.

Remember, I usually like to use Rotoworld’s rankings as a quick guide and then see where I can take advantage of lower or higher rankings. Follow along, as I read aloud. If you have questions, just leave a comment or send me a note on Twitter.

Bye week: Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans, New York Giants

Quarterback      

Up: Nick Foles is the starting QB for the Eagles and should be starting for you this week as I see him finishing in the top 12 against a suspect Washington defense. Yes, they get Brandon Meriweather back this week, but that’s not going to change the defensive backfield immensely. Foles has a chance to take the job and run with it. He’s got a series of great matchups for the rest of the season and should be owned in all leagues.

Tony Romo is at number 12 in the rankings this week so he’s a start in most leagues. However, I can see him moving a bit higher and would start him with confidence (if you are thinking of sitting him). The Browns are coming off a bye and have a solid defense (they’ve held the last three QBs they’ve faced to less than 190 yards! passing each). The Cowboys are going to struggle to run the ball this week as the Browns are expected to have both Ahtbya Rubin and Phil Taylor back in the middle of their front four. Romo will probably have to throw the ball (and with Joe Haden less than 100% he should have the space to do so) a lot this week for the Cowboys to succeed.

Joe Flacco has had a couple of pieces written about him and his ‘big game’ success against the Steelers. I’d personally stay away, but he has had some good games against them (last year he threw for 300 yards and a TD at Heinz Field). He’s a deeper league play if you are desperate.

Down: There aren’t any guys in the top 12 this week that I’d be too concerned about starting. Josh Freeman has a tough matchup against a very solid Carolina Panthers pass defense. They haven’t given up multiple passing TDs since Week 4 aginst Matt Ryan and the Falcons. Freeman put up just 138 yards and 1 TD in Week 1 against them. I’d probably put Nick Foles ahead of him (and you may have better options on your squad since Freeman was likely a late round pick or waiver wire claim).

Philip Rivers also has a tough matchup against the Denver Broncos. In his first matchup against them this season he turned the ball over six times. However, the Chargers were up 24-0 at halftime before the epic implosion. I’d probably shy away from Rivers if I had to make a choice (especially if Ryan Matthews doesn’t play).

Running back

Up: The Ravens cannot stop the run and the Steelers are starting Byron Leftwich at QB. I see all three Steelers RBs as potential starts this week as flex options. It looks like Isaac Redman will be the third down and goal line back so I like him in PPR leagues. Rashard Mendenhall is going to start with Jonathan Dwyer spelling him. I can see an almost 60/40 split in favor of Mendenhall making both potential options this week. None of the three of them will carry the load, but I can see the Steelers handing out 40 carries this week.

Joique Bell has value in most leagues (especially PPR) due to his “closer” role. He’ll play the fourth quarter and could catch passes as they Lions try to claw back against the Packers. Or, if the Lions find themselves ahead, he could carry the load to salt away the victory. Either way I see a top 25 outing from Bell this week.

LaRod Stephens-Howling has a good matchup this week and I can see him sneaking into the top 15. The Cardinals will have to do something to protect John Skelton and if they can run the ball, that should help keep him upright a bit longer. I might start him over someone like Matt Forte who could struggle against the 49ers and with Jason Campbell at QB.

I do like the ranking of Saints RBs (with the exception of Sproles) this week. I think Mark Ingram has a chance to have some value in shallow leagues down the stretch.

Down: Darren Sproles is a flex option in PPR leagues and a wait and see in non-PPR leagues for me this week. His value is in catching passes and Sproles is recovering from a broken hand. I’d only start him if I have no other option this week.

The St. Louis Rams have given up tons of yardage to good RBs. They have mostly muzzled bad RBs. Which category does Shonn Greene fall into? You guessed it. Sit Greene this week. He’s a desperation play in deep leagues.

Felix Jones is also a flex option only for me this week. The Browns get both run stuff DTs back this week and should be able to shut down the slight Jones.

Watch the injury reports on Sunday to see if Ryan Matthews is playing. He may not be worth the risk. Jackie Battle is the handcuff and should be owned by Matthews owners everywhere.

Wide Receiver

Up: It is time to see if the Cardinals follow up on their promise to get Michael Floyd more involved. Prior to the bye week, Floyd had supplanted Early Doucet as the third WR in the set. He had 18 total targets in the two weeks prior to the bye. I like Floyd as a PPR flex play this week as the Falcons shut down WR1s and WR2s, but struggle against others.

Watch the injury report to see if Tyvon Branch does not start for the Raiders. If he doesn’t, I’d upgrade all Saints WRs in an already juicy matchup. Lance Moore could finally find the end zone this week and I like him top 20 option this week without Branch in the lineup.

In deep leagues, Pierre Garcon is back and it looks like he will give it a try this week. He’s played sparingly all year due to an extremely painful toe injury. When he has played, Robert Griffin III has looked his way often. He could have WR1 upside this week against a soft Eagles defense. However, he could just as easily produce a zero in the fantasy points column. If you need to swing for the fences, Garcon is your man.

Even though Derek Hagan is the likely replacement in the starting lineup for the Oakland Raiders should Darrius Heyward-Bey miss the game, I’d take my chances with Rod Streater. Hagan is a replacement level player while Streater offers the upside one would want from a risky play.

Down:  Torrey Smith had two TDs last week. He had two catches last week. I’m not sure that ratio is sustainable. The Steelers have the defense to shut Smith down. I’d leave him on the bench this week (I’m starting one of Lance Moore, Danario Alexander or Pierre Garcon over him).

The Chiefs do a good job defending the WR. I wouldn’t worry about A.J. Green, but the supporting cast of Mohamed Sanu and Andrew Hawkins is best left on your bench.

I’d move Andre Johnson out of the top 25. The Texans should take care of the Jaguars without any issues. I can see them running the ball for much of the day. Johnson hasn’t been a big part of the offense this year. Moreover, the Jags do not give up a lot of TDs to WRs.

Julio Jones and Wes Welker are both game time decisions so be aware of their status heading into your games. Welker has a great matchup while Jones’ is less so.

Tight End

Up: Brent Celek should be starting in all leagues. With rookie Nick Foles at the helm, he will be looking for a safety blanket. There is no warmer spot in the league than the soft spot in the middle of Washington’s defense. Expect top five production from Celek this week.

Dwayne Allen continues to be the main TE for the Colt this week as Coby Fleener sits out again. I like him against a Patriots defense that gives up TDs to TEs. He’s a top 10 TE this week.

Down: Jason Witten is not a top five option this week. I’d actually consider sitting him for this matchup. Witten has been heavily targeted all year, but that has rarely translated to fantasy production. In PPR leagues, Witten is viable, but in TD heavy leagues, I’d look elsewhere this week. The Browns can defend the TE and haven’t given up more than four catches to a TE this season.

Brandon Myers concerns me this week. Yes, he is recovered from his second concussion this season, but he’s just one more hit away from leaving the game again this week. There should be better options out there for you this week. The Saints look to have a solid defense against TE, but they haven’t exactly faced the 1927 Yankees of TEs this season. Still, I’d sit Myers until we see he is fully healthy.

Let someone else take the risk on Vernon Davis this week. I see the reasoning behind the ranking, but I disagree that it will help put Davis in the top 10. The Bears probably don’t scheme for TEs because they don’t have to. I don’t want any part of Davis with a recently concussed Alex Smith or rookie Colin Kaepernick under center.

Oh, cut Jermichael Finley. Just another reminder. The Packers are back off their bye so make sure to dump him before he ruins your week.

Defense

Up: The Cincinnati Bengals are at number seven in the rankings this week, but this is just a reminder to get them into your lineup. The Chiefs are a friendly lot for fantasy defenses.

I wouldn’t have the Cleveland Browns so far down (ranked number 22) the list this week. They are off a bye and even without Joe Haden, they can be formidable. I’d see them being a top 15 option this week against a mistake prone Dallas offense.

Down: The Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers face off against each this week. The Ravens are a popular choice due to the Steelers moving Byron Leftwich into the starting lineup. However, I can’t see the Steelers placing the ball in his hands to win the game. I see the Ravens finishing outside of the top 12.

The same can be said for the Steelers as I don’t think they will have a big day against a Ravens offense which will likely try to keep the ball out of Joe Flacco’s hands (and in Ray Rice’s).

Survivor

Week 10 saw the San Francisco 49ers fall. Maybe. Or maybe not. Depending on how your pool handled it (or if they had any rules for it all), you may or may not be alive with a 49ers choice last week. My opinion is that it should be a loss and the entries are out. But, I’m not the commissioner of your pool (or mine).

Enough about rules and winners and losers. On to Week 11. Something has to give soon. This is the last week of byes so you’ll have a full slate of teams next week. Choose wisely so you can see Week 12.

I’ve also got a quick preview of Thursday’s game below.

Bye week: Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans, New York Giants

Survivor Pool – Week 11 selections

Here is what we have for a top 10 from Office Football Pool and Yahoo! as of late Saturday night:

Office Football Pool

Yahoo! Survival Football

Team

Picks

Team

Picks

1

Dallas Cowboys

33.90%

1

Dallas Cowboys

43.29%

2

Denver Broncos

19.70%

2

Denver Broncos

14.68%

3

Houston Texans

14.80%

3

Houston Texans

14.49%

4

Atlanta Falcons

12.10%

4

Atlanta Falcons

8.12%

5

New Orleans Saints

6.70%

5

New Orleans Saints

7.72%

6

New England Patriots

6.50%

6

New England Patriots

3.72%

7

St. Louis Rams

1.70%

7

Cincinnati Bengals

3.52%

8

Cincinnati Bengals

1.50%

8

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

1.23%

9

Washington Redskins

1.00%

9

St. Louis Rams

1.01%

10

Buffalo Bills (W)

0.60%

10

Washington Redskins

0.53%

Do you trust the Cowboys and Tony Romo? I’m a Cowboys fan and I’m not sure I do. Where should we go? I’ll give you a long list as I imagine many entrants don’t have a couple of the top options. I’m having trouble coming up with a solid list. The first six choices are exactly the same in both sets of data (perhaps the first time I’ve seen that this year). I’ve dropped the Cowboys from #2 to #4 in a virtual tie with the Broncos. I still like the Cowboys a touch more than Denver, but it closer to a coin flip than I originally thought.

My early picks for this week are below (my final column will be up Sunday):

  1. Houston Texans – If you have the Texans, take them. I can’t imagine they’ll be a bigger favorite this year. They have the defense to stop the Jaguars offense which seems to be trending toward a one-dimensional passing attack led by Blaine Gabbert. Let that last sentence sink in. I give the Texans an 87% chance of winning.
  2. New England Patriots – Every time I write the Patriots name I cringe. I don’t know why. It’s almost Pavlovian at his point. Again, there isn’t any reason to believe the Patriots should lose at home to the Colts. The Colts have looked better, but they still have a rookie QB. I could see me moving the Pats down a bit as the week goes on. I give the Patriots a 79% chance of winning.
  3. Atlanta Falcons – The Falcons come off their first loss (at the hands of the surging Saints) and face an Arizona team off their bye week, but still with John Skelton at QB. The Cardinals head east to Atlanta and though Atlanta barely defeated the Raiders in a similar trip, I think the loss to the Saints will offer some focus for the Falcons. I give the Falcons a 75% chance of winning.
  4. Dallas Cowboys – The Cowboys are at home. They haven’t been great at home this year. The Browns are coming off a bye and Trent Richardson seems to be close to 100% healthy.  I’ve put them this high because of the injury that Joe Haden suffered in practice this week. The Browns defense is a much different defense without Haden. Check back for my final column to see Haden’s status. The Browns have both of their starting DTs this season which could turn the Cowboys into a one-dimensional offense. I give the Cowboys a 74% chance to win (without Haden in the lineup).
  5. Denver Broncos – This was my initial choice for the week (as I don’t have most of the big boys left), but I’ve dropped them a bit due to Haden’s injury for the Browns. This is a division game and the Chargers are almost past the point of desperation. However, the Broncos offer a balanced offensive attacked backed up by a stout defense. I can’t see Philip Rivers solving that defense on a regular basis. I give the Broncos a 74% chance of winning.
  6. New Orleans Saints – This will be the week to see if the Saints are really back or not. They go on the road to face a Raiders team that was annihilated in Baltimore last week. The Raiders have no running game and have to throw on nearly every down. The Saints have a poor defense, but their offense looks to be back to pre-Joe Vitt status. I give the Saints a 73% of winning.
  7. Washington Redskins - The Redskins are off a bye. The Eagles have a rookie QB to work into the offense.  The Eagles can win this game if they give LeSean McCoy 25+ carries. Andy Reid hasn’t struck me as someone who really wants to do that…ever. This is the week to do it to protect Nick Foles. One of these teams has to win, right? I give the advantage to Robert Griffin III and the Washington football team. I give them a 65% chance of winning.

Other teams I like this week: None

As for the avoid list, I would stay away from the Green Bay Packers on the road. The Packers continue to win, but continue to lose players to injury (Clay Matthews is out this week). At some point, I believe those injuries will come back to haunt them. The Lions offense looks to be clicking and their defense isn’t awful. I’d hold off this week on the Packers. There should be other options out there.

There shouldn’t be a need to go with the St. Louis Rams either. Yes, the Jets are a tire fire of a team, but they still have talent. The Rams are young and could overlook this Jets squad.

If you get bonus points for picking an underdog, I’d think about the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Ravens. Yes, Byron Leftwich will be under center. Yes, Joe Flacco has performed relatively well against the Steelers. But, I think the Steelers will attempt to control the ball on the ground (they have enough RBs to do so) and the Ravens aren’t great against the run.

Just a reminder, if you ever wanted to see what Vegas thinks each team’s “chances of winning” are, use this handy little converter to transform money lines into win percentages. You can also create a spreadsheet if you’d like (or use this one – scroll to the bottom) to do it for fun at home. This percentage chance to win is another quick way to gauge win expectations for each team each week. You can get a variety of money lines here or here.

Chris Garosi is a contributor for District Sports Page. One of his favorite sports memories is witnessing Wilson Alvarez’s no-hitter at Memorial Stadium in 1991. Chris has played fantasy sports since the pre-Internet days and participates in any league for any sport to which he’s invited. He even won an XFL fantasy league. Really. You can follow him on Twitter at @chrisgarosi.

Washington Redskins Week 1 Preview: Who are the New Orleans Saints?

by Adam Vingan, Special to District Sports Page, and unapologetic Saints fan

Who Are The Saints?

Actually, the more appropriate question is “Who Dat?” Either way, the Saints are one of the NFL’s most elite teams in recent seasons; since 2009, New Orleans is 37-11 during the regular season. Oh, and don’t forget about that Super Bowl XLIV championship. They also have one of the league’s most intimidating home-field advantages. There is nothing like a Sunday in New Orleans during football season. The lack of open container laws means that the entire city is a giant tailgate party. And they start early. By game time, the Superdome is filled with 75,000 highly-energized (and intoxicated) fans ready to make some noise. From first-hand experience, I can tell you that the Superdome is deafening. Good thing Robert Griffin III and the Redskins have been preparing for that.

Their offense is pretty good, right?

Right. The Saints’ offense led the NFL in total offense (467.1 yards per game) and passing yards (334.2 yards per game). That second number can be attributed to quarterback Drew Brees, who set a NFL record with 5,476 passing yards last season to go along with 46 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions. Brees has an arsenal of offensive weapons that he can throw/hand off to, from tight end Jimmy Graham (11 receiving touchdowns) to speedy running back Darren Sproles (1,313 total yards). Don’t forget running backs Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory as well as wide receivers Marques Colston, Lance Moore and Devery Henderson. It’s a stacked team.

But that bounty thing…that should slow them down.

Well, the bounty scandal only affected players on the defensive side of the ball. The coaching staff, however, will be missing its heartbeat – head coach Sean Payton – all season long. Payton’s offensive wisdom and penchant for taking calculated risks has been a large part of the Saints’ recent resurgence, but interim head coach Joe Vitt (who will miss the first six games due to suspension), interim-to-the-interim head coach Aaron Kromer, defensive coordinator/former Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo and offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael (as well as Brees) should handle his absence without missing a step. Meanwhile, New Orleans will likely have one of their best defensive players — defensive end Will Smith — back for Sunday’s game earlier than expected. Friday, an appeals board overturned the suspensions of four players associated with the bounty scandal, Smith being one of them (he was scheduled to miss four games). RGIII’s first start just got tougher.

So what’s the key to possibly beating the Saints Sunday?

Of course, the spotlight will be on Griffin, but if the Redskins hope to win Sunday, they will need their defensive line to be on top of its game. Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and the rest of the line will need to put pressure on Brees and force him to make rushed decisions. Brees, who releases the ball very quickly, will have a field day against the Redskins’ depleted secondary if given enough time to scan the field.

What’s your prediction?

I think RGIII will have a strong showing in his debut, but between the possible return of Smith, a lively New Orleans crowd and just the sheer dominance of the Saints’ offense, I don’t give the Redskins that much of a chance. The score will be close early before New Orleans takes over before halftime. Saints 38, Redskins 17.

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Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Nats and the Caps, and previously wrote Nats News Network and Caps News Network. Dave’s first sports hero was Bobby Dandridge. Follow Dave’s Redskins coverage on Twitter @RedskinsDSP.

Three Things To Watch: Washington Redskins at New Orleans Saints, Week 1

Each week on Friday, as a preview of the upcoming Redskins game, District Sports Page will publish “Three Things to Watch” for that week’s game.  This week, the Skins travel to New Orleans to face the Saints, coming off the suspension of their head coach… and a 13-3 regular season. [Read more…]

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