THE REDSKINS ARE ROLLING; VEGAS REMAINS SKEPTICAL
At least for the moment, the Washington Redskins have managed to turn their season around. After an 0-2 start, the Redskins have won three straight and put themselves back in the race for an NFC East Division that has no standouts. But the market remains skeptical—the ‘Skins are still a healthy 9-2 shot simply to repeat as division champs, with the Eagles and Cowboys considered the favorites. When we translate that into individual game pointspreads, Washington is a (+3) dog at home against Philadelphia on Sunday.
The perception is that there is a clear gap between the Redskins and the top of their division. Is that perception reality and is there money to be made by challenging it?
Those that believed in Washington had their confidence shook by a 38-16 beatdown in Week 1 at the hands of Pittsburgh. That was followed by a 27-23 loss to Dallas, both games at home. The same type of locker room sniping that ran Robert Griffin III out of D.C. was starting to fester regarding Kirk Cousins. The Redskins were a (+3.5) underdog when they visited the New York Giants, a game that seemed likely to turn 2016 into a lost season.
Instead, Washington rallied from a double-digit deficit to win outright 29-27, a game that netted moneyline bettors a (+165) profit. The following week they handled the role of a big favorite, giving (-7.5) to Cleveland and winning the football game 31-20. This past Sunday, the Redskins went up the Beltway to Baltimore, got (+4) and beat the Ravens 16-10, with moneyline players cashing at (+170).
Yet in spite of those profits, Las Vegas as a whole is not on board. To be candid, it’s not hard to understand why. Washington does not run the ball well at all. Even in this three-game win streak, they’ve been outrushed every single game and in two of those games, have gained under 100 yards. While running back Matt Jones has looked more comfortable the past couple weeks, there’s still little to inspire confidence that this team can run the football in big games in nastier weather.
The defensive line is also a significant problem. The front three is weak, with no realistic expectation of getting better. That’s had a ripple effect on the play of outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. Normally vital to the success of the defense, Kerrigan has not looked good and opposing schemes are free to focus on him.
Another reason for the Washington success comes with a bit of an asterisk. Cousins has thrown two interceptions in this three-game period, but the biggest one on Sunday—a terrible throw into coverage that was picked off by Ravens’ linebacker C.J. Mosley, was fumbled back at the goal line and the Redskins were able to get possession back. If that doesn’t happen, Washington loses that game and we’re not having this conversation.
But there’s also reasons to think Washington could continue to offer value. While there’s been dispute over how to utilize Josh Norman in coverage there’s no question the corner has been a significant upgrade to what was a bad secondary in 2015. Rookie corner Kendall Fuller has also provided an infusion of speed to a defense that needs it.
The offensive line has three players—Brandon Scherff, Morgan Moses and Trent Williams, all playing at very high levels. The protection is there for Cousins and the holes are there for Jones, if only they can settle in.
Sunday’s game with the Eagles will be an important litmus test of what direction the Redskins will take the rest of the seaso