Friday, August 31, 2018

Week 1 NFL: Redskins vs. Cardinals Preview

by Brad Sutter (Contributing Editor)

Redskins fans are in hog heaven. We are just a week away from the kickoff of regular season football. With the new look defense and some serious new weapons on offense (despite the loss of Derrius Guice), the Skins are charged up with playoff aspirations. The first obstacle on that path is a road test with the Arizona Cardinals.

A Look at the Odds:
The Washington Redskins open up their 2018 campaign in Glendale, against the Arizona Cardinals. There is no point spread on the Redskins-Cardinals NFL Odds boards: The game has been set at a pick’em. What does this mean? It means that the people in Las Vegas think that the Redskins are a better team. Standard practice when handicapping a game between two teams is to give the home team a 3-point advantage. The projected amount of points to be scored between both sides is 44. So, there should be plenty of action in this Week 1 affair.

A Wobble Kneed Matchup:
Over the last few years, the Hogs have played the Cardinals twice. On December 17 of 2017, the Skins beat the Cardinals 20-15. But back on December 4th of 2016, the Cardinals took down the Skins 31-23. Despite the 2016 loss, if we go back further, Washington has won eight out of the last 10 meetings. The Redskins look much improved over the last couple of years, so hopefully, we see the contemporary trend of dominating the Cardinals continue.

Last season, the Cardinals only averaged 18.4 points per game. The Skins put up 21.4. But don’t cheer in victory just yet. Each team gave up a field goal more than they scored. The Cardinals at 22.6 against, and the Redskins at 24.3 against. For the Skins, this was largely due to the league’s worst run defense. But the organization has taken big steps to remedy that by fortifying the defensive line. Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen together are going to be a lot for offensive lines to handle. There will be more pressure on opposing QBs, and they should be able to close gaps and stop the run more effectively than last season. Are they going to jump from 32nd in the league to top-10? No, but there will be a marked improvement that will make offenses have to try a more balanced attack.

With all of that said, scoring against the Cardinals on their home field won’t be an easy feat. They were the 6th-ranked total defense last season, and although they didn’t really get any better over the offseason, they didn’t get any worse either. Their LB corps and secondary is highly talented and deep. It’s a good thing that Alex Smith has developed a rapport with Jordan Reed to create some mismatch situations that the Skins can capitalize on.

On the other side of the ball, Sam Bradford only played two games last season. He is a veteran pro, so he shouldn’t have too many issues with ‘rust,’ but his glass knees put the Arizona offense on wobbly legs. If the Skins defensive line starts getting penetration, will Bradford be able to escape? And if he can’t, can his injury-prone body take the punishment?

Lack of Faith in Arizona:
Right now about 55% of the public is backing the Redskins to win. With the exception of a couple of games over the last decade, when these two teams meet, the scores tend to be low and the margin of victory less than a touchdown.

The Cardinals are tough at home, but the Redskins are a better team. It will be a tight game, but the Skins win scoring in the low twenties with the Cardinals not able to break the 20-point barrier.