Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) at Washington Redskins (1-1)
Before the season, I identified 5 overrated and 5 underrated teams, with the idea of betting on them (or against them) until they proved me wrong or the odds makers caught up. This served me well as I’m 10-4 this year on games involving those 10 teams (and one of those losses is because I abandoned shipped on the Bills after week 1 and picked the Chiefs last week). However, two weeks into the season, I’ve had to adapt that a little. However, one thing remains the same. I still feel the Bengals are overrated.
In the opener, they got destroyed by a Baltimore team that I also saw as overrated because their injuries and other losses defensively. That assessment of the Ravens has proven to be true as they’ve allowed 808 yards in 2 games, 27th in the NFL. The Bengals, however, managed just 323 of those yards. Andy Dalton, especially, struggled. He completed 22 of 37 for 221 yards and a pick. Those numbers don’t even tell the whole story. Only 80 of those 221 yards were in the air; the rest were after the catch. He settled for short stuff all night, completing just 4 passes that went more than 10 yards through the air (4 of 11) and his adjusted QB rating of 66.2 was 26th out of 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL week 1.
Last week, Dalton played better against the lowly Browns’ defense, completing 24 of 31 for 318 yards, 3 touchdowns, and an interception, but he was still just 5 of 10 on throws longer than 10 yards through the air (as a rookie, he was 83 of 173). Even last week, only 165 of his 318 yards were through the air. The more troubling thing from that game is that their defense, which was torched by Joe Flacco in the opener, was once again torched by Brandon Weeden.
Through 2 games, the Bengals have allowed 49 of 69 for 710 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions to two quarterbacks who are a combined 34 of 77 for 325 yards, 1 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions in their other games. Part of that has to do with their competition’s competition (both Weeden and Flacco have also faced Philadelphia, but Cincinnati has really done a poor job in pass coverage this year). Despite an average schedule at best, the Bengals rank 31st in the league in yards per play differential, which is my favorite stat and one I feel does the best job of summing up how a team has played and of projecting how they will play in the future.
Last year, the Bengals were 0-8 against playoff teams. A big part of the reason was that Andy Dalton really struggled in those 8 games, completing 55.6% of his passes for an average of 6.5 YPA, 7 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. He’s a physically limited quarterback, but offensive coordinator Jay Gruden does a great job of masking his weaknesses and highlighting his strengths. However, that doesn’t really fly against good defense.
The good news for Dalton and the Bengals is that the Redskins don’t really have a good defense. They have a great offense, which is why their yards per play differential is positive, but they have one of the worst opponent yards per play averages in the league. In the opener, they played the Saints, which is excusable, but last week and gave up 452 yards to the Rams. That’s not excusable. They’re also banged up right now as Adam Carriker and Brian Orakpo are done for the season and Josh Wilson is expected to be out at least this game. Their absences were part of the reason why they were so bad last week defensively.
Carriker’s absence isn’t huge because he’s just a marginal starter and they have a 2011 2nd round pick in Jarvis Jenkins waiting in the wings. The other two hurt much more. Josh Wilson was a solid starting cornerback in an overall weak secondary. He’ll be replaced in the starting lineup by Cedric Griffin, who is a fine nickel cornerback, but he’s struggled whenever he’s been counted on to start in the past. Orakpo’s injury is the killer. Not only is it season ending, but he’s their best pass rusher, but they have no depth behind him. Rob Jackson will get the start this week. The Redskins still have Ryan Kerrigan to pressure the quarterback, but this defense is really lacking in talent right now and the Bengals will be able to move the ball on them.
Cincinnati, meanwhile, is heading in the opposite direction injury wise, at least defensively, as they’re getting healthier. This is a welcome sight for a defense that has been torched in the first 2 games. Because of injuries, they’ve had to feature washed up guys like Nate Clements and Terence Newman in the secondary, next to Leon Hall, who is still not 100% just 10 months removed from an Achilles tear, and they’ve also been without top pass rusher Carlos Dunlap. Rookie cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick will not return this week, but cornerback Jason Allen and Dunlap are expected to.
Allen will help in the secondary and Dunlap will help a pass rush that has ranked 23rd in pass rush efficiency without him. Leon Hall, who has been uncharacteristically torched in the first 2 games, surrendering 10 completions for 143 yards and a touchdown on 14 attempts, is another week healthier closer to 100% this week. However, Robert Griffin and this offense has been unstoppable in the first 2 games, even by a solid Rams defense, so they should have no problem moving the ball on the Bengals defense that is average at best.
Still, I think the Bengals are overrated. Even with those two teams trending in opposite directions injury wise, there’s no way these two teams are even like this line suggests (3 points for home field advantage). Cincinnati got blown out by an overrated Baltimore team that doesn’t have the defense they normally do and then only beat a crappy Browns team without their top defensive player by 7. Washington, meanwhile, went into to New Orleans and beat a Saints team that hadn’t lost their in 9 games last season, and then hung close with an underrated Rams team in St. Louis. Now they head home and they should be able to win pretty easily here. Injuries are the only reason this isn’t a bigger bet.
Update: Josh Wilson is expected to play, which is a boost to an ailing Redskins defense. Also, I forgot to mention, week 1 rookie starting quarterbacks are 8-1 SU and ATS since 2008. I’m adding an extra unit to Washington.
Public lean: Washington (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Cincinnati covers)
Washington Redskins 31 Cincinnati Bengals 20
Pick against spread: Washington -3 (-115) 4 units