Washington Redskins (1-1) at New York Giants (0-2)
The Redskins entered the season as a laughing stock. Now some are predicting they’ll win the NFC East. How did that happen? Well, the Redskins have played better than people have expected through two games, beating the Rams week 2 and almost beating the Dolphins week 1. Both of those games were at home, but the Redskins were home underdogs in both games, so they weren’t games they were expected to win. They’ve also ranked 8th in rate of moving the chains differential through 2 weeks.
The Redskins’ offense has remained a problem, particularly with DeSean Jackson out, but their defense does look legitimately much improved from a year ago. They were one of the worst defenses in the league last year, 24th in rate of moving the chains allowed, but they rank 6th through 2 games this season. I know it’s only two games, but they added guys like Terrance Knighton, Stephen Paea, Chris Culliver, and Ricky Jean-Francois in free agency this off-season. That’s made a huge difference and it’s something that I think they can maintain.
The other reason some think they can win the NFC East is simply what’s happened to the rest of the division. The only other team in the division that has even won a game is Dallas and they’ll be without both Tony Romo and Dez Bryant with injury for the foreseeable future, perhaps until December, drastically lessening their chances of being a good team this year. I still think both Dallas and Philadelphia are in better position to win the division than Washington. Philadelphia could be 1-1 if Cody Parkey hits a makeable go ahead field goal in Atlanta and then we wouldn’t really be taking about them as a non-contender, while Dallas still has good parts and technically has a 3 game lead over Philadelphia for the division, thanks to the head-to-head victory. Washington will make noise, but I still think Dallas and Philadelphia will finish higher than them.
I don’t think New York will though, as they’ve looked legitimately bad through 2 games. Yeah, they could have won both games, letting up game winning drives late in both of them, but they are currently 30th in rate of moving the chains differential. I know it’s only been two games, but they haven’t been good over the last 2 years either, thanks to injuries, and the injury bug has continued to bite them this season. Jason Pierre-Paul, William Beatty, and Victor Cruz are all out for this one again.
Middle linebacker Jon Beason returns and he’ll be a huge upgrade over Uani’ Unga, who has been Pro Football Focus’ worst ranked middle linebacker through 2 games in Beason’s absence, but Beason isn’t a very good player either at this stage of his career, after all of those injuries, so he won’t exactly be a savior. The Giants are also expected to be without rookie left tackle Ereck Flowers for this one, meaning they’ll be missing both of their intended starting offensive tackles. On top of that, Robert Ayers, arguably their best defensive player through 2 games and the saving grace of this pass rush with JPP out, will be a game time decision for this game with a hamstring problem.
In spite of that, the Giants are favored by 3.5 points here at home, suggesting that they are the better of the two teams. I obviously disagree with that. The Giants also have never really had a very good homefield advantage, at least not since 2004, the start of the Tom Coughlin/Eli Manning era. They are 51-42 (44-49 ATS) at home over that time period, outscoring opponents by an average of 2.55 points per game, as opposed to 53-43 (58-38 ATS) on the road over that time period, getting outscored by an average of 0.10 points per game.
With a slightly superior team in town and minimal homefield advantage, the Giants should only be favored by like a point, if that. On top of that, the Redskins are in a good spot having their first road game of the year week 3. This is the first time they’ve had to travel for a real game since last December and typically teams are more rested than their opponents and do well in that spot, going 40-26 ATS since 1989. The public is on the Giants, but the line has dropped from 4 to 3.5, which suggests sharp action on Washington. That could drop this line to a field goal or lower by game time, so lock in 3.5 while you have a chance. The Redskins should be the right side this week.
Washington Redskins 20 New York Giants 19 Upset Pick +160
Pick against the spread: Washington +3.5