Saturday, December 26, 2015

Win or Lose Saturday Night, The Future is Bright in Ashburn #RedskinsTalk

By. Mike Baxter

A loss on Saturday night in the city of Brotherly Love will certainly take on the affect of a direct punch to the gut. And although the Redskins' season and playoff hopes wouldn't be officially over, the Redskins would no longer control their own destiny, would no longer have the option to rest starters against Dallas AND would have to beat Dallas in Dallas, and Redskins Nation would become huge New York Giants fans in Week 17.

And its not a far cry to envision the Redskins losing Saturday night. For starters, they're 3 point dogs according to Vegas. Not to mention, they're on the road versus a team who got absolutely humiliated last week (on National TV, no less), and they'll be trying to beat a team that they've already beat once this season, which by NFL standards, is not the easiest thing to do.

So if they do lose Saturday, and eventually miss the playoffs by either losing to Dallas and/or by Philly then beating the G-Men in Week 17, Redskins Nation is going to be devastated. But from those emotional ashes, which will be spewed all over the DMV and on sports talk radio and Twitter feeds, you'll need to pull out some perspective. Because your Washington Redskins made some huge strides in the 2015 campaign, and the future- to include next season- is looking brighter than it has in decades.

(1) So if they do happen to lose Saturday night and let's say they do go down to Dallas and beat a Kellen Moore led Dallas Cowboys team, that will bring their record to a respectable 8-8, and certainly trending much higher after a dreadful 4-12 campaign in 2014. That alone is a call for a mini-celebration.

(2) Regardless of how it's played out since the 2012 NFL Draft, the Redskins seem to have found their Quarterback in Kirk Cousins. Over the last month or so of the season, he's played like a Top 10 NFL Quarterback, and most of the important QB statistics will reflect as much. He's progressively gotten better with running Jay Gruden (more on him in a minute) and Sean McVay's offense, and the players around him seem to be feeding off of it. The Redskins next step with Cousins will be negotiating a contract extension, or slapping the franchise tag on him. And although the Redskins are trending up, they still have some holes to fill on both sides of the ball. And in light of both a weak 2016 college QB draft class and very limited options in Free Agency, using either option to ensure Cousins is in Ashburn next season, is a must at this point.

(3) Jay Gruden seems to be finding his groove. And although Jon's brother had a rough rookie campaign, and some of his second half adjustments have left little to be desired, there are some things he should be recognized for. For one, regardless of how much of it was his input and how much of it was Scot McCloughan's, the right guy has been under center all season. "It's Kirk's team."  Secondly, Gruden is- on the surface- a lot looser than stone faced Mike Shanahan ever was. From someone who is not at Redskins Park everyday, I just get the sense that his personality keeps the players more loose, which has translated into a more positive approach and winning ball games. Lastly, who wants to go thru a divorce every two or three years? Nobody, unless your name is Liz Taylor or Larry King. Something can be said for some stability at the head coaching position, and Jay Gruden has certainly earned a third year.

Franchise Savior?
(4) More Scot McCloughan and less Dan Snyder and Bruce Allen. The circus certainly seemed to have left town with Mr. McCloughan's arrival. There essentially has been zero in-season drama, and we haven't heard a peep from Dan Snyder or Bruce Allen all season. Also, McCloughan's first draft class has been better than average. Brandon Scherff, Matt Jones, Jamison Crowder, and Preston Smith have all either started and/or have contributed significantly in their rookie campaigns. Not to mention some of McCloughan's FA pick ups who've contributed, i.e. Will Blackmon and Mason Foster.  And although McCloughan came to town with some personal baggage, he's seemed to have brought a calm to a franchise that's been in an absolute S-storm for the good part of two decades.

(5) Kicking and special teams. Although Kicker Dustin Hopkins had a pretty big miss against the Cowboys on Monday Night Football, his overall record and his ability to consistently kick off out of the opposing team's end zone is a real asset. He's made 22 of 25 FG attempts, with two of those misses being north of 50 yards, and he's only one of seven kickers who has been perfect (32/32) in extra point attempts. His kick offs have the Redskins with the 3rd lowest returned yards against average (18.6). Punter Tress Way and the punt team do have room for improvement, statistically average or below average in most categories. But short of one big blemish all the way back in Week 1, they've been adequate, especially for a franchise who it seems hasn't had an adequate kicking game in decades.

(6) Jordan Reed joins DeSean Jackson as the first Redskins' offensive threats in years, who create legitimate match up problems for opposing defenses from week to week. Although both players were hampered with injuries early on, they've become monsters over the second half of the season. If Jordan Reed can work on his blocking and eliminate some of the penalties, he will become the best Tight End in the league, overtaking Gronk. And as far as DeSean Jackson goes, I've been in his corner for two seasons now. As far as I'm concerned, he's been an angel in light of the horror stories we heard from those fine folks up in Philly. And athletically, he joins Bryce Harper as the only legitimate home run hitter in DC. If the Redskins don't resign him, I think they're absolutely crazy.

(7) The Redskins should enter the off season with "substantial salary cap space", according to CSN's Rich Tandler. This will give McCloughan more money to work with, bringing in (hopefully) more productive talent like Blackmon and Foster to fill some much needed holes.

(8) The NFC East could see quite the turnover in coaches. In fact, Jay Gruden might be the only NFC East coach who survives the off season coaching carousel. There have been whispers in all of the other 3 teams' camps, that their respective head coach could be unemployed after this season. Not to mention the uncertainty of the Quarterback situation in Philadelphia, a sometimes inconsistent Quarterback in East Rutherford, and an oft injured Quarterback in Dallas. In fact, don't look now Cowboy fan, but Tony Romo will be on the wrong side of 35 by next summer, he's essentially a china doll at this point in his career, and the dude probably has $50m in the bank. Or in other words, he's a short timer. So this division could be ripe for the picking over the next few years.

Bottom-line, don't kill yourself if the Redskins lose Saturday night and eventually miss the playoffs. Going into this very same week just a year ago- against Philly, no less- the Redskins were 3-11 and going nowhere fast. And now, as they say in Vegas, the Redskins are a team on the come.There are a lot of important parts in place, both on and off the field. Maintain course, maintain patience, and good things will come for the Burgundy and Gold and their fans.

Friday, December 11, 2015

NFL Week 14: Kissing Your Sister Thru 3/4 of The Season

Pittsburgh at Cincy (-2.5)
Only One More Week Until These Two Reunite
The Bengals took care of business against their divisional foe in Pittsburgh back in Week 8. Now they get them at home laying less than a field goal. This is the over-reaction line of the week, as fresh in the mind of the bettor is Antonio Brown trying to castrate himself, enroute to the ass kicking he and the Steelers delivered the Colts on national TV. Don't lose your nuts here, people. The Pittsburgh pass defense sucks, the Bengals have scored 30 or more in three straight games, and the Red Rifle will be shooting ducks in a pond in this one. The Bung-holes have covered 7 straight at home against teams with winning records. Load up on Iron City stock, because Big H.A.T. Nation will be drowning their sorrows away Sunday night.  27-17 Bengals.

Buffalo at Philly (+1)
I don't care how many hands aren't going to be shook this weekend in the city of Brotherly Love, because this game is easy. Desean Jackson and the Washington Red Storms didn't take care of business on Monday night, and now four teams plus the Little Sisters of The Poor have a chance to win the NFC East. Expect Chip Kelly and his racist game planning to take advantage of this opportunity. Buffalo is 1-4-1 ATS in their last six following an ATS win. Howard Eskin will nominate Chip Kelly as the new Mayor of Philly, by about 4:15 pm Eastern Sunday afternoon. 31-22 Eagles.

Atlanta (+7.5) at Carolina
I'm not sure what I'm doing here taking Matt Ryan. He's got the body language of a life loser, and his team's record has been reflective of that. After winning their first 5 games of the season, that nerd Matty Ice and the Dirty Birds have lost 6 of their last 7. And now they get undefeated Carolina on the road. I'm betting that those knuckleheads pride it up, sort of like 10 point dog Minnesota did on Thursday night. Atlanta is 0-8 ATS in their last 8 overall, due....Atlanta is 0-4 ATS in their last 4 divisional games, due....This is the "Flat Ronnie" 5 Star barking dog of the weekend game, due....27-24 Panthers.

Tennessee at NY Jets (-7)
I like what I've seen out of the rookie in Tennessee. And on Monday of this week, the Titans getting slightly more than a touchdown was looking pretty good to me. But then on Tuesday night I had bad sleep apnea, and a dream that the Jets absolutely pollaxed the Titans. So I'm taking the Jets here, essentially because of a dream I had. I never said this was rocket science, folks. My rationale is that its the league's 5th ranked defense, versus a rookie QB in the Meadowlands. The Titans are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 on the road vs a team with a winning record. Boring, ugly game, but just enough to anchor your ship in Cover Harbor, Jet fan.  26-6 Jets.

Dallas (+7) at Green Bay
Jerr-ah made it perfectly clear this week that he's not been impressed with Jason Garrett's coaching in Tony Romo's absence. And although I think Dallas does the unthinkable this Sunday, relative to gambling trends (goes on the road for the second week in a row, on a short week and covers), I do think the Jason Garrett era in Big D is coming to an end. But first things first. Dallas' defense is respectable, and the Green Bay Packers are three pieces of cheddar cheese short of a dumpster fire. Let's just pretend that the Detroit Lions aren't the Detroit Lions for once in their miserable existence, and the Packers don't complete that Hail Mary last Thursday night. In that case, the Packers would be in a 5 of last 6 tail spin. Dallas hasn't been as awful as their record indicates during Romo's boo-boos, and they'll cover here against a team who shouldn't be laying 7 points to anybody. 24-20 Packers.

Last Week                           2-3 ATS
YTD                            31-31-3 ATS

*lines are from the Westgate Sportsbook, 12-10-2015. Follow this blog on Twitter @sportsyack*

Sunday, December 6, 2015

NFL Week 13: Stone (Cold) Temple (Lead Pipe) Pilots (Locks)

Houston at Buffalo (-3.5)
Godspeed, Mr. Weiland
I've not been high on the Texans all year. And although they are riding a 4 game heater, they have some games on their resume this year that are simply head scratching, notably road blowout losses to both garbage Miami and what is proving to be garbage Atlanta.

When handicapping Buffalo this week, and eventually loading up on them like you should, you should relate this to a horse race, Valdez. The Bills are that horse that just ran in two big Stakes races (at New England, at Kansas City), and although they did not prevail, they placed/showed extremely well. And now their trainer is bringing them back down for a $35,000, 6 furlong race at Aqueduct in which they'll be "much the best".

The Bills are back in upstate New York following three straight roadies. And I like them in this spot to keep their Wildcard chances alive. The Foot Lover's Bills are 6-1 ATS following an ATS loss. The Bills defense, who has given up 17 points or less in three of their last four, now faces Brian Hoyer who is averaging a pedestrian 203 yards thru the air over his last 3 starts. Pump the brakes on this "Houston is surging" nonsense. Houston is never in this one. 31-13 Bills.

Seattle at Minnesota (PK)
The Seahawks are not who you think they are. And 2/3 of the way into the season, the loss of defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has finally caught up to them. Their defense has given up over 500 total yards in two of their last three games, and was put on full display in last weekend's up and down the field, "whomever scores last wins" game against equally defensively incompetent, Pittsburgh.

The Vikings, on the other hand, are playing good sound football. They sport a Top 10 defense, and the league's premier (and statistically #1) running back. They've won 6 of their last 7, and following Thursday night's miracle win by the Packers, Minnesota needs to keep the pedal to the metal in the NFC Norris Division. Seattle is a dismal 1-6-1 ATS in their last 8 following a SU win, and 1-5-1 ATS versus a team with a winning record. I honestly think this could be a complete ass kicking, and I'm surprised (since we bet it) the money is moving on Seattle. But WTF do I know? 27-14 Vikings. 

Arizona at St. Louis (+5.5)
Get out your leashes, dog biscuits, poop bags, whatever else it is that goes along with having a happy, healthy (barking) dog, because this dog in St. Louis is going to be barking loudly on Sunday. 9-2 Arizona takes their talents into the Edward Snowden Dome against a Rams team who is on a four game cooler. Hence the week that the Cardinals have a misstep- which they will today and probably one more time down the stretch- and hence a Rams team that is due and who plays their divisional games very tough.

In fact, the Los Angeles Rams are 3-0 against their division this year, including a Week 4 win at Arizona. And the Cardinals aren't exactly blowing people out when they're away from Glendale. In their last 4 roadies, they lost to the Steelers, were dead to rights to Seattle, before winning last minute. They were getting blown out at Cleveland, before racing back in the second half. And then last week they squeaked past dreadful Frisco. That's last week, as in they're now on the back end of back to back roadies (trend drop).  

Try this one on for size;  Jeff "Smoke and Mirrors" Fisher and the Rams are 7-1-1 ATS in their last 9 at home versus teams with winning records. Pound the Rams getting points, and get down on the money line. 24-20 Rams, ruff-ruff.

Philadelphia at New England (-9.5)
Wow. Talk about a line movement since we bet it. When The Legend rolled down to The Westgate Thursday morning, this line was what I've posted here, (9.5). It's currently (Sunday morning) New England (-7.5). I'm not sure if that's due to the amount of injury that New England is dealing with, but some schmuck(s) from Philly have dropped some serious cash on the 'Gals over the last 48 hours.

Never fear, pissed off, pretty Tom Brady is here. The Pats win this game going away, and will certainly cover 7.5 or 9.5 or 13.5 for that matter. Philly is a mess, their coach is more than halfway out the door, and their team has essentially punted. Their last two games have been an absolute shit show of incompetence and lack of effort. 31 and 28 point losses to garbage Detroit and almost equally garbage Tampa Bay, will have this bettor (me) jumping all in on the Patriots at home, laying less than 10, and coming off a loss. The Patriots might score 50, and I think Cliff Clavin is their starting slot receiver today. 44-14 Patriots.

Dallas (+4.5) at Washington
Don't get caught up in the "but Matt Cassel is their Quarterback" aspect of this game. I couldn't care less. The fact that Dallas- who I do believe has better than average talent on their roster- lost 7 straight games in Tony Romo's absence, is nothing short of an anomaly. Their is a ton of value in this game with the points.

For one, Dallas will be on 11 days rest by the time they tee this one up Monday night, having not played since their Turkey Day loss when Tony Romo went down again. Secondly, the Redskins are awful when playing in Prime Time, just 4-18 since Joe Gibbs 2.0 left. Lastly, Dallas hasn't been awful the last month, even when Cassel was playing.

Throw out the Thanksgiving Day loss;  Romo goes down, and it was undefeated Carolina. Prior to that, a win at Miami, a tough 4 point loss at Tampa, and then consecutive games that Dallas not only could've, but should've won- Seattle and Philly.

The Redskins haven't won consecutive games since Weeks 7 and 8 of last year. They're 3-14 ATS in their last 17 following an ATS cover. This divisional game, against a team who still has some pride left, will not be a walk in the park. My hope, as a fan of the burgundy and gold, is that the rest of the country finds out what the DMV has known for 11 weeks now. That this Dustin Hopkins dude is a pretty damn good kicker. 23-21 Redskins.

Last Week             4-1 ATS
YTD              29-28-3 ATS

**lines are from the Westgate Sportsbook, 12-3-2015. Follow this blog on Twitter @sportsyack**

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