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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

NFL Predictions 2012 Week 4: Redskins vs Buccaneers

Washington Redskins vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers: TB -2.5 (5Dimes)


The offseason line had the Bucs favored by one. The look-ahead line was -2.5.  After Week 3, not much has changed.  A lot of books are preferring to set the game at -3 at even money, but you can grab -2.5 for a decent price.  I still like the play at -3 because I think it should be closer to -4.

QB Inconsistency

Neither one of these QB's are going to win any awards for their play anytime soon.  RG3 is dynamic and deadly in the red zone, but he was just 3 for 8 on third down resulting in just one first down. The problem is he doesn't have the best weapons around him and he's still susceptible to normal rookie mistakes.  Josh Morgan, Leonard Hankerson, and Santana Moss are average at best, which is why most of RG3's targets went to Fred Davis over the middle.  Pierre Garcon might return, but don't expect a huge surge in offense if he does. 

The good news is even after Trent Williams went down with an injury, RG3 still managed to put up 24 points on offense including 85 yards rushing.  The asterik here though is he did it against a subpar Cincy defense.  Also, if Williams can't go or is limited with his bone bruise, the Skins O-line could be in trouble once again with Jordan Black covering RG3's blindside.

Things might be even worse for Josh Freeman.  He continues to show the kind of inconsistency that plagued him last season.  On third down, he turned the ball over twice and only converted one pass for a first down.  Just the week before he put up over 200 yards passing including long touchdowns to Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams.

What to expect this week?  Your guess is as good as mine, but the promising thing is he's going up against a hapless secondary and questionable pass rush.

Defense: Advantage Bucs

It shouldn't come as a surprise that the Bucs struggled offensively against the Cowboys.  That was a tough spot to be in after their devastating loss in New York the week before, and Dallas have a pretty good thing going on with their defense. Thankfully for them, the Redskins are not yet on the same level as the rest of their division. 

Last week I raised questions about the Skins secondary, but I thought they'd be able to do enough collectively on defense to limit Dalton/Green. The Bengals proved that those concerns were legit as they completely shredded Washington's defense all day long.

The only heartbeat on this Skins defense is at linebacker with Riley, Kerrigan, and Fletcher.  Yet, much like the Panthers, a good set of linebackers can only do so much if they can't get QB pressure up front or cover anybody at the back.

I'm not saying the Bucs are going to post huge numbers on Sunday, but they should be able to put up some points and rely on their defense.

Losing Adrian Clayborn was a blow and I'm not sure how they are going to replace him.  Da'Quan Bowers is already out, so they are running low on quality reserves.  Michael Bennett has done a great job filling in, and Gerald McCoy is providing a strong push in the middle, but this is something to keep an eye on going forward.

The good news is the rest of the defense is stepping up to the plate.  Last week I said the Giants game was misleading because the Bucs played great on D for three quarters before all hell broke loose.  Lavonte David doesn't come off the field and is already the anchor over the middle.  Without him, I fear what this linebacking group would look like.

On the back end is where I expect the biggest mismatch of the day to be.  Eric Wright and Aqib Talib have done a great job this year against three pretty high powered offenses.  Yes the wheels did fall off for one quarter, but Wright was off the field and Eli took advantage of their cover one scheme in the hurry-up no huddle.  That is not about to happen with this Skins offense.

I don't really trust Ronde Barber in coverage anymore, but with Mark Barron roaming the field in the other safety spot, this secondary has a chance to be very good.

Bottom Line

When I update my power rankings next week, I can't imagine these teams being too far away from each other.  Yet, it's hard to think that the Redskins are the better team right now given the discrepancies on defense.  The Bucs have shown a tough attitude on that side of the ball and look much better than they did last year.  I like them to win this game by more than field goal as long as Freeman can spit out an average performance.

NFL Pick: TB -2.5.

The rest of my Week 4 predictions are here, or you can find all my 2012 predictions on the home page main menu.
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