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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

NFL Predictions 2013 Week 2: Redskins vs Packers

Washington Redskins vs Green Bay Packers: GB -7 (Bet365)

Market Watch

In the LVH look-ahead line, the Packers were listed as -6.5 point favorites over the Redskins.  After the MNF game, the game reopened on the other side of 7, at -7.5. Sharp books like Pinnacle and 5Dimes continue to keep it out of the teaser window, but you can shop around for -7's (Bet365, CRIS, Bookmaker, etc).  I don't think this line adjustment was enough based on what we saw from RG3.

Two out of every three bets are coming in on Green Bay.

When the Packers have the ball

What more needs to be said about Aaron Rodgers?  He was his normal dynamic self in Week 1, going 3 for 6 in the red zone for 25 yards and three touchdowns.  Jordy Nelson looks healthy, and Randall Cobb is primed for a big game. Finley hurt his toe against he 49ers, but he finished the game and should be good to go.

The other encouraging sign is that McCarthy returned to Eddie Lacy in the second half of the game. After an early fumble, there was the fear that he'd get sit on the bench for the rest of the contest. The production wasn't anything to get excited about, but he did show glimpses of what he's capable of. As long as he holds onto the ball, his presence is going to add a scary element to this Green Bay offense.  The only downside is, much like Rodgers, he'll likely have to create a lot of yards on his own given the shoddy offensive line ahead of him. The upside is he'll almost always face six and seven man fronts as defenses key in on the passing game.

Washington is fortunate to have a healthy Orakpo and Carriker back. Along with Kerrigan, Fletcher, and Riley, there's some nice difference makers in the front seven. We can go ahead and throw Week 1 out the window, because they had the unlucky task of trying to figure out Chip Kelly's offense on the fly.

What the Skins should be more focused on is what's going on in their secondary.  It was their biggest problem in 2012 and there's no reason to believe it won't be a liability in 2013. DeAngelo Hall is better at running his mouth than he is covering receivers, and Rambo and Biggers struggled badly at safety in their first starts. A healthy Meriweather would help, but when is that ever going to happen?

Unless the Skins can dominate the line of scrimmage, the defensive backs are in for a long, long day. With a full roster of health at the skill positions, the Packers offense is ready to roll.

When the Redskins have the ball

In hindsight, picking Washington to cover against Philly doesn't look so good. No one really knew how RG3 would look after reconstructive knee surgery, and the Eagles were a mystery on both sides of the ball. While I still believe the Skins will return to form at some point this year, the big question is ... when?

RG3's struggles on MNF are well-documented, so I won't rehash much of that. Instead, let's focus on the Packers strategy to defend him.

After spending a lot of the offseason designing ways to stop Colin Kaepernick, the one thing that they rolled the dice on was his arm. By ambushing the QB from the edge, the 49ers rarely used the read-option at all. Instead, they transferred the option to the play-action passing game, where Kaepernick completed 8 of 10 passes for 122 yards, and two touchdowns. Last year, the Skins used play-action on 42% of their snaps - the most in the league.

The problem for Washington is RG3 is not Colin Kaepernick right now. Nor does he have Anquan Boldin. Last season RG3 was capable of killing defenses with his arm, but that was when his run-option was a lethal threat. The trust in the knee just isn't there yet, which is normal for someone who is only 8 months removed from surgery. Even when he loosened up in the second half, most of it was designed around the short-passing game.

To do damage against the Packers, they'll need a much better game from Morris. Yet, based on how the Packers are approaching the read-option, it's questionable how much room there will be for that plan to work. Ultimately, they'll need RG3 to play much better in the air.

And despite the number Kaepernick put up, I'm not that down on the Packers secondary. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap and give credit to an all-world performance. They do miss Casey Hayward in the slot, but Williams and Shields are good on the outside. They also missed Morgan Burnett last week, but he was back at practice on Wednesday. If he can't go, they'll have to rely on Jerron McMillian again, who did not have a good game vs the 49ers. Either way, this unit should be able to rebound in front of their home crowd against a less threatening passing attack.

The other bonus this unit has going for them is the monster that is Clay Matthews. Now healthy, he had three pressures, a sack, and five stops in the run game in Week 1.

Bottom Line

Barring some kind of miracle, Rodgers should be able to put up 30+ points in their home-opener. If they decide to load up in coverage, Eddie Lacy could be in for a big day. Either way, Jim Haslett will need his whole bag of tricks, and top-end execution to stay in this game.

Nobody is quite sure what RG3 has for an encore, but I'm going to be really surprised if he suddenly finds his form (and legs) of a year ago. He will have opportunities in the vertical passing game based on how the Packers are defending the read-option, but it's also possible that Dom Capers switches things up if he sees that RG3 isn't much a run threat.  Either way, I'm confident the Packers defense is up to the task.

NFL Pick: GB -7.
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