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Monday, September 16, 2013

NFL Predictions 2013 Week 3: Lions vs Redskins

Detroit Lions vs Washington Redskins: DET +1.5 (Bet365)

Market Watch

This line was a strange one. In the LVH look-ahead line, the Redskins were -3 point favorites. Pinnacle re-opened the Lions as -1 point favorites, despite nearly everyone else coming out with a new line of -1 in favor of Washington. I think Pinnacle had the right line all along, as I don't think the Skins can be favored with the way they are playing. I'll gladly take the extra point an a half and ride the dog. Early betting action is split with 53% on the Redskins so far.

When the Redskins have the ball

Week 2 is often harder to predict than Week 1.  Many make the mistake of overreacting, but there's also the real danger of underreacting. We don't know what's what until the games shake out, but I was fairly confident in fading RG3 after what I saw on opening night. I played the Packers on the side, put them in two teasers, and took Rodgers in a prop. This week I'm doing the same thing with the Lions. Now there's no question that the Lions are not the Packers, but they aren't favored by a touchdown either.

RG3's struggles are well-documented. What I do want to highlight is that he only attempted one pass beyond 20 yards and it was incomplete. He was only under pressure on 10 plays, and he struggled on those plays too. It's a positive sign that he's been able to rebound with big numbers in the second halves, so I don't expect him to lay a total egg again in Week 3, but I don't see the Lions defensive line making life easy on him either. Adding insult to injury is that Washington receivers have a league leading 10 drops through two games.

LT Trent Williams was able to contain Clay Matthews for the most part, but the Redskins offensive line has a lot more to worry about with the Detroit defensive front. Ezekiel Ansah had a big game against Arizona in both the run and pass game. Nick Fairley has returned to practice, which would make this interior rotation downright scary. Rounding things out is Ndamaukong Suh. Through two games, he's the top rated DT by PFF. Against the Cardinals he had five pressures and two hits. He also had two big stops in the run game.

Overall this front seven have been good on third down and in the red zone - areas that usually lead to wins. I say usually because they contrasted that effort with more dumb penalties. That's just life when backing the Lions, but I still feel good about Delmas and Houston in that secondary. The big cause for concern is at the second corner position as Darius Slay was benched for the second straight game. Rashean Mathis has taken over and only allowed three completions on nine targets for 28 yards.

My only big concern about backing the Lions in this spot is the kicker - David Akers. I have no idea why on earth they signed this guy to begin with, but he might be one of the biggest chokers in the league. If this game comes down to his leg, I won't even have the stomach to watch.

When the Lions have the ball

One of the big keys that had me on Detroit in Week 2 was the addition of Reggie Bush. So what happens? He didn't play in the second half and the offense stalled with only 90 yards after halftime. He's so good on screens and underneath routes that he can score from anywhere on the field. It also takes attention away from Calvin Johnson.

For this game, I'm going ahead as if Bush will sit. There's a chance he plays, but I don't think he's going to be a make-or-break factor like he was last week. The Arizona defense is much more dynamic on all three levels than the Redskins unit.

With a sputtering offense, the Redskins defense is being asked to do way too much. They had a bad secondary to begin with, but now it's just being exploited. To be fair, they faced Chip Kelly's offense without knowing what to expect, and then followed that with the Packers. This test shouldn't be as difficult, but they are going to have a hard time covering these receivers.  They've also been missing way too many tackles. In the Green Bay game, they missed 16!

Reed Doughty and Josh Wilson missed five each. Even the reliable London Fletcher had problems getting off blocks. Is Father Time finally catching up to him? David Amerson was flat out picked on, giving up 126 yards on four catches. He also had two missed tackles and a key offensive holding penalty.

Up front, what was considered a huge question mark and potential liability is slowly turning into a positive. The right side of the offensive line had a strong game in Week 1, and in Week 2 it was LT Riley Reiff and center Dominic Raiola who put on a clinic. Through two weeks, Stafford has been pressured a league low 22.9% of the time.

Bottom Line

It was very frustrating watch the Lions self-implode on Sunday to put the Arizona offense in a position to score multiple times in the second half. I know that is the inherent risk of taking the undisciplined Lions, and having Bush on the sidelines only rubbed salt in the wound.

That said, I like Detroit's offense to move the ball in Week 3 even if Bush sits out as they go up against one of the worst secondaries in the NFL. On the other side of the ball, I have no problem fading RG3 until I see him produce when a game is on the line. Now he'll have to do it against one of the toughest defensive lines in all of football.  The mismatches favor the road dog here on both sides of the ball. A rebound win from Washington wouldn't shock me, but I have no choice but to fade them until I see otherwise.

NFL Pick: DET +1.5.
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