Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, October 5, 2014 at 1:00 PM
Early in an NFL season, perceptions of various teams can turn on a dime. You saw that with several teams who played on Sunday…in games with pointspreads that would have been much different had those same matchups been played two weeks earlier. One of the topsiest/turviest teams in terms of perceptions has been the Washington Redskins…who host the defending World Champion Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football.
*Washington entered Preseason camp with great enthusiasm. Star quarterback RGIII was returning from injury, and kept telling everyone he was at 100%. New head coach Jay Gruden was brought in to fix what had gone wrong in the final stages of the Mike Shanahan era. Many pundits thought Gruden/RGIII was going to be a perfect marriage. Maybe Washington wouldn’t compete for the NFC East title. But, they were going to be a lot better than the 3-13 team that stunk up the league last year.
*It became clear very quickly though that RGIII still wasn’t moving well. He wasn’t changing direction with authority. He wasn’t dashing away from trouble. And, most alarmingly, he was still floating passes because he wasn’t planting hard and firing away.
*The season opener at Houston was particularly depressing, as Washington couldn’t do anything on offense against an opponent that finished 2-14 the prior season! Sure, Houston was better than that…but probably wasn’t a playoff team. The enthusiasm was gone. Critics were calling for Kirk Cousins to get the quarterback job.
*Fate intervened in Week Two when Cousins got the job by default after RGIII was injured again! This time a dislocated ankle sidelined RGIII on a non-contact play. Cousins led the Redskins to a blowout win over Jacksonville. And the sun was shining again! Cousins was the answer. Joe Theismann had monopolized the local media telling everyone that. Now it was obvious. Washington was a Wildcard threat once again after a 1-1 start.
*Week Three at Philadelphia was a loss…but a competitive loss against an opponent favored to win the division. Fans could consider it a good sign that Washington had a “good” loss on the road against a playoff team. A 1-2 start isn’t great…but the talent and performance level still suggested a decent season.
*DISASTER! The bubble burst in a Thursday Night game at home against the NY Giants. Cousins kept throwing the ball to the wrong team. The defense was several steps slow all night against a divisional rival who had started the season poorly. You could no longer envision Kirk Cousins leading the team to the playoffs. You could no longer envision the defense doing its job even when Cousins played well!
That leaves us at a 1-3 record for Washington one month into the season, with the Super Bowl champs coming to visit off a bye. Can Washington salvage 2014 with a great bounce-back effort that shows Cousins learned from his mistakes? Or, is a 1-4 record imminent…on the way to a 4-12 disappointment that will have the local media on the warpath again? Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats have to say about the game you’ll be watching tonight on ESPN.
Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)
Seattle: 2-1 (#2 according to Jeff Sagarin of USA Today)
Washington: 1-3 (#26 according to Jeff Sagarin of USA Today)
You already know Washington’s slate. Did you realize as you were reading the listing that it would grade out so poorly? Washington is 1-3 against a soft schedule! The only win came over truly horrible Jacksonville. It’s hard to say how the triumvirate of Houston/Philly/NYG will be seen another month deeper into the season. The computers aren’t rating it as a juggernaut at the moment.
Computers ARE rating what Seattle faced as a juggernaut! In order, the Seahawks played Green Bay, San Diego, and Denver. All three of those were playoff teams from last year…and all three are currently projected to be playoff teams again this year. Seattle is stepping way down in class this week from what they’re used to. Washington is stepping up, possibly way up from even the best team they faced in Philadelphia.
Seattle: 5.9 on offense, 4.8 on defense
Washington: 6.1 on offense, 5.2 on defense
Relatively even differentials have to be adjusted for strength of schedule. Seattle was +1.1, but it came against three playoff teams. Washington’s +0.9 would likely fall to a negative if they had faced Seattle’s slate. Worth noting though that Washington’s defense looks better in those numbers than they did against the Giants…suggesting hope for the team if they can get healthy on that side of the ball. And, Cousins is capable of moving up and down the field. Can he avoid tossing it to the wrong team?!
Seattle’s +2 is actually less intimidating than what they were doing last season. Maybe stepping down in class will help normalize their numbers. Remember that this is a team that focuses very intently on turnover differential. The defense is constantly trying to steal the ball. The offense plays conservatively and prefers punts to high risk passes. Washington can’t compete until they can figure out the risk/reward dynamic.
Seattle: 2-1 ATS (would have been 1-2 ATS in regulation)
Washington: 2-2 ATS
Clearly Seattle is the better team. The market knows that already, which means handicappers must evaluate whether or not the price correctly reflects that superiority. To this point, the market has overshot the mark just a bit in regulation. Seattle’s overtime TD allowed them to post a 2-1 ATS record that would be 1-2 ATS after 60 minutes. On the whole, Seattle has been a bit overpriced. Washington is at break-even because they covered the loss at Philadelphia. And, if you’re an RGIII hater, you would point out that Washington is still 2-1 ATS in the games determined by Cousins’ production. Or, if Cousins DOESN’T self-destruct with turnovers, he’s going to cover the spread.
Current Line: Seattle by 7.5, total of 46
It’s easy to see this game blowing up in either direction. If the NY Giants can win a turnover-fueled blowout on this field, then Seattle is certainly capable of coasting to a double digit win in similar fashion. They could have the spread more than doubled by halftime. But, we’ve seen this Seahawks team play flat when their opponent doesn’t get their juices flowing. The Seattle team that largely no-showed at San Diego could find themselves trailing early against a home dog quarterback with something to prove. Remember that Cousins may see this as his shot at an NFL career being on the line in addition to the Redskins trying to save their season.
JIM HURLEY has been working very closely with his sources to make sure his clients get the right side (or total) in this one. Monday Night is the most important wagering night of the week! You can purchase the final word for Monday any time during the day before kickoff right here at the website with your credit card. Be sure to check on baseball playoff action too! If you have any questions about seasonal packages, or combination packages for football and baseball, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155.
Will be back with you for a college football report that will run Tuesday and Wednesday here in the NOTEBOOK. Then, Thursday will bring an expanded TV preview for Indianapolis at Houston in the NFL. Friday will feature once again an expanded NFL preview that will feature JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats for every game on the board! We hope you enjoyed that report this last weekend.
Key stats and analysis for handicappers here in the NOTEBOOK. And, BIG, JUICY WINNERS from JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!