Saints Host Redskins In Intriguing Week 1 Matchup
By: Michael Robinson
Thursday, September 6, 2012
The New Orleans Saints try to put one of the most tumultuous offseasons in NFL history behind them when they host the Washington Redskins on Sunday afternoon.
Kickoff will come at 1:00 p.m. (ET) from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome as part of the FOX regional coverage. This is also the debut of Washington rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III.
There has been major line movement for this game on the Don Best Pro Odds screen. New Orleans opened as 9½-point favorites, but is now down to seven at most shops. The total has remained steady and sits at 50-50½ points.
New Orleans went 9-0 SU and ATS at home last year. The ‘over’ went 4-1 in the last five of those contests.
The Saints players, fans and management are still trying to wrap their minds around the bounty scandal that cost them coach Sean Payton and linebacker Jonathan Vilma for the year. Assistant head coach Joe Vitt coached through the final preseason game, but is now suspended for the first six of the regular season.
Aaron Kromer takes over as interim coach even though he has never been a head coach at the college or NFL level. The 45-year-old will rely heavily on offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, but concerns on how they will function together is a big reason for the spread move.
New Orleans’ quarterback Drew Brees has always been under the gun, but even more so this season. He led the league’s top ranked offense in total yards (467.1 YPG) and most of the key pieces are back except receiver Robert Meachem and offensive guard Carl Nicks.
The defense struggled last year (368.4 YPG, ranked 24th) and lost cornerback Tracy Porter and linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar. Defensive end Will Smith is another bounty casualty for the first four games, although there is a small chance his suspension will be lifted in time for this game.
Injuries are also a concern for Spagnuolo in his first year with the team. Starting linebackers Curtis Lofton (ankle) and David Hawthorne (knee) are both questionable, in addition to cornerback Jabari Greer (groin). Lofton was signed from Atlanta to replace Vilma and should play.
Washington begins its third season under Mike Shanahan. The two-time Super Bowl champion coach with Denver is just 11-21 SU (15-15-2 ATS) with the Redskins. Shanahan did bring new hope to the franchise with the expensive draft trade-up to get Griffin, but the pressure is on to deliver wins fast.
Griffin had a solid preseason, 20-of-31 for 193 yards, two TDs and no picks. His athletic ability is unquestioned, but reading defenses in a regular season game is hard for any rookie and the Saints defense does fly to the ball much faster playing in the dome.
The just 22-year-old Griffin doesn’t have a great receiving core with Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan and Leonard Hankerson on the outside and the fading Santana Moss in the slot. The running back situation is unsettled right now with Evan Royster and Roy Helu Jr. in the mix.
Shanahan needs to get a good year out of the defense after ranking 13th overall last season (339.8 YPG). The secondary is the biggest concern with safety Tanard Jackson suspended for the year and Brandon Meriweather out 2-4 games. Cornerback Josh Wilson (abdominal) is also questionable.
Going against Brees and the Saints passing offense is tough enough at full strength, so this is the key matchup of the game.