I don’t usually bet on NFL games more than five months before they occur. We haven’t even gotten to the draft yet, let alone the preseason. Guys get injured, or benched, or – well, you get the point. Too much uncertainty.
But I’m confident enough now that I’m taking a few dollars to the sports book this week and placing on the Eagles to cover the 8.5-point spread in their Sept. 8 home opener against Washington.
Overall, the schedule maker did the Birds no favors – handing them a three-game road trip, as well as their annual Thursday night road game, this year in Green Bay. But a home opener against the Skins? That’s almost like a first-week bye.
Count on Washington to be the division’s doormat this season. With Alex Smith out (perhaps forever), the Skins are expected to start Colt McCoy or Case Keenum at quarterback. McCoy brings a 7-20 career record into the new season. And the last time we saw Keenum, he coughed up three turnovers for Minnesota in the 2017 NFC title game.
There’s a chance Washington may trade for Arizona’s Josh Rosen or draft a QB this week. Either way, the new guy should be overmatched by the Eagles’ veteran defense.
The Redskins spent their off-season overpaying for safety Landon Collins and signing tackle Ereck Flowers, a first-round bust for the Giants. Meanwhile, they lost solid LB Preston Smith, WR Jamison Crowder and several other starters from an already thin roster.
In short, it’s going to be a rough season for head coach Jay Gruden.
The Eagles had a solid off-season, adding WR DeSean Jackson and RB Jordan Howard as weapons, and bringing defensive line depth with DT Malik Jackson and DE Vinny Curry. They’ll be a contender again.
Look, 8.5 points is a big number – the largest early spread of the NFL’s opening week. But the Eagles crushed Washington the past two seasons, winning the four contests by an average score of 29-13. There’s nothing to suggest this next game should be more challenging.
I’ve always believed it’s best in the NFL to play your weak opponents early – especially at home. In part this is to gain momentum; in part it’s because other teams projected to be strong may be destroyed by injury or other factors by the time you play them later in the season.
Looking at things now, the opener against the burgundy-and-gold looks like the most lopsided affair of the season, edging out October games against the Jets and Bills. An 8.5-point spread? I’ll gladly lay that.