1 – Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, Darren Sproles, et al vs. the Redskins secondary
The Redskins are in serious trouble here. I hate to sound like a broken record, but the Redskins secondary has all the makings of being awfulsauce all season long. If it’s not the worst secondary in the NFL (at least on paper), I’d be curious to hear about the ones that are worse. As of a couple weeks ago, Tanard Jackson was projected to be the Week 1 starter, but he was suspended indefinitely by the NFL, for a minimum of a year. Then, in the last preseason game, Brandon Meriweather injured his knee, and will be out for 2-4 weeks.
That leaves 2nd year player DeJon Gomes and way over-the-hill Madieu Williams as the Skins’ starting safeties. Couple that duo with with the more often really bad than good DeAngelo Hall, the often-benched Cedric Griffin, and solid #2-type CB Josh Wilson, and you have one trustworthy defender in your secondary trying to stop one of the most prolific passing attacks in NFL history. Very tough test for the Skins in the first Week of the season.
2 – The Redskins rushing attack vs. the chains and the clock
To offset the severe mismatch of the Skins secondary vs. the Saints’ passing attack, the Redskins are going to have to move the chains… a lot… because there is no way they are going to win a shootout. There isn’t one Redskins RB that I would particularly want as my 3-down back, but I like the group as a whole. Royster and Morris are bangers, with Helu being the fastest of the three.
The Saints, meanwhile, gave up the 2nd most yards per carry in the NFL last season (5.0). Run early and often, take time off the clock, keep Drew Brees on the sidelines, wear down the Saints D, and try to hit shots down the field on play action. Offensively, that would be my blueprint for pulling off an upset. The Skins can wait until Week 2 against the Rams to unleash the golden child.
3 – The Skins’ interior pass rush vs. the Saints interior OL
The Saints probably had the best interior OL in the NFL last season. Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans were the best OG tandem in the NFL, and after Olin Kreutz quit the team, Brian De La Puente filled in at C and played very well, per a knowledgeable Saints follower that I trust. Nicks bolted for Tampa, and the Saints signed Ben Grubbs away from the Ravens to fill in. The Skins’ DL has some talent and depth, but this is a matchup that favors the Saints, in my opinion.
Still, DE Adam Carriker is 6’6. DE Stephen Bowen is 6’5. DT Barry Cofield, the shortest of the Skins’ starting defensive linemen, is 6’4, but he had 7 of the Skins’ 15 batted passes at the line last season, per PFF. Drew Brees is 6’0. Collapse the pocket, and if you can’t get there, make sure you get hands up, fellas.
4 – The Skins’ special teams vs. themselves
The Skins had 6 FG/PAT attempts blocked last season. Not a single one of them was the fault of the kicker, Graham Gano. This preseason, they almost had one blocked by Julius Peppers, which again, would not have been the fault of the kicker. Gano was cut in favor of Billy Cundiff, a career 76.7% kicker. I think that was a mistake.
Additionally, Brandon Banks fumbled 7 kick/punt returns. I’m absolutely stunned that he made the team.
5 – The Superdome
The Superdome vs. what, Jimmy? RG3? The Skins in general?
I don’t know, frankly. Just… The Superdome.
The Saints went 9-0 last season at the Superdome. They scored 374 points there. They gave up 171. That’s a point differential of +203 on the season, or +22.6 per game. Video game level of domination there.
Perfect storm of weapons galore in the Saints passing game vs. a Redskins defense that will struggle to stop the pass all season long. 38-24 Saints.