PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (0-0) at WASHINGTON REDSKINS (0-0)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Washington -4 & 52.5
Opening Line & Total: Redskins -4.5 & 51
Two exciting dual-threat quarterbacks play under the lights on Monday when Eagles QB Michael Vick tries to outscore Redskins QB Robert Griffin III.
Griffin put up insane numbers during his team’s sweep of Philly last year, completing 30-of-39 passes for 398 yards and 6 TD, plus 88 more running yards. He won’t scramble as much with his knee brace this season, but Washington’s ground game is in very capable hands (and feet). Redskins RB Alfred Morris also hurt the Eagles last season with 191 total yards in the two wins. Philly’s defense got a major overhaul in personnel, and new head coach Chip Kelly has delivered his up-tempo offense from Oregon that centers around Vick and RB LeSean McCoy. He’ll look to get his new team back to respectability after a 4-12 season, and could notch that first win Monday considering Washington is 11-24 ATS (31%) in September home games since 1992. Also, favorites that allowed 5.4+ yards per play in their previous season like the Redskins are just 20-47 ATS (30%) versus division opponents over the past decade. However, not all is grim for Washington, considering the Eagles were 0-7 ATS when the line was between +3 and -3 last season.
The Eagles, who scored just 17.5 PPG last year (fourth-fewest in NFL) will surely play up-tempo with new head coach Chip Kelly, but new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur is from the Andy Reid coaching tree and should bring a more traditional touch to this offense. RB LeSean McCoy will take the majority of the carries and QB Michael Vick will get to run a few keepers. With No. 1 receiver Jeremy Maclin out for the year with a torn ACL, WR DeSean Jackson will likely get more intermediate targets. This should help the team’s poor 6.1 passing YPA in 2013 that ranked 26th in the league. The Eagles hope new defensive coordinator Billy Davis can improve the team’s pathetic 13 takeaways in 2012 (tied for last in NFL). This led to the club allowing 27.8 PPG, which tied them for the league’s fourth-worst scoring defense. Davis’ 3-4 based scheme will operate in multiple looks with several blitz packages. It will feature many new faces, such as mountainous NT Isaac Sopoaga, pass-rushing OLB Connor Barwin and a brand new secondary of CB Bradley Fletcher, CB Cary Williams, FS Kenny Phillips and SS Pat Chung. This back four hopes to pick off much more than the eight passes that last year’s defense managed. The only major injury concern for the defense is that Williams is questionable with a hamstring injury.
RB Alfred Morris is a three-down workhorse, but everything the Redskins do is based on QB Robert Griffin III. It’s head coach Mike Shanahan’s classic zone blocking up front in the running game, but with the added threat of Griffin keeping it. Washington piled up a league-best 169 rushing YPG last year, and also led the NFL with 6.2 yards per play. The passing game uses a lot of play-action and rollouts with WR Pierre Garcon the closest thing to a No. 1 receiver, getting a lot of catch-and-run opportunities. TE Fred Davis is the No. 2 option for Griffin. Although the team finished 20th in passing offense (214 YPG), it still posted 27.3 PPG, good for fourth-best in the NFL. Because the Redskins stuffed the run so effectively (96 YPG allowed, 5th in NFL), opponents chose to throw on them more than any NFL team at nearly 40 attempts per game. Rookie CB David Amerson and former Bucs CB E.J. Biggers should help the overworked secondary. DE/OLB Ryan Kerrigan (8 sacks) was the only player to record at least five sacks, but ageless ILB London Fletcher, 38, is still a highly productive linebacker and team leader on defense. The Redskins will be missing some key players on Monday, including DE Jarvis Jenkins (suspension), DE Adam Carriker (quad), LB Rob Jackson (suspension), CB DeAngelo Hall (ankle) and S Philip Thomas (foot).
HOUSTON TEXANS (0-0) at SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (0-0)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Houston -6 & 45
Opening Line & Total: Texans -3.5 & 47
The big question for part two of Monday’s NFL doubleheader is how much Texans star RB Arian Foster will play versus the Chargers.
Foster, who led the NFL with 351 carries last season, was slowed with calf and back injuries throughout camp, and head coach Gary Kubiak says Foster will not get his typical workload. There’s nothing wrong with Houston’s Defensive Player of the Year, DE J.J. Watt, who hopes to wreak havoc in Mike McCoy’s first game as San Diego’s head coach. McCoy and new offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt will allow QB Philip Rivers to throw downfield, while hoping RB Ryan Mathews can stay healthy and keep defenses honest. The Chargers are 4-0 (SU and ATS) all-time versus the Texans, winning the most recent meeting in 2010 by a 29-23 score. This contributes to San Diego’s 11-1 ATS mark (92%) at home versus AFC South division opponents.
The cornerstone of the Texans offense remains the zone-blocking running scheme. It’s a one-cut system for their backs, where RB Arian Foster thrives. This system is also conducive to Ben Tate’s skills, and the team hopes he can stay healthy all year to take some more carries and ease the burden on Foster. The Texans use a conservative West Coast passing game with WR Andre Johnson almost always zeroed in with QB Matt Schaub’s first look. TE Owen Daniels still serves as the default No. 2 target with rookie WR DeAndre Hopkins stretching the field. Hopkins suffered a concussion in the preseason, but he’s passed all the concussion tests and should be starting on Monday night. Houston showed a nice balance last year with 133 rushing YPG (8th in NFL) and 239 passing YPG (11th in league). Just the presence of Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt (NFL-best 20.5 sacks, 39TFL) is enough to make the Texans a strong defense (323 YPG allowed, 7th in NFL), and the addition of playmaking FS Ed Reed (9 career TD) and the healthy return of ILB Brian Cushing makes them truly elite. Reed will likely sit out Monday’s game though with a hip injury, which bumps Shiloh Keo to the starting spot. Despite Reed’s absence, CBs Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson are stellar shutdown corners, and versatile DB Danieal Manning should have little trouble shifting from free safety to strong safety this season. Thanks in large part to J.J. Watt’s 16 pass deflections, the Texans led the NFL with a 53.0% opponents’ completion rate. They also finished seventh in rushing defense (98 YPG) and tied for ninth in scoring defense (20.7 PPG allowed).
New head coach Mike McCoy and new offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt shouldn’t change the passing game much. QB Philip Rivers is at his best getting the ball deep up the seam to WR Malcom Floyd. Versatile WR Vincent Brown will help fill the year-long void of WR Danario Alexander (torn ACL) and TE Antonio Gates remains a big part of the offense. The perennially disappointing RB Ryan Mathews will take the bulk of the early down reps in hopes he can improve the team’s paltry 91 rushing YPG last year (6th-worst in NFL). The Chargers had seven defensive touchdowns last year, but in effort to generate more pressure (two sacks or less in 11 games in 2012), DE Dwight Freeney (107.5 career sacks) was signed. Bigger numbers are also expected from third-year pro DE Corey Liuget (7 sacks). Adding shutdown CB Derek Cox and rookie LB Manti Te’o to incumbent standouts FS Eric Weddle and ILB Donald Butler makes John Pagano’s 3-4 scheme one to respect. Te’o will likely not make his NFL debut on Monday though, as he’s been slowed by a foot injury. San Diego finished sixth in the league in rushing defense (96 YPG) and ninth in total defense (326 YPG) last year.