We'll call the first "Monday Night Football" game of the 2013 NFL season the “Torn ACL Bowl” with the NFC East rival Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins facing off. Why that moniker? Torn ACLs hang heavy over both teams.
The news is good for the defending division champion Redskins. By now everyone knows that Robert Griffin III blew out his knee on that wretched turf at FedEx Field in Washington's wild-card playoff loss to Seattle last season. RG3 had hurt the knee earlier in the season and clearly wasn't 100 percent against the Seahawks. Coach Mike Shanahan got a ton of criticism for not benching his star and the face of the franchise. RG3 should be back for this contest.
Free $60 in Member NFL Picks
The news isn't good for the Eagles. There seem to have been an unusually large rash of big injuries already in training camp -- Seahawks Percy Harvin, Ravens Dennis Pitta, Broncos Dan Koppen to name three others -- and Philly wasn't immune. Leading receiver Jeremy Maclin tore his ACL and is done for 2013. He had an Eagles-leading 69 receptions for 857 yards and seven TDs last season. Riley Cooper will likely take Maclin's starting spot. It's a shame, because it would have been interesting to see how high-powered that Philly offense would have been at full strength under Coach Chip Kelly. It's also going to cost Maclin substantial money because his rookie contract was up after this season.
Eagles at Redskins Betting Story Lines
It's hard to preview any Eagles opener without knowing who their starting QB will be. Kelly has no ties to either competitor, Michael Vick or Nick Foles. Kelly did draft USC's Matt Barkley this year, but he's not ready yet. Many believe that Barkley could serve as the No. 2, however, meaning the Vick/Foles loser for the No. 1 spot could be dumped. I still think Vick wins the job, and it appears there's no clear leader right now.
I am also going to assume Griffin III will be ready for the opener even though he's unlikely to play in a preseason game. He will wear a knee brace all year as he did in 2010 at Baylor a year after tearing his ACL. He didn't wear it in 2011 when he won the Heisman. Do I think the brace/injury will slow down Griffin a bit? I certainly do. The team wants him to avoid hits this year, so he probably runs a bit less.
As division rivals, these two met twice in 2013. In Week 11 at Washington the Skins rolled 31-6 as 3.5-point favorites (“under” 46). Washington did have a big advantage in entering off a bye, and that started the team's season-ending seven-game winning streak. Griffin was essentially perfect in the game, completing 14-of-15 for 200 yards and four touchdowns -- two of at least 41 yards. He also ran for 84 yards. Washington ended an eight-game skid against rookie QBs because Foles started for an injured Vick. And Foles wasn't good in his first start, going 21-for-46 for 204 yards and two picks against one of the NFL's worst pass defenses. Philly had just 257 yards of offense.
In Week 16 at Philadelphia, the Redskins won 27-20 as 4.5-point favorites (“over” 46). Griffin had missed the previous week with a leg injury but again was good, going 16-of-24 for 198 yards with two scores and a pick. He only ran twice for four yards as he clearly was gimpy. Alfred Morris rushed for 91 yards and a score. It would prove to be the final home game for Eagles coach Andy Reid. Foles was much better this time, going 32-of-48 for 345 yards, a TD and a pick. Maclin had eight catches for 116 yards and a TD. The Eagles nearly tied the game in the final seconds, but Foles was called for grounding from the Redskins' five, and the last second of the clock was automatically run off.
Eagles at Redskins NFL Week 1 Betting Odds and Trends
At WagerWeb, the Redskins opened as 4.5-point favorites with the total at 51. The Eagles were 3-12-1 ATS last year (3-5 on road) and 9-7 over/under (2-6 on road). Those three ATS wins were by far the fewest in the NFL. Philly ended last year on a three-game ATS losing streak (and straight up), two of those also at plus-4.5 points. Washington was 11-5-0 ATS last year (5-3 at home) and 9-7 O/U (3-5 at home). The Skins closed last regular season covering their final seven games.
NFL Picks: Eagles at Redskins Betting Predictions
Washington better win this game, because if it doesn't it likely will be 0-2 with a visit to Green Bay next. What I expect to be a much-improved Detroit then visits the Skins after that. The Eagles can much more afford a loss as they have the Chargers and Chiefs visiting Philly the following two weeks. That K.C. game obviously is the return of Reid.
Toughest of all Week 1 games to handicap right now. Griffin's status. Which Eagles QB? How will Kelly's offense translate to the NFL? I'm guessing it will take the Eagles months to figure it out. Thus, I'd go Washington and the under here.
Doc’s Sports is offering new clients free NFL picks from any handicapper on our Advisory Board. This special offer does not require a credit card, and you will never have to deal with a salesman. Click here to get your free $60 NFL picks credit today.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews