(Editor’s note: This is the 16th in a series of NFL team previews by Covers.com senior sports analyst Stephen Nover. Today: Washington Redskins)
The Washington Redskins would be world champions if they played the Super Bowl in March.
Daniel Snyder is Mr. March with all his big free-agent signings. His profile isn’t quite as high come late January.
Only twice in Snyder’s seven years of owning the team have the Redskins made the playoffs and then failed to reach the divisional round. They are 54-58 in the Snyder era.
“It’s the same old thing every year,” former Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington was quoted as saying. “They bring in somebody or do something to create a buzz. I’m sold on the fact that they want to create a preseason buzz and don’t care whether they win or lose so they can make money.”
Maybe not this year, though. Bettors aren’t treating them as a long shot, but as a team that has serious Super Bowl potential with an outstanding defense, highly-respected brain trust and plenty of firepower.
At Pinnaclesports.com, the Redskins’ Super Bowl odds have dropped from 36-1 to 17-1 and their regular-season over/under win total has gone up from 8 ½ to 9.
Washington’s Super Bowl odds ranged from 20-1 at Betcris.com to 8-1 at The Mirage hotel in Las Vegas in a check of five sportsbooks.
What Arrington said may have been true in the past about Snyder and Washington. The name Steve Spurrier springs to mind. But this season, for the first time, things really do seem in place for a lengthy Redskins run.
Yes, the Redskins could be a little stouter against the run where they ranked 13th and get more sacks, but their defense has finished in the top 10 each of the past two seasons under ace coordinator Gregg Williams.
Newcomers Andre Carter and safety Adam Archuleta should be good fits. Carter is a versatile defensive lineman who can be a terrific pass rusher if used correctly, while Archuleta teams up with Sean Taylor to give Washington a pair of hard-hitting safeties. Both are excellent against the run.
Snyder’s big bucks brought offensive guru Al Saunders, architect of Kansas City’s high-powered offense, to be Joe Gibbs’ play-caller. Saunders has much to work with, including a star running back (Clinton Portis), underrated tight end (Chris Cooley) and enough good wideouts (Santana Moss, Brandon Lloyd, David Patten and Antwaan Randle El) to attack using multiple-receiver sets without sacrificing quality.
The veteran offensive line is extremely solid and coached by another highly-respected assistant, Joe Bugel.
Under Gibbs, the Redskins turned in their first winning spread record in six years. After losing four of their first 11 games by an average of just three points, the Redskins won and covered six straight until scoring just 10 points in a second-round playoff loss to Seattle.
So the Redskins enter the season with momentum and optimism. Even in a tough division and drawing the NFC South, the Redskins look like a 10-win team. They get to play the Vikings, Texans, Titans and Saints.
“There’s a good chance they could go 11-5 or 12-4,” former Redskins great quarterback and team announcer Sonny Jurgensen was quoted as saying.
But they also could finish under .500.
Washington’s special teams haven’t been very special although Randle El helps the punt return squad tremendously. The offensive line has less depth than most teams with Ray Brown’s retirement. Keep in mind, Washington’s top four linemen (Jon Jansen, Randy Thomas, Chris Samuels and Casey Rabach) are all coming back from off-season surgery.
Mark Brunell and Jason Campbell are the biggest reasons, though, to be careful about the Redskins. Brunell actually had a decent season last year with 23 touchdown passes while throwing for more than 3,000 yards.
However, Brunell turns 36 in September. He had never thrown for more than 20 touchdowns before in a season. Despite his surprising statistics, Brunell’s physical skills are diminishing. Moss bailed him out making big plays on under-thrown long passes.
Campbell is untested beginning his second season.
“… The key to their season is whether or not Mark Brunell stays healthy,” Jurgensen said. “They’ll play Jason Campbell a lot in the preseason. I like him; he’s an accurate passer who is very athletic. But Brunell has to be healthy.”
If there’s one coach who can win a Super Bowl with a mediocre quarterback, it is Joe Gibbs.
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