Betting the Total: NFL Picks for Redskins vs. Eagles

Jason Lake

Friday, September 19, 2014 3:11 PM GMT

Friday, Sep. 19, 2014 3:11 PM GMT

If you bet on football, you already know about Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia offense. But can Washington hold up its end of the bargain and smash through Sunday’s NFL totals with Kirk Cousins at quarterback?

Jason’s record after Week 2: 4-7 ATS, 1-2-1 Totals
Profit: minus-8.8 units

 

It looks like we’re finally going to get an answer to one of the greatest debates of our age: Is Kirk Cousins a better quarterback than Robert Griffin III? He definitely is right now, because Griffin is on the shelf with a dislocated ankle. It’ll be Cousins under center for Washington this Sunday (1:00 p.m. ET, FOX) in a very important and intriguing NFC East matchup with Philadelphia. Our NFL odds board at press time shows a total of 50.5 points for this contest, down a shade from 51 at the open.

 

DVOA, Four Capital Letters
Ranking Player A over Player B is always a bit of a wild goose chase when it comes to team sports. But the quarterback is the most important person on the field, so let’s go get those geese. Both Griffin and Cousins are in Year Three of their respective NFL careers. To date, Cousins has started four times for the injured Griffin and made appearances in five other games. Here’s how Football Outsiders has them pegged in terms of passing DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average):

2012: Griffin 16.6 percent; Cousins 6.4 percent

2013: Griffin minus-13.1 percent; Cousins minus-42.6 percent

2014: Griffin minus-21.0 percent; Cousins plus-43.2 percent

While Griffin’s performance suffered badly last year after all the accumulated injuries he picked up during his rookie campaign, these numbers suggest Cousins wasn’t able to fill his shoes – until last week, when Cousins took over in the first quarter and led Washington to a 41-10 pasting of the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars. The former Michigan State Spartan went turnover-free while throwing a pair of TD passes en route to victory.

 

Quarterbacks Got Legs
Very nice, but let’s not forget about that other thing quarterbacks do: run. This is where Griffin gave Washington so much added value, especially at the start of his career, before absorbing all those punishing hits from running the zone-read option. Here’s how both QBs compare in rushing DVOA:

2012: Griffin 7.8 percent; Cousins N/A

2013: Griffin minus-0.9 percent; Cousins N/A

2014: Griffin 44.4 percent; Cousins N/A

Ha ha, trick comparison: Cousins didn’t make the minimum rushing attempts required to qualify for this statistic. For his NFL career, Cousins has rushed eight times for 35 yards. He had one official attempt against Jacksonville for minus-1 yard; Griffin had 22 yards rushing on two carries before he dislocated his ankle on a non-contact play. There’s no telling how many yards he would have finished with had he not been carted off the field.

Value in RGIII at +450 for Comeback Player of the Year?

 

Warning: Contentious Material
The NFL betting market has been known to undervalue dual-threat quarterbacks before – especially those of African-American descent. Washington won the NFC East at 10-6 SU and 11-5 ATS in Griffin’s rookie year. Things went south after that; deprived of his wheels, Griffin was reduced to a single-threat QB last year, and he and Cousins ended up in the basement at 3-13 (5-11 ATS).

Chip Kelly was in a similar situation when he took over as Philadelphia’s head coach last year and used the option to lead the Eagles to the division title. In this case, Michael Vick wasn’t able to keep his starting job despite rushing for 8.5 yards per carry. Nick Foles took over, but unlike Cousins, Foles has enough mobility to stick with the game plan – he was good for plus-23.1 percent rushing DVOA last year, and sits at plus-23.0 percent this year after picking up 22 yards on four attempts. Both of Philadelphia’s games thus far have gone OVER the NFL total.

Again, very nice, but Jacksonville isn’t involved in Sunday’s matchup. Both Washington and Philadelphia have played solid defense up to this point, and with Cousins anchored to the ground, we’ll take the UNDER as our NFL pick against one of the highest totals on the Week 3 NFL lines. 

Free NFL Pick: Put one unit on UNDER 50 (–110) at 5Dimes

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