Redskins vs. Eagles NFL Picks: Betting Value Is On Washington +3

Sterling Xie

Thursday, December 24, 2015 4:32 PM GMT

One of the few remaining playoff races with any drama could wrap up on Saturday night when the Redskins have an opportunity to clinch the NFC East with a win over the Eagles. But, with the Skins sitting at a putrid 1-5 on the road, taking the division crown tomorrow is anything but a certainty.

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NFL Pick: Redskins +3

Best Line Offered: at Heritage

 

NFL odds makers have given the Eagles that hometown edge, with Philadelphia opening as 3.5-point favorites before the line moved to -3 for Philly.  However, even with Washington's putrid road record, there are reasons to believe the Redskins and Eagles are headed in opposite directions, potentially providing savvy bettors a golden opportunity to exploit the public's slow reaction to Washington's emergence.

Washington's lone road win happened to be its most recent one, a Week 13 triumph at Chicago.  In that game, Kirk Cousins went 24-for-31 with 300 yards, good for a stellar 9.7 yards per attempt, and one touchdown to one pick.  While far from perfect, the Bears game was indicative of the progress Cousins has made in his first season as a starter, giving the Redskins the type of stable floor they haven't enjoyed for seemingly the entire Dan Snyder era.

After turnovers marred the first three seasons of his career, Cousins has cut his interception rate to 2.3 percent in 2015.  That figure is only 21st among qualified starting quarterbacks, but it does represent a huge improvement from his 4.7 percent interception rate over the first three seasons of his career.  Moreover, that figure undersells the fact that Cousins has actually improved as the season has worn on.  Splitting the season into halves, Cousins has statistically been one of the league's better quarterbacks since Week 9:

 

Kirk Cousins Passing Splits

 

Weeks 1-8

Weeks 9-15

TD %

3.4 %

6.1%

INT %

3.0 %

1.4 %

QB Rating

85.1

112.4

Yds/Att

6.48

8.82

 

Part of that improvement stems from DeSean Jackson's return and the insertion of rookie slot receiver Jamison Crowder into the lineup, but regardless, Cousins gives the Redskins a clear mode of attack against the Eagles.  Philadelphia has conceded 10.7 yards per completion this season, which ranks 13th, but that figure has spiked to 12.3 yards per completion over the past three games, which ranks 28th in that span.  While rookie corner Eric Rowe has cleared concussion protocol, top cornerback Byron Maxwell appears unlikely to play.  That would force reserves like E.J. Biggers, Jaylen Watkins and Chris Maragos into more prominent roles against Washington's multi-receiver base sets.

If Cousins can hang points on the Eagles, that puts a significant amount of pressure on a shaky Philadelphia offense.  Washington possesses few real defensive strengths, but its greatest asset is in short-yardage defense.  According to Football Outsiders' defensive line metrics, the Redskins are the top-ranked team in "power" situations, which entails two yards to go or less on third or fourth down.  In such circumstances, when offenses typically beef up their line, the Redskins have allowed a meager 47 percent conversion rate.

That's fortunate for Washington, which will go up against the best short-yardage offense in Philadelphia.  When the Eagles have faced these so-called power situations, Philly has picked up a first down 81.4 percent of the time, the best rate in the league.  The Eagles are far from a big-play offense, averaging just 5.2 yards per play, 28th in the league.  Thus, Philadelphia relies on creating these manageable third-and-short situations and converting them to keep drives alive.

That formula failed in the first meeting between these teams, a 23-20 Redskins win back in Week 4.   The Eagles went just 4-for-12 on third downs that afternoon and consequently held an unthinkable 18:52 in time of possession. Even though Philly ranks last in TOP due to Chip Kelly's turbo pace philosophy, that figure is significantly below the Eagles' season average of 25:41.

Having over a 20-minute edge in time of possession can push the opposition past its breaking point, and the Redskins are still constructed to effectively play keepaway from Philadelphia.  Washington's pass defense has improved since DeAngelo Hall moved to safety in his return to the lineup, as the veteran safety tandem of Hall and Dashon Goldson has provided necessary support for a green cornerback corps.  Since Hall's switch in Week 10, the Redskins have allowed opponents to complete just 58.5 percent of their passes while averaging just 7.2 yards per attempt.  Before then, opponents had completed 63.7 percent of their passes while averaging roughly the same yards per pass.

Washington's strengths match up well to the cracks in the Eagles' armor, which helped the Redskins upset Philly in Week 4 before Cousins had established himself as a viable long-term solution under center.  Now that the Redskins hold both the quarterbacking and stylistic advantage, Washington seems poised to end the NFC East race.  The Eagles' home turf might give them the edge in the sportsbooks, but bettors should bank on Washington's edge on the field coming through for their NFL picks.