It's perfect that the Redskins and Texans are opening the 2014 season against one another as they carry the two longest losing streaks in the NFL into Week 1, dropping a combined 22 straight. Houston is a 2.5-point favorite on NFL odds.
Who Starts For Houston?
By far the biggest question for Houston is who will be under center for the opener. Most believe it will be Ryan Fitzpatrick, signed as a free agent from Tennessee this offseason. He started nine games for the injured Jake Locker in 2013, and completed 217 of 350 passes for 2,454 yards, with 14 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. Fitzpatrick is currently No. 1 on the depth chart, but he'll have to beat out Case Keenum, T.J. Yates and 2014 fourth-round pick Tom Savage. It's still a shocker that Houston waited until the fourth round to address such an obvious position of need. The Texans likely were "snaked" by the Minnesota Vikings when they traded for the final pick of the first round and took Teddy Bridgewater. He very likely would have been snapped up with the first pick of the second round by Houston.
The Texans lost their final 14 games last year, but still have plenty of talent, especially on defense now with the addition of No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney. He's the +200 favorite at sportsbooks to win NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Houston has had two of those since 2006: linebackers DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing. The latter is still with the team, and a very good player when healthy. He hasn't been since 2011, playing only 12 games the past two years.
Washington has no quarterback problems with Robert Griffin III, and the Redskins have arguably the best No. 2 in the league in Kirk Cousins -- perhaps give the Skins a call Houston. There was talk that Washington was listening to offers for Cousins this offseason, but the team's price was too high. Cleveland, for example, was interested before taking Johnny Manziel in the draft. With RGIII's injury history, the Redskins would have had to be bowled over to deal his backup. The No. 3 on the depth chart is Colt McCoy.
This game will be the Redskins debut of new receiver DeSean Jackson, and head coach Jay Gruden, formerly the offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals. Jackson had a career 2013 season, setting career highs in catches (82), yards (1,332) and touchdowns (nine). Gruden says he's a delegator and won't get overly involved in the offense or defense. He held head coaching jobs both in the AFL and UFL, before coaching Cincinnati’s offense for the last three years. RGII is thrilled the team got Jackson and dumped the Mike Shanahan coaching regime as his relationship with Mike Shanahan and son Kyle, the offensive coordinator, had gotten toxic.
The Redskins closed last year losing eight straight games, including two by just a point each. Their only road win all year was at Oakland.
Washington hosted Houston in Week 2 of the 2010 season, and lost 30-27 in overtime. How long ago was that? Mike Shanahan was Washington's new coach, and Donovan McNabb was the Redskins' starting quarterback, and McNabb was very good in the game, throwing for 426 yards and a touchdown. Matt Schaub, now in Oakland, was even better, going 38 of 52 for 497 yards and three touchdowns. Andre Johnson caught 12 of those passes for 158 yards and a score. At the time, it was the first NFL game since September 1994 when both quarterbacks threw for more than 400 yards.
NFL Free Picks: The Redskins are 1-5 ATS in their past six road games. The over is 4-1 in Washington's past five season openers. The 'over' is 6-2 in Houston's past eight at home. For my Week 1 NFL pick, I'll take Houston -2.5 and the 'over' 46 points.