As I wrote yesterday, my first step in pre-training camp prep for the upcoming season was to study the Las Vegas odds.Step No. 2? Plunk down 50 at the local bookstore for a stack of preview magazines so you dont have to, assuming, of course, youre only interested in the CliffsNotes version.Heres a brief on the four previews I picked up:Athlon SportsRedskins predicted finish in NFC East: Last.Money quote: The Redskins return everyone in the defensive front seven, which was their biggest strength in 2011. also upgraded a punchless receiving corps. Considering that they lost six games by only one possession last season, dont be surprised if the Redskins compete for a playoff spot.Intriguing nugget: Robert Griffin III was tapped best rookie QB over Indys Andrew Luck and is predicted to be the NFCs offensive rookie of the year. Griffin will have more talent around him than him, the magazine says, Thus, Griffin should have more success this season than Luck. But, it continues, RG3 better bring his Superman socks to D.C.Lundys Predicted finish: Last.Money quote: Thanks to tackling machine London Fletcher and new comers Barry Cofield, Stephen Bowen and Ryan Kerrigan, the Redskins were much improved in 2011. Rookie running backs Roy Helu and Evan Royster showed promise. But after three straight-double digit losing seasons and four consecutive last-place finishes, hopes for a turnaround in Washington are in Griffins hands.Intriguing nugget: On Coach Mike Shanahans future: Turning the offense over to Griffin should buy Shanahan the fourth year on his contract. However, the 60-year-old Shanahan knows this is the last season hes playing with house money.Pro Football WeeklyPredicted finish: Last.Money quote: Robert Griffin III could be this years Cam Newton or Andy Dalton, and the Redskins weapons appear to be stronger. It could come down to the play of two key units the offensive line and secondary to determine whether this is a comeback season or another hear at the bottom of the still-loaded NFC East.Intriguing nugget: No position earned a grade higher than a B, which went to the defensive line and linebackers. Running backs received the lowest grade, a C-.Phil Steeles Pro FootballPredicted finish: Last.Money quote: Factors pointing upward this year are that they were -14 in turnovers last year, had two net close losses, were only -3.1 yards per game (like an 8-8 team) and had 65 starts lost to injury. On the negative side of the ledger us that the schedule gets a lot tougher this year (18 to 3) and they play in the same division with a pair of Top 5 NFL teams (NYG & PHI)Intriguing nugget: In Shanahans 32 games as the WAS HC, his QBs ran the ball 61 times total! The team wants Griffin to improvise on third down but also stay in the pocket as much as possible.As you can see, there are two common themes in each of the four previews: the Skins are expected to be division basement dwellers once again, but theres also optimism that RG3s arrival could signal the start of a turnaround.
Throughout the league, NFL teams have sold naming rights to their practice facilities.
Now the Redskins are joining that club through a partnership with Inova: Redskins Park, the team's practice facility in Ashburn, Va., will be renamed Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park, the team announced.
The partnership will go well beyond just naming rights, as the team and Inova will work together to promote health and wellness throughout the D.C. area including television (NBC4) and radio (Sportstalk 570/ESPN980) programming, as well as developing plans to improve health in the community, including breast cancer awareness and concussion testing.
The team's decision to sell naming rights to Redskins Park should come as no surprise.
The two closest geographic teams to Washington both have sold naming rights to their practice facilities: The Ravens practice at the Under Armour Performance Center and the Eagles practice at the NovaCare Complex. A host of teams have sponsors attached to their practice locales, including Pittsburgh, Houston and others.
"We are not only excited, we are honored to be working with Inova, a world class leader in healthcare," Redskins CMO/EVP Terry Bateman, Redskins said in a release. "This partnership will benefit the community and uphold our commitment to have the healthiest fans in the NFL."
Earlier this year, the Redskins announced that Dr. Robin West of Inova would take over as team physician. That move made West the first female team doctor in the NFL. Inova is a not-for-profit healthcare system based in Northern Virginia that serves more than 2 million people throughout the D.C. area and beyond.
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During the Kirk Cousins franchise tag/long-term contract debate, the question of whether or not Cousins could continue to play as well as he did in the last 10 games of 2015 was pivotal. In that stretch of games he completed 72.4 percent of his passes with an average of 8.7 yards per attempt with 23 touchdowns and three interceptions. His passer rating was 119.1.
Those who saw that run as a fluke were not inclined to want the Redskins to give Cousins a long-term deal near the top of the quarterback pay scale. Those who saw the stretch as things clicking for a quarterback in his first year as a starter were inclined to lobby the Redskins to lock him up no matter what it cost.
How realistic is it to expect Cousins to repeat that stretch over a full season? It would be difficult. His completion percentage of 72.4 would top Drew Brees’ single-season record of 71.2 percent. The passer rating of 119.1 would be the fourth best of all time, better than any season ever posted by Tom Brady, Steve Young, Breese, and others.
From the same perspective, it might be a little easier for Cousins to repeat what he did in the interception department. In the last 10 games he threw three of them in 315 pass attempts, a percentage of 1.0 percent. Eight quarterbacks have had an interception percentage of 1.0 or lower for a full season. Some of them, like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, are among the best quarterbacks ever. Others, like Damon Huard, Nick Foles and Joe Ferguson, are not.
A look at the single-season leaders list implies that some luck may be involved when it comes to interception avoidance. You see a lot of players, like Huard, Ferguson, Seneca Wallace, Brian Griese, and, yes, Robert Griffin III who have seasons ranking in the top 30 of all time and never came close to duplicating it again. Griese, for example, had 1.2 percent of his passes intercepted in 10 games in 2000. In his 10 NFL seasons before and after that he never had an interception percentage lower than 3.6; his career average was 3.5 percent. That’s about a percentage point over average.
Was Cousins just lucky towards the end of last year? Some who have looked at the latter part of his season closely think so. Matt Williamson does scouting work for ESPN and some other publications. Focusing just on the last half of the season, he said that he saw a lot of interceptions dropped.
While he only threw two interceptions during that eight-game stretch, quite a few more easily could have ended up in the other team’s hands - and probably should have. This was even truer in his uninspiring playoff game against Green Bay, the last time we saw Cousins.
I will say that I am suspicious of statements like that. How many is “quite a few”? Four? Ten? More? What is the standard for a “drop”? And all quarterbacks benefit from would-be interceptions that get dropped. How do Cousins’ dropped picks compare to those of other quarterbacks? More? Fewer? About the same?
But there it is and you can take it however you would like. The fact that he had a career 3.9 interception percentage going into that 10-game stretch lends some credence to the theory that Cousins benefitted from some good luck. But it’s also possible that he figured out how to avoid the turnover bug after 15 NFL starts prior to the game against the Bucs that got things rolling for him.
Last year the Redskins won nine games and took the NFC East title. Washington brings back largely the same team for 2016, and had a quiet, relatively drama free offseason.
But in Las Vegas, none of that matters.
Steelers are currently getting 86% of spread bets at Washington for Week 1, the most lopsided opening game: https://t.co/Ba8mkeCzyr— Sports Insights (@SportsInsights) July 22, 2016
Washington opens the year at home as underdogs against the Steelers, and considering that home field is generally worth three points toward the spread, clearly the betmakers don't expect much from the 'Skins. Or the betting public doesn't, that's for sure.
Pittsburgh is good, last year they went 10-6 and have two of the games best in QB Ben Roethlisberger and WR Antonio Brown. Star running back Le'Veon Bell may miss the game, however, due to a suspension. It will be interesting to see if the line moves once Bell's situation becomes finalized.
Surprised by the overwhelming Steelers support? Should the spread look different? Let us know what you think in the comments.