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Need to Know: Redskins vs. Patriots a big opportunity for Cousins

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Need to Know: Redskins vs. Patriots a big opportunity for Cousins

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, November 4, four days before the Redskins visit the New England Patriots.

Five early thoughts on Redskins vs. Patriots

—After the Patriots lost left tackle Nate Solder for the season a couple of weeks ago, they flipped right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, a seven-year veteran, over to the left side. Not many coaches would make a move like that but according to Bill Belichick, Vollmer is doing fine. “He’s done a great job of making that transition over there the last couple weeks,” said Belichick. “We’ve really needed him to do that. Sebastian is one of the best teammates, a guy who always puts the team first as much as anybody we have on our team.” A mostly-effective Vollmer is probably the best option to protect Tom Brady’s blindside.

—The pass rush has been getting to Brady, with and without Solder. He has been sacked 18 times this year, 5.9 percent of his dropbacks (20th in the NFL). But if the Redskins get to him they had better sack him. Per Pro Football Focus, he’s been under pressure on 96 of his 311 dropbacks this year but when he has been able to get the pass off his passer rating is a 118.2. Yeah, that’s a lot better than most quarterbacks are when they have plenty of time to throw.

—The raw stats say that teams have had a reasonable amount of success running against the Patriots. They give up an average of 4.2 yards per carry, 21st in the NFL. The thing is, they don’t have very many rushing attempts against them, presumably because they are averaging 3 points per possession and 35 points per game on offense so the teams are trying to catch up. But if the Redskins can finish drives with touchdowns, the ground might be a promising route.

—This will be an interesting test for Kirk Cousins. He made a strong case for being the starting quarterback of the future, or at least at the start of 2016, with the comeback against the Bucs. But he could give back a lot of the capital he earned in that game if he is unable help keep the Redskins competitive. If he presses and goes on an interception binge, his stock will go down considerably. Should Cousins maintain his composure, minimize turnovers, and make proper decisions, he can add some value to his stock.

—The Redskins are 14-point underdogs. The last time they were double-digit dogs they went into Dallas on a Monday night last year and beat the Cowboys with Colt McCoy at quarterback. What’s that I smell? Is it an up—, oh, never mind. That Dallas team was a flawed group that was on a roll. These guys are better coached and better put together from the top guy on the roster down to the 53rd. A Redskins win is not impossible but it is highly unlikely.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 11:35; Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins news conferences and player availability after practice, approx. 1:30

Days until: Redskins @ Patriots 4; Saints @ Redskins 11; Redskins @ Panthers 18

In case you missed it

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Oddsmakers give Kirk Cousins favorable shot at 2017 NFL MVP

Oddsmakers give Kirk Cousins favorable shot at 2017 NFL MVP

There continues to be a (ridiculous) debate on whether or not Kirk Cousins can continue to be a successful starting quarterback for the Washington Redskins.

In the betting industry, there is not much debate with Cousins being listed with 50/1 odds to win the NFL MVP award this upcoming season from Bovada. Among all the other players listed, he is in a tie for 14th. 

He is coming off back-to-back seasons with seven 300 yard passing games, a team record, and has an abundance of fresh, young wide receivers to compliment his passing style. Last year he was third in the league in passing yards with 4,917, trailing only Drew Brees (5,208) and Matt Ryan (4,944). 

The team may not be poised for a Super Bowl run in 2017-18, but if the team makes a post-season run, who will it be on the back of? Jordan Reed? Rob Kelley? Ryan Kerrigan?

No, it will be Kirk Cousins. 

RELATED: Ex-GM outlines staggering contract for Kirk Cousins

Entering this season at 40-years-old, and defending Super Bowl MVP, Tom Brady is the overall favorite at 4/1. He is closely followed by Aaron Rodgers, and young quarterbacks Derek Carr and Dak Prescott. 

BOVADA 2017-18 NFL MVP ODDS:

Tom Brady, NE — 4/1
Aaron Rodgers, GB — 7/1
Derek Carr, OAK — 9/1
Dak Prescott, DAL — 12/1
Ben Roethlisberger, PIT — 12/1
Russell Wilson, SEA — 12/1
Matt Ryan, ATL — 16/1
Ezekiel Elliott, DAL — 20/1
Drew Brees, NO — 25/1
Andrew Luck, IND — 25/1
Cam Newton, CAR — 25/1
David Johnson, ARI — 33/1
Marcus Mariota, TEN — 33/1
Sam Bradford, MIN — 50/1
Antonio Brown, PIT — 50/1
Kirk Cousins, WAS — 50/1
Julio Jones, ATL — 50/1
Eli Manning, NYG — 50/1
Carson Palmer, ARI — 50/1
Adrian Peterson, NO — 50/1
Philip Rivers, LAC — 50/1
Matt Stafford, DET — 50/1
Odell Beckham Jr., NYG — 66/1
Rob Gronkowski, NE — 66/1
Alex Smith, KC — 66/1
Ryan Tannehill, MIA — 66/1
J.J. Watt, HOU — 66/1
Jameis Winston, TB — 66/1
Blake Bortles, JAX — 100/1
Andy Dalton, CIN — 100/1
Joe Flacco, BAL — 100/1
T.Y. Hilton, IND — 100/1
Marshawn Lynch, OAK — 100/1
LeSean McCoy, BUF — 100/1
Von Miller, DEN — 100/1
DeMarco Murray, TEN — 100/1
Carson Wentz, PHL — 100/1

RELATED: After Derek Carr deal, Cousins' best option may be short-term

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True or False: Rob Kelley will be Redskins leading rusher

True or False: Rob Kelley will be Redskins leading rusher

Robert Kelley emerged as the Redskins top running back in 2016, an incredible story of an undrafted guy working his way to the top. Of course, Matt Jones' problems with fumbling helped push Kelley to the top. 

Redskins coach Jay Gruden speaks highly of Kelley, particularly his fluidity and vision, but the team drafted Samaje Perine in the fourth round this year to provide additional competition in the backfield.

Here's the crucial statement: Rob Kelley will lead the Redskins in rushing yards in 2017.

Finlay: True.

Kelley averaged 4.2 yards-per-carry last season and the Redskins ground game is very much centered on a "4 or more" philosophy. Washington running backs coach Randy Jordan joined the #RedskinsTalk podcast and explained that the team wants a runner it can count on for positive yards more than creating big plays. The Redskins offense, as designed by Gruden, sets up for big plays in the pass game, and the run should allow for proper use of play action. 

In just nine starts last year, Kelley gained more than 700 yards. Project that out over 16 games, and he would be over 1,000 yards rushing. Perine has much to learn about the NFL, and understanding pass protections will take time for the rookie out of Oklahoma. Chris Thompson will be a key part of the offense, but much of his yardage will come via the pass game. 

Kelley will lead this team in rush yards. He's looked great in OTAs and minicamp while the coaching staff believes Kelley is in much better shape this year than he was as a rookie. Write it down in pen. 

RELATED: How will Kelley and Perine share the carries?

Tandler: True.

After the draft and during rookie camp I was saying that there was a chance that Perine could lead the team is rushing this year. But after seeing Perine playing with the big boys in OTAs and minicamp it’s apparent that he has a long way to go to become a consistently productive running back.

One thing Kelley seems to have going in his favor is that he has a very sensible outlook on the NFL. As JP noted, Kelley showed up to Redskins Park in better shape than he did as a rookie. This indicates to me that he understands that being an NFL players is a year-round job. Staying in great shape is important in the league but at running back it’s vital. Kelley gets that and because he does, his chances of being available for 16 games are much higher.

In turn, that improves his chance of being the team’s leading rusher. I’m not sure if he’ll get 1,000 yards—Perine will get things figured out enough to take some carries before the season gets too old—but Gruden will make sure that he gets fed plenty as long as he is available. 

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