The Monday Night Football opener is highly anticipated this year as the Redskins host the Eagles in an early NFC East showdown.
Washington begins its quest to repeat as the division champion for the first time since the early 1980s, but the focus will be on two men: Skins quarterback Robert Griffin III and new Eagles coach Chip Kelly. Washington is a 3.5-point favorite by Bovada oddsmakers (total 52.5).
Last season, Griffin was everything the Redskins could have hoped for and more as the No. 2 overall pick in the draft. He completed 65.6 percent of his passes with 20 touchdowns and a league-low five interceptions for a rating of 102.4 that was third in the NFL. Griffin defined “dual threat,” rushing for 815 yards and seven touchdowns. He and former Eagle Randall Cunningham are the only players in history with 3,000 passing yards and 800 rushing in a season, and Griffin was named the Offensive Rookie of the Year.
One concern with Griffin is that his running style and thin frame leave him subject to injury, and he missed one late-season game with a knee injury. Griffin returned for the playoff matchup with Seattle but tore ligaments in the knee, setting off a firestorm against coach Mike Shanahan for leaving a gimpy Griffin in the game. Griffin didn’t play in the preseason but will start in Week 1.
Thanks to Griffin and fellow rookie Alfred Morris, arguably the biggest surprise in the NFL last season, Washington ranked No. 1 in the NFL in rushing at 169.3 yards per game last year. The Skins closed the regular season on a seven-game winning streak, covering the spread in every game.
Philadelphia ended last season losing 11 of its last 12 games to finish 4-12, the team’s worst mark since a 3-13 record in 1998. That offseason was when Andy Reid, who was fired after last year’s finish, was first hired. Last season was the first time under Reid that the Eagles missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.
The Eagles talked to Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly and Oregon’s Kelly this offseason and were turned down by both before Kelly changed his mind. Everyone is waiting to see whether his up-tempo offense, which set college football on fire, will work in the NFL. For some comparison, Steve Spurrier‘s Fun ‘n’ Gun offense at Florida was a failure in Washington.
Certainly no team is likely to run as many offensive plays or spend less time huddling than Kelly’s Eagles. It would also seem a perfect fit for quarterback Michael Vick, who beat out Nick Foles in the preseason for the starting job.
Washington swept Philadelphia last year for the first time since 2008. The Redskins’ seven-game winning streak started with a 31-6 home win over the Eagles in Week 11 when Washington was a 3.5-point favorite. Griffin was a stellar 14-for-15 with four touchdown passes and also rushed for 84 yards. Foles made his first NFL start, with Vick out with a concussion. The Skins beat the Eagles 27-20 in Week 16 in Reid’s final home game. Vick missed that game injured as well. Griffin threw for 198 yards and two scores.