2018 Washington Redskins Betting Odds & Season Preview: Is Smith an Upgrade Over Cousins?

2018 Washington Redskins Betting Odds & Season Preview: Is Smith an Upgrade Over Cousins? article feature image

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Alex Smith and Adrian Peterson

  • Win Over/Under: 7 (+110/-130) 
  • Make NFC Playoffs: +300 (25%) 
  • Win NFC East: +475 (17%)
  • Win NFC Championship: +5000 (2%) 
  • Win Super Bowl: +10000 (1%)

The Action Network’s Projected Wins: 6.28 (26th)

Is Alex Smith an upgrade over Kirk Cousins?

The Redskins’ win total was set at 7.5 in each of the past two seasons but has held steady at 7 this year. Oddsmakers are essentially saying: “Eh, more like a slight downgrade.”

On the other hand, the Redskins won exactly seven games in 2017, so oddsmakers could be saying: “They’re exactly the same; you decide.”

But if you’re a Redskins fan, you’re probably looking at it as: “These oddsmakers never give us a chance.” And you’d be right: According to SportsOddsHistory.com, the Redskins have been projected as a winning team just once in the past 11 years, and that was way back in 2009.

Unfortunately for the team’s fans and bettors, in what has become typical Redskins fashion, they won four games that year. From that point on, the over has gone just 3-6, so it’s not as if oddsmakers have been wrong in their pessimism.

Speaking of “wrong”: The Redskins have exceeded win-total expectations in only seven of the 19 years since principal owner Daniel Snyder took over in 1999.

Under Snyder’s watch, the importance of micro debates such as Smith vs. Cousins tend to pale in comparison to the macro struggle of the organization vs. itself.

The acquisition of Smith is no different.

Since 2011, the 49ers and Chiefs have gone a combined 69-31-1 with Smith as their starter, so it should be a red flag that we’re even debating whether his new team will be able to surpass seven wins.

It isn’t really about whether Smith is better than Cousins, or vice versa; it’s about whether the organization is good enough to put its quarterback in the best position to succeed.

After a slow start to his career on bad 49ers teams, Smith finally turned it around in 2011. He’s found success ever since, but he’s done so under a very specific set of circumstances that could be difficult for Washington to replicate.

Starting in 2011, Smith’s defenses have ranked No. 2, No. 2, No. 5, No. 2, No. 3, No. 7 and No. 15 in points allowed. Washington hasn’t ranked in the top half of the league since 2009, finishing 27th overall last year.

The run defense should improve with the return of Jonathan Allen and addition of DaRon Payne, but the pass defense could take a step back, in part because of what the organization gave up for Smith.

Washington traded a key defender in slot cornerback Kendall Fuller, who ranked No. 3 of 120 qualifiers in Pro Football Focus’ coverage grades last season.

Any drop-off in the slot enables opposing quarterbacks to better avoid Josh Norman, and it’s worth noting he’s fallen from No. 3 to No. 34 to No. 58 in PFF’s cornerback grades over the past three seasons.

Smith is the type of quarterback who won’t lose games. But he won’t win them, either. Smith rarely throws into traffic and has a metric named after him for throwing short of the sticks on third down.

Two top-flight head coaches — Andy Reid and Jim Harbaugh — both thought it best to discard Smith after having him for multiple seasons.

Despite their talent, the Chiefs entered a mysterious midseason lull in which tight end Travis Kelce lamented that they couldn’t beat Cover 2. Later, they couldn’t score a point against a bad defense to hold onto a 21-3 lead in the playoffs.

This is the downside that Smith brings.

In 2017 — Smith’s best season and the first time his team was able to find success without an elite defense — he was afforded the opportunity to throw to receivers who were wide open. But contrary to popular belief, he didn’t all of a sudden become more aggressive. He still finished 40th of 41 qualified passers in rate of throws into tight windows, according to Next Gen Stats.

It was because of Tyreek Hill and Co. that the throws Smith once hesitated to make were more wide open than ever before. (Hill and Albert Wilson, of all people, ranked top 10 in separation at the target point, per Next Gen Stats.)

So Washington went out and paid big money for Paul Richardson, a solid receiver, but one whose forte is contested catches, not separation. The Redskins will pair him on the outside with Josh Doctson, another wideout who has struggled to separate so far in his career.

Among Smith’s best weapons is running back Chris Thompson, who has admitted he won’t be 100% until November. Then there’s Jordan Reed, but these days it’s a good bet the veteran tight end won’t even make it to November. Get ready for Jamison Crowder to be a PPR monster in fantasy.

The one team the Redskins beat en route to a 1-5 record in the NFC East last year, the Giants, got better, and Washington’s remaining schedule doesn’t leave much room for error.

This was a 6.8-win caliber team (according to Pythagorean expectation) that could benefit from increased health along the offensive line, but even then, it’s still only a 7(ish)-win caliber team with a quarterback who has been a product of his environment throughout his career.

I’d love to bet on the Redskins continuing to do what they’ve done throughout the Snyder era — fall short of expectations — but I wouldn’t recommend betting a juiced-up under on a win total that looks about right. (If I can get it at even money or better, I’ll take it.)

But hey, at least Washington signed running back Adrian Peterson.

– Chris Raybon

The Bet: Under 7 Wins … if you can get even money; otherwise pass

Washington Redskins 2018 Schedule

  • Games Favored: 4
  • Avg. Spread: +3.0
  • Strength of Schedule: 29th (1 = Easiest, 32 = Hardest)

Survivor Pool 101

  • Use the Redskins: Week 14 vs. NYG
  • Use Redskins’ opponents: Week 5 @ NO, Week 13 @ PHI, Week 15 @ JAC

Fantasy Football Outlook

  • Top Pick: WR Jamison Crowder
  • Undervalued: TE Jordan Reed
  • Potential Busts: WRs Paul Richardson and Josh Doctson

>> Full Fantasy Rankings | Player Projections | Printable Cheat Sheet

Best of “I’ll Take That Bet” on ESPN+

Bookmaker Unfiltered

“We’re seeing some action on Washington’s over, but other than that, there’s not much to report on any of their other offerings.”

— Westgate bookmaker Jeff Sherman to The Action Network’s Michael Leboff

Alex Smith Over/Under 4,149.5 Passing Yards? (+105/-135)

Smith has never thrown for this many yards in his career. He would have in 2017 had he played all 16 games, but last season was an outlier for him: His mark of 269.5 passing yards per game was more than 30 yards per game higher than his previous best. And Tyreek Hill isn’t coming through that door.

Before being paired with Hill, Smith threw for 300 yards five times over 10 seasons. The oddsmaker himself, Sean Koerner, doesn’t even have Smith reaching 4,000 yards, and I agree. – Chris Raybon

The Bet: Under 4,149.5 passing yards

Fading Reed in DFS Is Only Hurting Yourself

Smith couldn’t ask for a more reliable on-field target than Reed, who has the best catch rate (76%) among all tight ends in NFL history.

If Reed is healthy enough to play, get him in your lineups. Per the FantasyLabs NFL Trends tool, he’s one of just eight tight ends to average more than 10.5 DraftKings points per game (min. 20 games) since 2014, yet he’s carried the lowest ownership and highest Upside Rating among the group. — Ian Hartitz

>> For more team previews, see our betting odds and picks homepage for all 32 teams.

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