The Washington Redskins and New Orleans Saints enter the new season with different standards for success. While the Redskins would like to make progress after four straight years in the NFC East basement, the Saints are targeting a home Super Bowl.
Washington hasn't made the playoffs since 2007. That lack of success is a result of a combination of things, including misfiring on personnel decisions and playing in the league's deepest division. Drafting Robert Griffin III should be a major step in the right direction.
Meanwhile, as every NFL fan knows, the Saints went through a lot of trying times this offseason. From the bounty scandal to Drew Brees' contract negotiations, it wasn't much fun. The team must now move on and focus on winning games without head coach Sean Payton.
Here's a look at all the important information for Sunday's game, along with some things to keep an eye out for as the Redskins battle the Saints.
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, La.
When: Sunday, Sept. 9 at 1 p.m. ET
Listen: WTEM 980 AM (Washington) or WWL 870 AM (New Orleans)
Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket
Spread: Saints -7 (Vegas Insider)
Key Injuries (via CBS Sports)
Redskins: Brandon Meriweather (questionable, knee) and Brian Orakpo (probable, shoulder)
Saints: David Hawthorne (doubtful, knee), Curtis Lofton (questionable, ankle), Jabari Greer (questionable, hernia), Patrick Robinson (questionable, shoulder) and Darren Sproles (probable, knee)
What's At Stake
Each week is crucial in a 16-game season. Every year, clubs that narrowly miss out on the playoffs look back at the early weeks and find a game or two they should have won. Teams can't afford to take any game lightly.
The Redskins would like to begin the Griffin era with a marquee victory over an NFC contender. The Saints want to prove all of the offseason distractions won't have a lasting impact on them, which is easier said than done.
As it's the first week of real action after more than a month of exhibitions, there should be no shortage of intensity.
This game has serious shootout potential. New Orleans has been one of the NFL's best offensive teams in recent years, while the Redskins are likely to let Griffin air it out and hope he can get any rookie mistakes out of his system early.
Griffin is a high-upside play for an owner who missed out on the elite quarterbacks in the draft. Pierre Garcon and Fred Davis are both solid options as well. However, it's probably best to avoid the Redskins running back situation until it sorts itself out.
As for the Saints, Brees will be a lineup stalwart throughout the season. There will be no reason to take him out aside from injury or his bye week. Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles should all be active. Lance Moore is a new sleeper play.
Redskins Player to Watch: Robert Griffin III
All eyes will be on Griffin and fellow top rookie Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts. Just like the last time the Colts took a franchise quarterback in Peyton Manning, who was linked to Ryan Leaf, Griffin and Luck will forever be connected. Something tells me Griffin will fare better than Leaf.
The Redskins offense remains a work in progress. There are some holes to plug along the offensive line and the backfield is cluttered. However, Griffin should be a major upgrade at quarterback, which is the most important position in the league right now.
While it's going to take some time for Washington's offense to jell and eventually excel, the pieces are finally falling into place. Griffin will be worth the price of admission by himself.
Saints Player to Watch: Darren Sproles
It's impossible to overstate how vital Sproles is to the Saints offense. He's the linchpin. Last year, he gained more than 1,300 offensive yards and scored nine touchdowns, illustrating that he's a perfect fit for the precision attack.
Even though New Orleans has three other running backs that are hoping to make an impact, Sproles should remain the go-to guy throughout the season. His versatility creates matchup problems for the opposing defense and he simply makes plays.
While everybody drools over the terrific combination of Brees and Graham, don't forget about the diminutive back who keeps the chains moving.
What They're Saying
Although Griffin is a star in the making, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan says other players must help him grow, according to Mark Maske of the Washington Post.
It’s the people around them. Everyone puts the pressure on that guy. But . . . if you look at the history of the NFL, they’re rarely successful. It puts pressure on all the other players — the receivers, the running backs, the offensive line. Those guys are the ones who have to step up.
The Saints players know there will be added attention on them after everything that happened during the offseason. However, Jabari Greer is still thinking big, based on a report from Larry Holder of the Times-Picayune.
We understood that there was going to be built-in distractions, but the makeup of our team and the makeup of our leadership are the kind of guys that upper management brings in who really stands strong. We believe we have a great opportunity this year to do something special regardless of the situation.
Key Matchup: Redskins secondary vs. Saints passing game
The Saints averaged nearly 350 passing yards per game last season and the offense will once again rely on Brees delivering pinpoint passes to his receivers. It's going to take a tremendous effort for any defense to slow them down.
Washington finished in the middle of the pack in terms of pass defense, but feature a cornerback in DeAngelo Hall that quarterbacks love to attack. He's willing to take risks to make plays, but often gets burned.
If the Redskins want to pull off the upset, they need to keep Brees and company under 300 yards to give Griffin a chance. It's not likely to happen.
Saints 31, Redskins 21
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