- I thought I would get this week started by asking a question: How does Hogs Haven want the sports betting side of this new era covered here? We are not and have never been a site that gives out gambling advice, and I am not sure we would be competitive in that arena. If you are a serious gambler, you probably aren’t going to base your wagering on what a bunch of burgundy and gold homers are saying. We will be dipping our toes in the water of the new age of sports betting as we near the season, but I am looking to you for guidance on what kind of content you want to see around it all. In the meantime, here are a couple of prop bets out there right now that help guide our expectations for the upcoming season.
- Over at betonline, we have some early over/unders on Alex Smith. The first is yards through the air, where the over/under for Alex Smith this year is 4,150 total passing yards. To be clear, this would represent a career-best for Alex, whose previous best was 4,042...last season. In Jay Gruden’s system, Kirk Cousins passed for 4,093 yards last year (more on that below). There are many possible explanations for why oddsmakers would predict that Alex Smith will top Kirk’s performance from last season in the same system. From a healthy Jordan Reed to a make-or-break year for Josh Doctson to the presence of Derrius Guice, Alex Smith will have weapons. This also underscores my belief that Alex Smith is in the middle of his prime—a later prime than the average professional athlete, but he has impressed with his fitness and his mental game is as strong as you could want. Health will of course determine everything, and 4,150 yards is not going to put Smith in the running to be the most prolific passer in the NFL this season, but this line has me feeling like the oddsmakers are buying a little bit into why I (and many of you) are excited to see Smith in burgundy and gold.
- The next one is the over/under for touchdown passes in 2018 for Smith, where 24 is the number. As the quarterback in Kansas City, Alex averaged about 20 touchdowns per season, once again achieving his career-best number last season, at 26 touchdowns. Cousins averaged 27 touchdowns per season working with Jay Gruden, so I am going to call this an example of where oddsmakers expect Smith to be able to keep that kind of pace. Considering Kirk Cousins threw the ball over 600 times in 2016, and close to 550 times in 2015 and 2017, and considering the age of pass-happy football we find ourselves in, I would call Smith’s over/under on the low side, but your average gambler doesn’t think highly of the Redskins, so the lower number is designed to stoke a little action in my opinion. If we are being honest, our red zone passing offense hasn’t exactly been the model of excellence over the years. We have to remember also that there is some total number of touchdowns that oddsmakers have the Redskins scoring in 2018, and I believe that Derrius Guice is eating up a few of those touchdowns that might otherwise need to come off the quarterback’s arm.
- On the interception front, bookmakers are feeling a lot better about the way Alex Smith will protect the ball for Jay Gruden than Kirk Cousins did, with an over/under of 9.5 pickles. Kirk averaged 12 interceptions in his last three seasons in Washington. Alex protects the ball well, throwing only five pickles last year for the Chiefs, and averaging just six interceptions per year over the last seven seasons, so this actually appears to show Alex Smith could have a down year in this category. I think what we are seeing though is, again, oddsmakers recognizing that Jay Gruden wants to throw deep more often and that Alex Smith will acquiesce. With the additional bombs are sure to come a turnover or two, but even with the expectation that Smith will air it out more, he is still being pegged to turn it over less than Kirk.
- I felt it would be fair to add the same over/unders from the same outlet for Kirk Cousins, who now joins a team that went 13-3 last season. He has an over/under of 4,075 passing yards, an over/under of 25.5 touchdowns and an over/under of 13.5 interceptions. Those numbers represent a dropoff from his three-year averages across the board. So maybe the oddsmakers are saying that the Redskins offense is a little more dangerous than the Vikings offense? Maybe they are saying that Kirk Cousins over-performed in Washington? Maybe they are thinking he will simply be asked to do less in Minnesota?
- For my money, I like the over on passing yards for BOTH Smith and Cousins in the coming season. I might even take the over for BOTH Smith and Cousins when it comes to interceptions. For Smith, I think he accepts the challenge of taking more risks than Kirk did (which will cause some pain), and for Cousins, I think his first year in Minnesota comes with just enough unfamiliarity to cause turnovers. As for the touchdowns, I am going to take the over for Smith and the under for Cousins. I think Alex Smith is going to have to throw for more scores for us to be playoff contenders, and I think the Vikings defense is so awesome that they will be extremely comfortable playing in low-scoring, time-of-possession battles.
- BONUS SIXPACK entry: We will have Kevin Hogan, currently a backup quarterback on the Redskins roster, in the basement tomorrow night on The Audible. He has a little bit of history with Alex Smith, and is gearing up to give Colt McCoy a run for his money. He hails from the DC-area, and...let’s be honest: there are few people more popular in Washington, D.C. than the backup quarterback! That has been true forever, and remains true to this day. We’ll have an All-Star theme to the night, and will have some fun talking to the man tasked with learning Jay Gruden’s system and competing for a roster spot this fall. Join us around 9 PM EST on Hogs Haven’s Facebook Live feed.
A roundup of some of the latest oddsmakers’ Redskins predictions in this new world of sports betting.