NFL 2018 Season - Week 14
 

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by Dennis Ranahan

The Washington Redskins host the Houston Texans this Sunday. Do you know what these two teams have in common?

They have both won six games in nine decisions and both lead their divisions. The Redskins own a two games lead over both the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East, while the Texans are one game ahead of the Tennessee Titans in the AFC South.

Now, if you don’t think that either the Redskins or Texans are capable of leading their divisions with a 7-3 record, think again. Unless their game on Sunday at FedExField ends in an unlikely tie, one of them will advance their division leading mark to 7 and 3.

The Texans come to Washington following their bye week and riding a six game winning streak after opening their season with three losses. The Redskins won their sixth game last week in Tampa, downing the Buccaneers, 16-3.

Both the Texans and Redskins were underdogs in their most recent games, Houston by one point against the Broncos in Denver and Washington by 3½ points in Florida. In other words, these two division leaders can lay claim to Rodney Dangerfield’s signature line, “They get no respect.”

There is a reason for this. Washington has outscored their opponents by only one point on the season and yet parlayed that edge into a two game first place bulge. Both the Cowboys and Eagles have better points for and points against marks, Dallas has outscored their opponents by 10 points and Philadelphia their opponents by 15 points, yet both teams have losing 4-5 season records.

So, how did the Redskins manage to earn six wins with only a one point edge in points?

First, they have been blown out by double digits three times, at New Orleans by the Saints, 43-19, and twice at home, versus the Indianapolis Colts and Atlanta Falcons by scores of 21-9 and 38-14 respectively. In fact, that lopsided loss to the Falcons was their most recent home game, suffered the week before they beat the Buccaneers on the road.

The Redskins have won by double-digits three times, a 24-6 opening day win in Arizona against a Cardinals team that has only two victories this season … both against the San Francisco 49ers. A third week two-touchdown win over the Green Bay Packers and last week’s 13 point edge over Tampa Bay. More importantly, the Redskins have prevailed in close games, winning three decisions decided by a touchdown or less.

Houston rebounded from their poor start with six straight wins that include narrow victories over teams with losing records, namely the Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars and Denver Broncos, with a single blowout conquest, a 42-23 romp over the Miami Dolphins three weeks ago.

In their most recent game, a contest played in Denver before their bye week, Houston escaped with a two-point victory when Denver missed a would-be winning field goal on the final play of the game. In all, while compiling their 6-3 season mark, the Texans have outscored their opponents by 32 points, the best differential in the AFC South Division.

When you take both these teams in balance, it is truly surprising that they have moved to first place in their division races, but what does that mean for this week’s matchup?

The Redskins are a home team underdog, getting a field goal on the point spread. When a team is able to win close games, like the Redskins have, they develop a higher winning attitude than a team that wins by lopsided scores and then loses the close ones.

I have trouble seeing either of these teams moving to 7-3, and think it is even less of a probability that whoever survives this contest would be able to advance their record to 8-3 next week. For the record, the Texans play a key divisional game next week when they host the Titans, and the Redskins come off this game with a critical NFC East contest in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day.

Perhaps the Redskins most valuable “secret weapon” is quarterback Alex Smith. Over the past eight seasons he has an impressive 77-34-1 record in games he has started for the San Francisco 49ers, Kansas City Chiefs and Redskins. His winning percentage ranks him with the likes of Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger.

Smith is seldom compared to those quarterbacks that all hold more luster in their public image, but if someone wants to bet on a winner, Smith is a good choice.

As are the Redskins this Sunday.

Qoxhi Picks: Washington Redskins (+3) over Houston Texans