Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, December 26, four days before the Redskins play winner take all against the Cowboys at FedEx Field.
Redskins home field favorites
Just about everywhere you look, the Redskins are three-point favorites over the Cowboys this Sunday. Per the conventional wisdom, the home field is worth about three points. If you go by that, this would be a pick ‘em game at a neutral site and Dallas would be favored by a field goal in Jerry World.
But perhaps in reality the Redskin should be favored by a bit more. If the exact same Dallas players were wearing the uniforms of, say, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Redskins probably would be favored by five points, maybe more.
The reason is that the Cowboys have a massive fan base and many of their faithful have more money than brains. They will plunk down money on their Boyz no matter what the logic may say.
The purpose of the betting line is to try to equalize the amount of money put down on each side so the house collects the 10 percent or so they charge each losing bet. The money the Dallas fans bet inflates the line in favor of Dallas by a point or two, perhaps more in a high-profile game like this one. That will get money coming in on the Cowboys’ opponents to minimize the casino’s exposure to risk if the wrong team wins.
So it is quite possible that if you took the star off of the side of the other team’s helmet the Redskins might be favored by four to six points. If that’s the case, the “smart money” will be on the Redskins.
A very simple formula
You don’t need to be a numbers cruncher with a degree in advanced calculus to figure out why the Redskins are on the verge of the playoffs.
They are scoring points.
This is not something they have done well in recent years. Since 1999 they have been ranked 20th or worse in the NFL in points scored 10 times. In eight of those seasons they were 25th or worse.
They have been ranked in the teens in scoring twice. In 2005 they were 13th and made the playoffs as a wild card and in 2007 they made the playoffs ranked 18th in points scored.
And they have been in the top five twice. In 1999 they were second in scoring and they won the NFC East. This year they are fourth and are on the verge of winning their first division title since that ’99 season.
This pattern isn’t just a Redskins thing. Most teams that make the playoffs are in the upper half of the league in scoring. On the other hand, it’s not uncommon to see a team that ranks near the bottom of the pack in points allowed have a successful season. Last year’s Giants, for example, won the Super Bowl despite giving up 400 points during the regular season, 25th in the NFL.
Gone are the days when a team can consistently win low-scoring games. If you’re not scoring, you’re not winning. The Redskins have their QB and they are putting up points and the victories have followed.
11:30—Practice (closed to the media after first 30 minutes)
After practice (approx. 2:00)—Robert Griffin III and Mike Shanahan news conferences, open locker room
In case you missed it
Days until: Cowboys vs. Redskins at FedEx Field 4; 1st round of NFL playoffs 10; Divisional round of NFL playoffs 17; Super Bowl XLVII