Live Free Picks
Home Of 500 Handicappers
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
When Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III makes his NFL debut Sunday, he will have a great example to measure himself against on the other sideline as he squares off against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. Griffin was the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft and injects excitement into a Washington franchise that hasn’t enjoyed a winning season since 2007. He likely will have to play well to keep pace with New Orleans’ offensive juggernaut, which averaged 467.1 total yards and 34.2 points per game last year.
The Saints were expected to be without linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith after they were suspended for their role in an alleged bounty program, but they appealed the decision and were reinstated Friday. Vilma was supposed to miss the entire season, while Smith had been handed a four-game ban. Head coach Sean Payton is still suspended for the entire season while general manager Mickey Loomis will miss the first eight weeks of the season and interim head coach Joe Vitt is out six weeks. Offensive line coach Aaron Kromer will serve as the interim coach until Vitt’s return.
ABOUT THE REDSKINS (2011: 5-11): Griffin was impressive in the preseason, completing 20 of 31 passes for 193 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Taking care of the ball is key for the Redskins, who were minus-14 in turnovers last season. The defense had a decent 2011 campaign led by linebackers Brian Orakpo, London Fletcher and Ryan Kerrigan, but the secondary will be tested against Brees and the Saints.
ABOUT THE SAINTS (2011: 13-3): New Orleans set an NFL record with 7,474 total yards, led by Brees’ league-record 5,476 passing yards. The biggest question surrounding the Saints is whether they can sustain that brilliance without offensive mastermind Payton. The weapons are still in place with running backs Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas, receivers Marques Colston and Devery Henderson and tight end Jimmy Graham. Vilma’s surprise presence will enhance a linebacking corps that welcomed Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne in the offseason.
1. Washington leads the all-time series 15-8 and has won eight of 11 meetings in New Orleans. The Saints won the most recent meeting 33-30 in overtime in 2009.
2. Brees has passed for 300 yards in seven consecutive games, the longest streak in NFL history.
3. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan is 14-4 on opening weekend, and his 14 wins are the most among active head coaches.