Breaking down the matchups in Sunday’s season opener
When the Redskins have the ball: The Redskins will need to have a game plan that consist of short passes and a heavy run attack. The best defense for the New Orleans Saints is a good Redskins offense. Long sustained drives that lead to points will make it difficult on the Saints. This is very possible, as the Saints run defense was almost last a year ago. By establishing a run game and throwing short passes, it will take pressure off Robert Griffin III in his first start. This will allow Griffin to have a fair chance to effectively manage the game. Tempo will also be important: The Redskins will need to keep control of the tempo, and I’d assume they’d want it to be much slower than the Saints. Keeping things slow and easy will keep this game from becoming a shootout, which plays to the advantage of the Redskins.
When the Saints have the ball: On defense it’s plain and simple: It all starts up front. This will be the theme all year, the front seven will have to always play up to their ability. From Barry Cofield on out to Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, these guys will need to move the pocket, collapse the pocket and get in Drew Brees’ face. He’s a short QB, so if the front seven can get close to him, it will make it difficult for him to see the field. This is much easier said than done, as Brees knows this also. Don’t allow the Saints to run and get off the field on third downs, and the defense may be able to contain this high-powered offense.
Special teams: Sav Rocca, Billy Cundiff and Brandon Banks should be major factors in this game. Rocca can punt very far, which could keep the battle of field position in favor of the Redskins. Banks can provide much needed field position if the defense can hold on third downs, and Cundiff will be valuable if the offense can move the ball but can’t find the end zone.
Pick: Until the defense shows me they can control a game with a franchise quarterback under center, the logical pick is to go with that QB. The Redskins have a chance to upend the Saints, but I’m still going with the Saints in this one.