When this game was scheduled, it was hard to imagine the Redskins defeating the NFC powerhouse Saints on their home field. Considering the news that four of the players involved in the recent New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal have been reinstated by a three member appeals panel, a Redskins’ victory became even more difficult to imagine in Week 1.
Two Saints’ players, linebacker Jonathan Vilma, and defensive end Will Smith will be eligible to play in Sunday’s game. Current Cleveland Browns’ linebacker Scott Fujita, and Green Bay Packers’ defensive end Anthony Hargrove are former New Orleans Saints’ players that were also embroiled in the bounty controversy. They are also eligible to play for their respective teams on Sunday.
Redskins’ fans hope the aforementioned news won’t overshadow the NFL debut of their quarterback Robert Griffin III. Washington selected Griffin III with the 2nd overall of the 2012 NFL draft. Washington head coach Mike Shanahan has not committed to a starting running back as of this writing. The running back trio of Roy Helu Jr, Evan Royster, and Alfred Morris must run effectively to take pressure off their rookie quarterback. Wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan, as well as tight end Fred Davis, must become reliable targets by getting open, sustaining drives, and scoring touchdowns.
The New Orleans Saints don’t have such issues on offense. Their high octane unit is led by perennial All-Pro quarterback Drew Brees, who passed for an NFL single season record of 5,476 yards in 2011. Wide receivers Marques Colston , Devery Henderson, and Lance Moore, as well as tight end Jimmy Graham, are proven big play receivers. Factor in running backs Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles (who also doubles as a dangerous kick returner), and it’s easy to see why the Saints are one of the NFL’s elite teams.
This puts considerable pressure on a Washington secondary that struggled to produce big plays in 2011. That means Redskins’ linebackers London Fletcher, Brian Orakpo, and Ryan Kerrigan will have to somehow contain the Saints’ explosive offense.
Prediction: The fact that the reinstatement of current and former Saints’ players does not extend to head coach Sean Payton (suspended for the 2012 NFL season), assistant coach Joe Vitt (suspended for the first six games), and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (suspended indefinitely) is of little consequence. Washington is starting a rookie quarterback in one of the toughest places for a visiting team to win. Factor in the return of vindicated defenders Vilma and Smith, as well as the presence of Brees, and all signs point to a New Orleans blowout victory.
Final score: Saints 34, Redskins 10.