Higher expectations--but high enough?

Higher expectations--but high enough?
May 12, 2013, 1:30 pm
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Can the Redskins thrive under the spotlight of higher expectations?

A year ago, the Redskins were coming off of a 5-11 season, their third straight year with a double-digit loss total. Even though they had a new quarterback that everyone knew would be good eventually, the conventional wisdom was that it would take him a while to bring the Redskins back to respectability.

That was the conventional wisdom in Last Vegas, at least. The sports books there set the Redskins over-under for wins at 6.5. That line said that there was at least a 50-50 chance that the Redskins would endure another season with 10 or more losses.

As the team went into the bye week, it looked like those who took the under would be cashing in their betting slips. The Redskins were 3-6 and with a tough slate the rest of the way they appeared to be headed towards another lost season.

As we all know, the Redskins tore off seven straight wins to close out the season and the bettors who had the over are the ones who got paid. The young quarterback, Robert Griffin III, had one of the best seasons any rookie quarterback has ever had. RG3 and a rushing game revitalized by fellow rookie Alfred Morris propelled the Redskins to 10 wins and the NFC East title.

This year, the expectations are somewhat higher, although there doesn’t appear to be any irrational exuberance expressed in the Vegas line. The Atlantis sports book became the first to post their 2013 over-under lines and the Redskins’ number is nine.

I know that some will be offended by this and will point out that the Redskins won 10 games last year so that should be the starting point for figuring the over-under. And that’s fine and you might have a case that if Griffin’s knee is mended he should be better in his second year, the defense should be improved with some additions in the draft and by some player returning from injury and they learned how to win, so the Redskins should be better than they were in 2012.

And that’s a perfectly rational case, but what if Griffin’s knee gives him trouble during the season, if other key players are lost to injury, and the rookies face too steep a learning curve to offer much improvement this year? Will they still be a better team?

The Redskins line of nine wins is quite respectable. Only 10 other teams have higher over-under win totals. Of those 10 teams, all but three won more games than the Redskins did last year. One of those teams, the Ravens, won the Super Bowl. Their line is just half a game better than the Redskins’. The other two are the Steelers, who beat the Redskins in 2012, and the Saints. If you want to quibble about New Orleans being ahead of Washington, you might have a legitimate case.

The top of the NFC East is pretty tightly bunched. The Giants over-under is also nine wins (the same total they had last year) and Dallas is at 8.5. Philadelphia will have to exceed expectations to avoid the division cellar; their line is 6.5.