Two of the most storied and successful franchises in NFL history, the New England Patriots and Washington seldom find themselves on opposite sides of the gridiron. It’s happened just 10 times since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger brought the Patriots into the NFL fold. Even though the Redskins own a 6-4 advantage in terms of victories in the all-time series, it’s New England that is dominant on the scoreboard. The Patriots have outscored the Redskins 235-202 in those 10 games.
These two teams are much more familiar with each other from their experiences in the NFL preseason. Washington and New England have clashed 17 times in exhibition play since the 1977 season. In fact, the first time the two teams ever met on a football field was a 1967 preseason game, the first season that the NFL and AFL agreed to stage exhibition games against each other. Washington beat the Patriots 13-7 on Aug. 26, 1967 in a game that was played at Harvard Stadium in Cambridge, Mass.
Over And Over Again – That’s the side of the total you will want to be placing your wagers when these two teams take the field, especially when they do so as they are in this game, at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. The last time New England played host to the Redskins for a preseason game was in 2006, and the Patriots shutout Washington 41-0. The previous meeting to that one was in 2001, and on that occasion, the Patriots waltzed to a 33-13 decision.
Similar patterns of New England dominance emerge during regular-season meetings at Gillette Stadium. When the two teams clashed there most recently in 2015, sportsbooks were listing the Patriots as minus-14 and some even as high as minus-15 favorites. And New England covered all bets via a 27-10 triumph. But that was nothing compared to what the Patriots did to the Redskins in 2007. That day, Tom Brady and company bulldozed through Washington en route to a 52-7 drubbing.
Capital Punishment – Points galore generally go up on the New England side of the scoreboard when the Patriots face the Redskins. They’ve hit for at least 20 points in six of their last seven preseason games against Washington, and combined for 74 points in their last two home preseason games against the Redskins. New England has scored no fewer than 27 points in its last three regular-season games against Washington and combined to put up 79 points in the last two home dates when facing the Redskins.
Edelman Idled – New England’s receiving corps has taken a hit since the end of last season. Julian Edleman, third on the team with 61 catches last season, will sit out the first four games of the season under NFL suspension for violation of the league’s performance enhancing drug policy. Brandin Cooks, second on the club last season with 65 receptions, departed when the Patriots traded him to the Los Angeles Rams for a first round draft pick.
Gronk Good To Go – Luckily for the Patriots, it would appear that oft-injured tight end Rob Gronkowski is fully recovered from the concussions issues that bothered him late last season. Gronkowski led the Patriots in 2017 with 69 catches, including a team-high eight touchdowns, and 1,084 yards from receptions. He’s seeking to work out a new contract with the team, so Gronk should be very motivated to enjoy another banner season as Tom Brady’s go-to guy.
Long Is Short – Gronkowski is a five-time Pro Bowl selection, and here’s one of the reasons why this is so. The Patriots faced third down and 10 yards (or longer) to go 59 times last season. On 10 of those occasions, quarterback Brady opted to target Gronkowski. He caught eight balls for 135 yards in that scenario, catches that resulted in seven first downs and one touchdown for the Patriots. That’s an 80 percent completion rate and a 70 percent conversion rate.
Kissing Cousins Goodbye – He was controversial, he was sometimes successful and he certainly put up numbers. But now Kirk Cousins is gone from the Redskins, off to try and achieve what Case Keenum failed to do, get the Minnesota Vikings to the Super Bowl. In his place at quarterback is the much more conservative Alex Smith. Smith has started a postseason game in five of the past seven seasons and has won 69 games since 2011, second to Brady among NFL QBs over that span.
He’s Their Gronk: There’s no mistaking the comparison. When tight end Jordan Reed is healthy and playing, the Redskins are a vastly superior team. He played 14 games in 2015 and Washington made the playoffs. Reed suited up for 12 games in 2016 and the Redskins missed the playoffs by a game. Like the Patriots with Gronkowski, Reed is Washington’s No. 1 target when he’s on the field. The Redskins utilize Reed to create mismatches. When he’s been out, Washington is just a .500 team at 7-7.
Allen Key – Another player that the Redskins will count on to be healthy this season is defensive lineman Jonathan Allen. When injury ended his 2017 season after just five games, a switch was thrown that shut down the Washington defense. A group that allowed only 88 yards per game over those first five games was suddenly permitting more than 155 yards a game. Allen is not only a difference-maker on the field, his presence and impact on the game make those who play around him better players.
Super Bowl Stands Pats – As is the norm, the Patriots, who’ve been to the last two Super Bowls, will enter the season as the chalk to get there again. Bovada puts the Patriots at +650 to win Super Bowl LIII. The Redskins, on the other hand, are a much longer shot on the board at +7500. But with Smith taking care of the ball and leading a more efficient offense, and improvements on both sides of the line, might Washington be worth a wee gamble? Hey, who would’ve picked the Philadelphia Eagles at this juncture a year ago?