Welcome to the only NFL blog in Southwest Virginia, Photog Paul's Pigskin Posts! And I know the first question on your mind: Umm dude... Who is Paul?
I returned home to WSLS 10 about six months ago, after spending four years at The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot. For the Pilot (and The Roanoke Times for two years), I covered the NFL every week, making predictions and light-hearted observations that made some readers laugh and many others angry (Hi, Redskins fans!). Currently, I'm a photojournalist for WSLS 10 by day, and now NFL blogger by night.
If you are a loyal reader from my previous stop, I plan to do much of the same as before - but better. I'll make picks that you can take to the bank (hopefully more for deposits and less for withdrawals - you know, if gambling was legal of course), provide previews and make many bad QB jokes (Hi, Brandon Weeden! I've missed you!). Have ideas on what you might want to see in this corner of the interwebs? Email me or tweet me @pauleldert.
Sound good to you? No? Well I'm doing it anyway.
But first, we must tackle the SECOND-PLACE WASHINGTON REDSKINS. That's right, the Redskins have played actual games. They currently don't have a losing record, are not in last place, and no one can ever take this proud feeling away from the fans.
REDSKINS 3 & OUT
If you're familiar with my writing, you know I haven't exactly been impressed with Kirk Cousins' body of work. At his best, he can be very serviceable. At his worst, he can be what your dog left behind after being unattended and eating lots of terrible food (or in other words, a hot, steaming mess). But through two weeks, Jay Gruden hasn't had to role up his play sheet and smack Cousins on the nose yet.
Why? Look no further than that very play sheet. The Redskins have relied on a vastly improved offensive line (new coach Bill Callahan might be the NFL's biggest acquisition of the season) to turn in the league's most potent ground attack (171.5 yards per game). When Cousins does have to actually throw, the pass plays have been quick, short, safe routes. As a result, Cousins is third in the league in completion percentage (75.9 percent), which is a major leap from the 58.9 percent clip he entered the season with. Gruden's message has been simple: go the speed limit, keep it between the lines and please don't kill anybody. So far, Cousins has responded.
Of course, Cousins still has much to prove to really earn the trust of the franchise. He can take another major step tonight. No team has enjoyed playing against Cousins more than the Giants, who have won both head-to-head meetings by a combined 65-20 score. In those clunkers, Cousins completed just 38-of-82 passes (46.3 percent) with one TD pass against six interceptions. Last season, on a Thursday night, Cousins threw a career-high four interceptions in one quarter vs. the G-Men. In his only playing time in New York, Cousins suffered his worst passer rating in a start, a measly 31.8 showing. Cousins will need an exorcist on the sidelines if the Redskins are to get above .500 for the first time since 2012.
While most of the praise for the Redskins' hopeful 1-1 start has focused on Cousins & Co., new defensive coordinator Joe Barry's unit deserves to be 2-0. Granted, Ryan Tannehill and Nick Foles aren't exactly Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, it's been average QBs in the class of Tannehill and Foles who have torched Washington's defense routinely in the last seven years. The Redskins rank No. 1 in overall defense (234.5 ypg), second vs. the pass (164.0), fourth against the run (70.5) and third in scoring (13.5 ppg). In 2014, they ranked 20th, 24th, 12th and tied for 29th in those respective categories. Now is it very early in the season? Absolutely. Will fans still take it? Abso-freaking-lutely.
"Quick" story: I'm a football fan because of my father. The first game I ever watched from start to finish was Washington's 1995 season-opening 27-7 win over Arizona. I've been a sports fan, as well as a Redskins fan, ever since. That life-changing moment 20 years ago has led me to pursue a career in sports journalism, as well as endure lots of disappointment, frustration and occasional joy (usually from the other teams I root for) as a fan. I've followed the Redskins closely, and throughout 2015 I've believed this team would only win somewhere between three and five games. In my opinion, the Redskins would be better off finally earning the No. 1 overall pick on their own lousy merits, draft a legitimate franchise changer, and begin to turn the corner.
Another "quick" story: Last week, I got the call that my Dad was diagnosed with cancer. We, as well as his doctors, are optimistic that he will win this fight. One way we will beat this nasty disease is with positive thinking. And so as I watched the Redskins last week with my Dad, these games began to carry a different meaning to me. Somehow, simultaneously, they weren't as important as they once were, but also more important than ever. Fans like to hyperbolize games, moments, plays. It's what we do. But these games are never truly life and death. A season ends, a new one begins. A legendary player retires, a new one takes his (or her) place. However, sports are also therapeutic. It can help the healing process for an individual, a city and even a nation. When the Redskins took a 17-0 halftime lead over the Rams, I could see my Dad believing good things might finally be happening. He needed this win. We needed this win. Of course, Washington appeared it would find a way to lose in the third quarter like we had seen it do routinely these past two decades. "This loss would hurt worse than others," I thought to myself. Then something weird happened: the Redskins didn't disappoint for once, and instead found a way to win (with help from lots of Rams mistakes). They were a positive distraction for us, and we could desperately use that as much as possible these days.
Final "quick" story: I tell these not-so "quick" stories because there is just no way I can pick against the Redskins. Not now, at least. Even though my head is telling me the Giants will triumph (they have won 11 of the last 14 in the series, including five of the last six), my heart is hoping Eli Manning will keep instructing his teammates not to score. Call it irrational thinking, call it being a homer, call it whatever. I'm calling it my UPSET OF THE WEEK.
Redskins (+3.5) 23, Giants 17