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Higher expectations--but high enough?

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Higher expectations--but high enough?

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.

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Montae Nicholson says it was his decision to play days after death at his home

Montae Nicholson says it was his decision to play days after death at his home

Speaking publicly for the first time since missing practice after participating in an investigation into the death of 21-year-old Julia Crabbe, Montae Nicholson thanked the Redskins organization and his teammates for their support.

Nicholson, who played just days after Crabbe's drug overdose death at his home, said the decision to play in last Sunday's game against the Jets was difficult but was his alone.

"It was, without a doubt," Nicholson said of how hard the decision to play. "But, you know, at the end of the day, it was my decision. I wasn't forced into anything. It wasn't easy at all trying to separate the field from everything that was going on."

According to reports, Nicholson found Crabbe collapsed in his bathroom. He took her to a nearby hospital, where she was later pronounced dead. Nicholson is reported to be cooperating with investigators looking into the victim's death. 

When speaking to reporters on Thursday, Nicholson asked that the media respect his privacy and said he wouldn't be taking questions on the legal situation. 

"This week has been extremely hard on not only myself but Julia's friends and family, as well. I would appreciate if you all respect my privacy while everything is going on," he said. "At this time, I will only be taking questions on responding to and about the Lions this week. I'm sorry."

He has practiced all week in advance of the Lions and is expected to play on Sunday. Diving into football, he said, has been a large part of his coping with the tragedy. 

"It's been rough, to say the least. But, you know, with my teammates and friends who aren't in the state or just aren't around here, the head office made it very well known that they have my back in everything that was going on and if I needed anything, just to talk or anything like that, they made that known that the door was wide open," he said. 

Nicholson said having the team's support means a lot to him. 

"They could've shut the door on me and turned their backs, but they didn't," he said. "And that just speaks volumes to the type of program I'm a part of. I'm extremely grateful to be here and to still be here."

This isn't Nicholson's first off-field incident during his time with the Redskins. He finished the 2018 season under suspension after being arrested for a fight outside of a Loudon County restaurant. Those charges were later dropped. 

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Derrius Guice understands why Redskins fans are frustrated, but he's looking ahead

Derrius Guice understands why Redskins fans are frustrated, but he's looking ahead

Derrius Guice is a very positive person. Unfortunately, he's playing for a team right now that's shrouded in negativity.

The Redskins have played 10 games this season, and they've walked off the field as losers in nine of those contests. They've gotten rid of their head coach, and many are wondering how many other major changes will come.

And when it comes to the fans, many — if not most — are furious with the direction of the franchise. Guice is noticing that, too.

"It just sucks when I score, or someone else scores, and our team posts a picture to Instagram or Twitter and everything under it is just, 'Fire this, fire that, we suck," Guice told JP Finlay in a 1-on-1 interview on the Redskins Talk podcast. "That doesn't help anything."

The running back understands that frustration. However, he wants those who are angry to know one thing: While this current roster is obviously responsible for the 2019 issues, they aren't responsible for the two-decade-long slump that's affected the organization.

"I'm new here," Guice said. "I understand some of these fans have been here 20-30 years, but like, there's a lot of guys on this team that are new. Y'all can't bring all that negativity to us like we've been here 20 years. I don't think that's fair to us players."

That's what makes this situation so difficult for those on the field and those who watch those on the field. Fans have been on this unsatisfying ride for far too long, yet most of the players hopped on a stop or two ago. 

So people who post those hateful comments or send those angry DMs are doing so because they've seen a handful of free agency and draft classes bust, and because they've seen numerous coaches come in and fail, and they've been lied to repeatedly about how "close" the Redskins are. They aren't necessarily trying to take it out on Guice or Dwayne Haskins or Landon Collins, it just appears that way.

Guice, for one, is aiming to improve how he handles that side of being an athlete. He's also choosing to focus on those who've stayed on his side through what's been a tumultuous first couple of seasons in the league.

For all the negativity he encounters, he's grateful for those who remain positive like him.

"A guy that's been there two years and has only played two real games, there's a lot of fans that have still never left my side since I got drafted," Guice said. "That's something I always have to cherish."

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