Coming off the third consecutive close game of the season, only this time in a losing effort, the Redskins find themselves looking inward for the key to victory. The Redskins are the most penalized team in the league; the 17 penalties for 142 yards in the Giants loss included a holding penalty that removed a Redskins touchdown, and an unnecessary roughness call on 3rd and 24 that ultimately led the Giants to score a touchdown. If the Redskins don’t find a way to stop beating themselves, they have little hope of fulfilling the promise of a post season showing. However, the beleaguered Patriots provide another golden opportunity for success. Similar to the Jets and Falcons, the Patriots have lost starters at key positions. Timing has become the codeword for Redskins success this year. Although they started off with one of the toughest schedules, injuries to the opposing teams are turning the early part of the schedule into demanding, but possible wins over very tough playoff teams.
The New England Patriots have sustained a rash of key injuries and defections from their highly talented defense. Starting right before the season started, their defensive leader, Lawyer Milloy was cut due to salary cap concerns. Since then, nose tackle Ted Washington and linebackers Rosevelt Colvin and Ted Johnson have departed with severe injuries, while Linebacker Mike Vrabel may attempt to play with a broken arm. Their top Cornerback, Ty Law is limping on a sprained ankle. Given these injuries, the question to be answered on Sunday will be whether defensive genius Bill Belichick and his shifty 3-4 defense will be able to compromise and confuse the Redskins offense. The Redskins gave up 5 sacks in the first half to the last 3-4 defense they played (Atlanta Falcons), and the Patriots already have 13 sacks for the year. However, if Spurrier can withstand the many game day wrinkles Belichick is known for, look for a very successful day for the Redskins #1 rated offense.
Last week, the Redskins Defense fell from its lofty position at the top of the NFL. Holes both in stopping the run and in allowing big plays in pressure situations led to a Giants victory. The Patriots offense ran for more than 100 yards as a team for the second time in three games as Kevin Faulk and Antowain Smith combined for 134 yards on the ground. New England also has a multi-talented short passing game with many passes going to tight ends Daniel Graham and Christian Fauria, running back Larry Centers and wide receivers Troy Brown and Deion Branch. If given time, Tom Brady is the type of quarterback that gives defenses fits. However, given the injury to Mike Compton, the Redskins might have a better chance to put pressure on Tom Brady. Look for the Redskins defense to give up some points early before clamping down on the Patriots attack.
Keys to Victory
Redskins Carelessness: If the Redskins play as careless as they have been, the only chance for a skins victory will be another close nail-biter. The Redskins have brought in officials for the Wednesday and Thursday practices to address this. The Redskins team leaders will chart the course here. If we see Bruce Smith, Jansen and Samuels commit careless penalties; look for the rest to follow their lead.
Can the Skins Succeed Without Coles?: Belichick is known for designing innovative game plans that take away the opposition’s primary offensive threat. In this case, it's clear that his eyes will be on making the now infamous Laveranues Coles–slaw. In backing this up, reports are that Wilbert Brown, the former Redskins center now New England Patriot, has told the Pats that Spurrier’s game plan is designed around getting Coles the ball. The Redskins offense must live up to the hype and show that they are far from a one-dimensional team. Look for Gardner and Jacobs to have big games, along with more catches being thrown to the running backs.
The Running Game: Although the Patriots running game has been successful, questions abound as to the quality of their suspect backfield. Although Faulk has shown promise, he will never be confused with the other running back with that name. With the injury to OG Mike Compton, there will be even more pressure on the Pats to perform. If the running game for the Patriots does not materialize, even without a sustained pass rush, Brady will have problems finding targets. Look for the Redskins to put 8 in the box again both to stop the run and to take away the short strike passing game the Patriots are known for. On the flip side, the injury to nose tackle Ted Washington and the other starting linebackers puts immense pressure on "last man standing" linebacker Ted Bruschi. Look for a very balanced Redskins attack this week. We would not be surprised to see Spurrier take advantage of the injuries by using the run to set up the passing game.
Pressure Play: The Patriots are yet another battle-tested team that has seen and passed the adversity test. If the game gets close, the Pats, with a super-bowl starting quarterback are bound to perform. The Redskins are still learning how to be a playoff caliber team. If the Skins find themselves in high penalty territory again, look for another close game. Unfortunately, like the Giants game, the Skins may find themselves on the short end of the scoreboard.
Overall, the Redskins have yet another opportunity to get a win against a very good, but decimated football team. The Patriot’s injury report is 13 names long, including 4 who are "out" for the game and another that is doubtful. Look for the Redskins to clean up their act and win this one going away. The Hogs.net predicts a 27-13 score.