The Washington Redskins (4-7) head back to Fed Ex Field this Sunday, to square off against the hot and cold New York Jets (6-5). While both teams are technically still in the playoff running, the Jets really can't afford to lose to sub .500 teams and expect to get in. The Redskins on the other hand, shouldn't be looking at the mathematical possibilities and should continue stressing the youth movement that has started to take off, and live with the results.
Coming into this game, New York is fresh off of a 28-24 come-from-behind victory over the now struggling Buffalo Bills. It looked as though the Jets were poised to drop their third straight, but a late rally pulled out a victory, and left them just two back of the division leading New England Patriots, and just one game out of a wildcard spot.
The Redskins should be dead and buried at 4-7, but they are still technically in playoff striking distance. Is that something that a team who just lost 6 straight should be thinking about? No. They ended their losing slide with a hard-fought 23-17 victory over the Seahawks last week, in a game that they overcame a 10-point deficit, and scored the game's final 16 points in the fourth quarter. Their offense seemed to be finding a bit of rhythm, so are the Redskins turning around this abysmal offense at long last?
Rex Grossman will once again be the man in charge of running that struggling offense. Truthfully, throw out the two bad interceptions last week, and Rex played well last week. He racked up 314 yards passing on a very crisp 26 of 35 day, for a quarterback rating of 96.6. His best throw of the day was a 50-yard touchdown bomb to Anthony Armstrong that could not have been placed in the receiver's hands with much more accuracy. That put the dagger in the Seahawks heart, and put the Redskins on top for good. Despite the bad INTs, it was a strong outing for Grossman, but he had a lot of help from one of his rookies.
Roy Helu got the start at running back, and finished with 108 yards rushing - his first career 100-yard-plus rushing game - and tacked on another 54 yards receiving (on 7 catches) for 162 yards of total offense. He looked sensational at times, especially on his longest run of the day - a patient 28-yard scamper to the left, that he hurdled a would-be tackler, and took all the way to the end zone for his first NFL touchdown. The young back from Nebraska just seems to look better and better and with 74 carries under his belt, it's safe to look at his yards per carry average (4.8) and see great things in this young man's future. Check out the match-up below for more information on Helu's task at hand this week against the Jets front seven.
Perhaps the most important thing that returned to the Redskins' repertoire last week, was the time of possession clock. Repeated ad nauseum here at THN, the Redskins win the games that they have the ball longer than their opponents. That was true again against the Seahawks last Sunday, as the Redskins won the fourth game of their season, and they are the same four times they have won the T.O.P battle. Washington's record is very absolute in this regard: 4 wins of TOP battle - 4 wins on the scoreboard; 7 losses of the TOP battle - 7 losses on the scoreboard. Eat clock, pound the rock - it should be a chanting mantra in the Redskins dressing room before every game.
Kyle Shanahan has been much criticized, even in these previews, for his often seemingly egoistic play-calling so far this season. That CANNOT be said of last Sunday's win over Seattle. Not only did Shanahan call a good game, he called a great game. It looked like the Seahawks defense was scrambling from the opening whistle. the Redskins didn't run roughshod over the Seahawks by any means, buy Kyle mixed up his play selection beautifully, and used play-action to constantly open up the passing game. The Seattle defense looked like they were expecting runs when the Redskins passed, and passes when the Redskins ran; they were completely off balance. It was a large element of the Redskins improved offensive output - probably the biggest single factor.
Last week also saw the return of Santana Moss to the line-up. Sidelined for weeks after surgery on his hand, his presence was tangible, and his impact was immediate. He only caught 4 passes for 29 yards, but he helped kickstart the Redskins' offense early, and helped them post their first touchdown on an opening drive for nearly a full year. Check the match-ups below for more on Moss.
The Jets offense will be counting on Mark Sanchez - who would appear to have the same 'Good Mark', 'Bad Mark', football schizophrenia, that Rex Grossman has. Witness last week - Sanchez threw for just 180 yards and completed less than half of his passes (17 of 35) but he also threw a career high four touchdown passes, including one with a minute to go, to seal the deal. Said the quarterback of his performance, "I'm just feeling more and more comfortable. It's not showing quite yet, but I know it will. We're right there."
Sanchez has two lethal weapons at receiver, that the Redskins will have to shut down - Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress. Both made critical plays on the Jets' go-ahead drive last week, with Plax hauling in a beautiful one-handed catch, and Holmes catching the touchdown pass that put the Jets up to stay. Check the head-to-head section for more on this vital match-up. Josh Wilson and DeAngelo Hall are going to be very busy at Fed Ex on Sunday.
When it comes down to it, all of the Redskins defenders will be expected to come up big - they have all year long. Allowing just a hair over 20 points per game - the washington defense hasn't been stellar, but they have been good enough to have a lot more than the four wins that the Redskins have registered.
Perry Riley continues to shine since being inserted into the line-up for Rocky McIntosh. He led all Redskin defenders last week with 14 tackles. Playing along side of the venerable London Fletcher definitely helps, and the onus will fall on the two of them, to try and shut down the running game of Shonn Greene. By shutting down the running game in the middle, the Redskins can tee off on the pass rush with Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. Both had very average performances last week, and the Washington defense could really use a strong outing from both of the outside linebackers. Sanchez isn't good enough to worry about, if the pass rush can keep him from settling in the pocket, and having time to let Holmes and Burress break containment.
Special teams could prove to be a very important element of this game, as neither team has shown enough consistency on offense. Winning the field position could go a long way in deciding this week's outcome. Danny Smith's Redskins are coming off of their worst special teams outing of the season. Not only did Graham Gano make every kick look difficult, Sav Rocca had his most average game of the season, Brandon Banks couldn't find the jump that he had the week before, and both the punt return and kickoff return units struggled mightily. That can't happen again this week - not if the Redskins want to come away victorious. They can't leave points on the board with lousy field goal attempts, and they need to make the field as long as possible for Sanchez all day long.
If the Redskins can tee off on Sanchez with the pass rush, and keep Burress and Holmes from slashing the defense, then the Redskins will have a good chance. If the Redskins' offense can continue to develop some cohesion and stick to the run, and the play action that it creates, their chances for victory go up exponentially.
Here are this week's head-to-head match-ups:
Roy Helu vs Jets Front Seven By Andre Mitchell
On offense the match-up to watch will be Roy Helu against the Jets front seven. Helu is coming off a very productive game that saw him tally 162 total yards in just his second career start. Heís proving to be a dual threat on the field as in his first start, he had 146 total yards with 105 of those being receiving yards and he set a Redskins record with 14 receptions in the game. Heíll face a very aggressive Rex Ryan coached defense that will surely take note of Heluís production.
The Jets are ranked 16th in the NFL in running yards given up per game. However, over the last 5 games theyíre only giving up 68.2 yards per game for opposing running backs. 6í3Ē 325 pound Sione Pouha clogs the middle at NT for the Jets and 2011 first round pick Muhammad Wilkerson has been having an impressive under-the-radar season on the defensive line. Linebackers Bart Scott and David Harris really make the system work and clog running lanes up.
Expect to see some stretch running plays from the Redskins to challenge the speed of the Jets linebackers getting to the outside. What I like from what Iíve seen of Helu is not only his speed and agility, but heís shown a determined running style and doesnít go down easily on first contact. The Jets will have the task on their hands that even if they shut Helu down on the ground, theyíll still have to worry about him as a receiving threat out of the backfield. Obviously Helu will need a lot of help from his offensive line, but the rook has shown that he can be a playmaker.
DeAngelo Hall vs Santonio Holmes By Justin Partlow
In this weeks match-up you have what will truly be a battle between two very good football players. You have the ballhawk corner in DeAngelo Hall vs the big play WR in Santonio Holmes. This match-up will come down to the basics of football between the two. Look for Hall to try to exploit some of Sanchezís deficiencies at QB and try to make the big play against Holmes. Also look for some double moves from Holmes in hopes that Hall will try to jump the route in search for the big play.
Lets get to DeAngelo Hall though; last week in Seattle was one of his better games played all year. While he did give up a TD to Golden Tate, he also made the game sealing INT that got the Redskins out of a 6 game losing streak. What does best though is make the big play. While this year it hasnít shown as much with the INTís heís still got a knack for making the big play and will try to do it every game. It has its downfalls though as he has given up the big play as well, but you have to like that he wants to make that game changing play. This week though he needs to make sure to not bite on the double move that I expect New York to try to run on him. Also heís going to be needed in the run game that New York has tried to move back. If Hall can provide help in the run game then he has a chance to be a guy who has a huge impact on the final score.
Now lets get to Santonio Holmes, who is so underutilized as a WR it is ridiculous. With his talent its hard to believe heís not dominating games like he did last year. Part of that is due to his QB play as well as changing of offensive schemes during the year. What Holmes does best is work the deep middle of the field as well as the outside hashes deep. Also when it comes down to the end of a game, the man is one of the best at making the clutch catches. What he needs to do this week is first off make sure his route running is down pat or else Hall will catch notice and look to make the big play. Also and I know this will sound as cheesy, but he needs to run hard on every play, or else heís going to allow Hall to play off more and have the ability to know when itís a run or pass play. Holmes is truly a game changer and this match-up will be one good showdown.
Well who has the upper hand? Right now with everything factored in, I like DeAngelo Hall in this match-up mainly from the fact of Mark Sanchezís poor QB play. I see Hall having a nice game shutting down Holmes. Now will it amount to a win for Washington? The Jets still have a good amount of weapons to account for including Burress, Keller and Greene, but Hall should have a nice game this weekend.
Darrelle Revis vs. Santana Moss By Emmanual Benton
New York Jets star Conerback, Darrelle Revis is coming off one of the worst games of his career. Against the Buffalo Bills, Revis allowed Stevie Johnson to catch 8 passes for 75 yards and a touchdown. Johnson could have easily surpassed the 100 yard mark, and added another touchdown to his stats, had he not dropped a few balls.
That kind of lackluster performance is very rare for Darrelle Revis. However, the Jets played zero coverage often, which forced Revis to play soft. Don't get excited! Revis hasn't "hit a wall" or "fallen from grace." Don't expect Revis to give up yards like that against the Redskins.
This week, Washington WR Santana Moss will be shadowed by Revis. Hesitant, yet decisive routes will be the key to Moss having some form of success. Revis will be physical, and in order for Moss to generate space, he must be "shifty" with his route running. Darrelle is a physical corner, and is used to the bigger, less shifty AFC WRs. Smaller receivers with speed can be difficult for Revis. But, if they can't get physical at the line, its over. Santana has quick feet, runs crisp routes, and is not afraid to get physical. Which makes this a very interesting matchup.
Moss is determined to occupy the often deserted Revis Island, while Darrelle is set to make up for a down week. This will be a grudge match, that I can't wait to see.