Game preview: Redskins at Browns

Game preview: Redskins at Browns
December 14, 2012, 8:15 am
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What: Redskins (7-6) at Browns (5-8)

Where: Cleveland Browns Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV: Fox WTTG-5

Redskins Kickoff and Postgame Live: Comcast SportsNet noon and 4. 

Outlook: The last time the city of Washington was so concerned about the health of one of its citizens was, well, the last time Robert Griffin III was injured.

That was back in Week 6, when the Redskins’ star quarterback returned from a mild concussion and beat the Vikings. From all indications, there’s a decent chance Griffin will be back under center in Cleveland, despite the mild knee sprain that knocked him out of last week’s game against the Ravens.

With or without Griffin, the Redskins will be aiming to win five games in a row for the first time since 2005 and continue their improbable push toward the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2007.

Their hopes don’t completely hinge on Griffin’s availability – rookie backup Kirk Cousins proved to be a reliable alternative a week ago – but having the game’s top dual-threat quarterback in the lineup certainly would bolster the Redskins’ odds by allowing offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to utilize all [italics] of the playbook.

Head Coach Mike Shanahan has hinted that he might not make his decision public until Sunday in an attempt to keep the Browns guessing about the status of Griffin, who is tied with three-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady for the league lead in passer rating (104.2).

“That’s a decision the powers that be will make,” Kyle Shanahan said, referring to Griffin. “If he can’t protect himself, then there’s no chance of him going out there.”

The Redskins could use any edge they can get against the Brandon Weeden-led Browns, who, like Washington, are gelling in the second half of the season.

Cleveland has won three consecutive games, topping the Steelers, Raiders and Chiefs.

Weeden, a 29-year-old rookie, has thrown 13 touchdowns and 15 interceptions but has displayed more confidence and consistency in recent weeks. Running back Trent Richardson, has rushed for 869 yards and nine touchdowns, which has him tied with Jim Brown for the franchise’ rookie record. Weeden’s top target, meantime, is Josh Gordon, another rookie. The 6 foot 3, 225-pound wide receiver has 42 receptions, 732 yards, 33 first downs and five scores.

“We’re growing up,” Weeden said on a conference call with local reporters this week. “We’re a young football team. Guys are starting to play with confidence and aren’t having to think quite as much.”

One of the biggest threats Cleveland poses, however, could be on special teams. Washington native Josh Cribbs ranks fourth in average punt return (12.8 yards per) and seventh on kickoffs (27.7). Last Sunday, rookie Travis Benjamin switched spots with Cribbs and returned a punt 93 yards for a touchdown in a 30-7 thrashing of Kansas City.

“You have to be careful,” Mike Shanahan said of the Browns’ potent return game. “Everyone has to be sound in their lanes. Everybody has to be playing at full speed because one mistake and it’s a touchdown.”

Griffin’s status aside, there are a few other storylines the crew at will be following: Among them:

1-Running back Alfred Morris has topped 100 yards each of the past three games and six times this season. With only 33 more yards, Morris will crack the top-10 for individual rushing seasons in franchise history. Another 100-plus performance also would make him the first Redskins with seven such efforts in the same season since Clinton Portis accomplished the feat in 2005.

The Browns’ D’Qwell Jackson-led defense is ranked 17th against the run, yielding an average of 120.5 yards per game.

2-Kai Forbath is 14 for 14 this season after connecting on field goals of 48, 49 and 34 yards (in overtime) to help lift the Redskins to a 31-28 victory over the Ravens. If the first-year kicker converts his next three, he’ll break Garrett Hartley’s record for consecutive field goals to start an NFL career.

3-If the Redskins score 30 or more points, it will mark the first time they’ve done that seven times in a season since 1991, which, of course, was the last …Oh, never mind.  

During the current four-game wining streak, the Redskins have topped 30 points three times.

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