The Redskins take on the Lions at FedEx Field in what may or may not be a must-win game. Here are five things to look for plus a prediction:
1. If they can’t control Ndamukong Suh it’s going to be a long day—and it could be a short day for Robert Griffin III. A vote of players has named the Lions’ defensive tackle the NFL’s dirtiest player two straight years and even when he plays cleanly he has the potential to wreck an offensive game plan and cause bodily harm to opposing players. One offensive lineman I talked to hinted that they could try to use Suh’s aggressiveness against him by calling some draws and screens.
2. The Lions ranked third in the league in yards gained last year but 17 in points scored. That points to a very inefficient operation that had to settle for field goal attempts a lot (36 of them) and turned the ball over way too often (33 times). They seem to be buttoning up some of these issues this year. With the required small sample size warning, they are eighth in yards and fifth in scoring.
3. But if coach Jim Schwartz has to call for a field goal attempt, he doesn’t have longtime, reliable Jason Hanson answering. David Akers is now the kicker and he’s been shaky at best. Last week he missed from 52, got a reprieve thanks to a penalty but was wide right from 47 and then he had another 47-yarder blocked. He struggled last year in San Francisco and you have to think the Lions will have limited confidence if they have to call on him.
4. Not sure what more can be said about Robert Griffin III that hasn’t already been said. If he plays like he did last year the Redskins should win and do so easily. If he is off the Redskins will struggle. Does the old RG3 return all of a sudden, like flipping a switch? Or will it come in fits and starts?
5. The Lions have never won in Washington, a streak that goes back to 1939. It includes 18 regular-season wins and three in the playoffs. You can say either say that the Lions are jinxed or that they are overdue.
Redskins 28, Lions 24
In the third quarter of the Redskins’ Week 3 game against the Giants, New York drove to a first and goal at the Washington 10. A Trent Murphy sack and two incompletions later, Josh Brown came in and kicked a field goal.
Since then, opponents have had goal to go situations 12 times. They have scored touchdowns on every one of them.
The stop against the Giants was one of just two all year. They had one against the Cowboys in Week 2. Their opponents’ goal to go success rate is 90.5 percent. That’s the second worst in the NFL.
The failures have been costly. On Sunday, the Cardinals recovered a Kirk Cousins fumble and returned it to the Washington 10. The Redskins led 13-10 at the time and coming out of that situation with the game tied would have been large. But on third and goal at the six Carson Palmer hit Michael Floyd with a touchdown pass and the Cardinals had both the lead and the momentum.
Opponents usually haven’t had to work that hard. Teams have run 21 plays in goal to go and they have 10 touchdowns.
On Thanksgiving Day, the Cowboys got to goal to go three times. A stop on any one of them would have been a boost to the Redskins and would have changed the dynamic of the game. But Dallas was three for three.
The goal to go problems are a subset of the Redskins’ problems with red zone defense in general. Opponents have scored touchdowns on 27 of 40 red zone trips, a 67.5 percent success rate that puts the Redskins 30th in the NFL.
The NFC East was a beast for a while, but in recent weeks, the division is fading. All the teams outside of Dallas lost this weekend, and losing streaks are popping up throughout the I-95 Corridor. Here's the NFC East update:
- The Minnesota Vikings gave the Dallas Cowboys all they could handle last Thursday night, and yet, the Cowboys won 17-15. Dak Prescott was not impressive in Minneapolis, but Ezekiel Elliott was and the Cowboys defense did just enough to slow the Vikings terrible offense. At 11-1, Dallas has clinched a playoff berth, and with a date in New York this Sunday night, Jerry Jones' crew has a chance to avenge their only loss of the year, which came in Week 1 to the Giants.
- It seemed expectations met reality for the New York Giants last Sunday in Pittsburgh. Ben McAdoo's team had won six games in a row, but largely, faced poor competition. In their first tough test since the leaves started falling, Eli Manning's offense could not get going and the Giants fell to 8-4, still in possession of the first NFC Wild Card spot. Even on their win streak, the Giants didn't pass many eye tests. Beat Dallas on Sunday night and all that changes.
- Two weeks ago the Washington Redskins were one of the hottest teams in the NFL. Winners of two straight and with a surging Kirk Cousins, the Redskins marched to Dallas on Thanksgiving and gave the Cowboys a real test. Despite the loss, Washington still held its spot with the second NFC Wild Card. After a deflating loss in Arizona, now the 'Skins are on the outside looking in of the playoffs. Good news for Jay Gruden and company: The team can get right back in the thick of things this week in Philly, and the remaining four-game schedule looks advantageous.
- While the Redskins have lost two in a row and are in danger of falling out of the playoff race, the Philadelphia Eagles have lost three in a row and look to be falling apart. Rookie QB Carson Wentz is devoid of offensive weapons to work with and the Eagles have been outscored 85-42 in their last three games. Philly can get their first NFC East win this week with the 'Skins visiting, but it will take a different effort than they've shown in the last month.
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