Five things to look for in Redskins vs. Broncos plus a prediction:
1. This could probably go into every game preview in this and every other season but turnovers will be critical. The Broncos are plus-7 in the takeaway-giveaway ratio while the Redskins are at minus-1. Denver lost the turnover battle against the Colts on Sunday, giving it away three times and getting just one takeaway. The Broncos also lost the ball when Peyton Manning was sacked and the ball went out of the end zone for a safety. Not coincidentally, that game is the Broncos’ only loss.
2. Redskins fans will probably be relieved if the game is close at halftime, but if that’s the case it’s a typical Broncos game. Denver has outscored its opponents by just a combined 24 points in the first halves of their games (128-104). That means their average lead at halftime has been just three or four points. But Denver blows the doors off of the other team in the second half, piling up a margin of 77 points (170-93, 11 points/game). So root for the Redskins to have a solid halftime lead and maybe they will be able to hang on.
3. There is simply no excuse for the Redskins to kick to Trindon Holliday. Last week Devin Hester had a flashback to his former consistent brilliance. Holliday is in his prime right now. He has a touchdown on punt returns and he averaged 11.4 yards a pop. His kickoff return stat line features a 105-yard TD return and a dazzling 34.9-yard average.
4. The Denver running backs aren’t much to be concerned about as the team averages just 3.8 yards per rush. But running just isn’t a sidelight to Peyton Manning’s passing. They have run the ball 200 times (the league average per team is 178) and Knowshawn Moreno has a nose for the end zone with eight touchdown carries. It seems that whenever a team starts getting mesmerized by Manning along comes Moreno or Monte Ball to pop a run for a key first down. They probably aren’t going to get loose for a long run—the long run among the RB’s is just 25 yards—but their pieces to the puzzle that has the Broncos on pace to shatter the all-time single season scoring record.
5. Can the Redskins’ pass rush get to Manning? The Colts sacked him four times last Sunday and there’s no doubt that the Redskins will be taking a good, long look at the film from that game. One of the most amazing aspect of Manning’s and the Colts’ season on offense has been the fact that Ryan Clady, who has three Pro Bowls and two All-Pro honors on his resume, was able to play in just the first two games before going out for the season with a foot injury. Chris Clark, an undrafted four-year veteran, has filled in and the offense hasn’t missed a beat. Perhaps there is a way to exploit that matchup with Brian Orakpo and perhaps another pass rusher like Darryl Tapp or Rob Jackson.
I think that the Redskins can make this one interesting and they have a very outside chance of pulling off the upset. But it’s too small a chance for me to predict it.
Broncos 45, Redskins 35
As the discussion rages around what the Redskins should do with free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins, $75 million cornerback Josh Norman made clear he wants the passer back. Norman explained that the 'Skins struggles should not be pinned to Cousins, but rather, a Washington defense that finished the year near the bottom of the NFL.
"We got to help him out of defense, and stop somebody on the field," Norman said on FS1 (click here for full video). "We did not help him out at all. I'll be honest with you. We got to do our job."
Norman's comments came during a spirited argument with Colin Cowherd, Jason Whitlock and Cris Carter in what amounted to a festival of hot takery. Whitlock's argument was that Cousins is not a franchise quarterback, and shoult not be paid as such, largely for losing the final two home games of the year against Carolina and the New York Giants.
Cousins passed for nearly 5,000 yards this year, a statitstic Norman pointed to in his defense of the QB. He also explained that Cousins still has room to grow.
"He only had two seasons," Norman said. "Cam Newton had five seasons."
Drafted in 2012, Cousins was just named the 'Skins starter in 2015. He's started every game the last two seasons and gone 17-16 while passing for more than 9,000 yards. Norman played with Newton in Carolina before signing with Washington last year, and got to watch the quarterback develop into the league MVP in 2015.
Norman described Cousins as a 'great guy' and leader in the locker room, but he allowed that, "I know a great guy don’t translate into wins. I'm not saying that."
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As should be expected when a team goes 8-7-1, there were plenty of good moments and a lot of frustrating times during the Redskins’ 2016 season. Over the next couple of weeks, Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will take detailed looks at the 10 best plays of 2016 and, to present a more complete picture of the season, the 10 worst.
No. 9 worst play of 2016
Steelers at Redskins Week 1
10:18 left in Q2, Steelers ball 4th and 1 at the Redskins 29, Redskins leading 6-0
Ben Roethlisberger pass deep left to Antonio Brown for 29 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
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Tandler: Things were looking up for the Redskins prior to this, even though they were unable to punch the ball into the end zone in two forays deep into Steelers territory and had to settle for field goals (a taste of things to come all year). The Steelers drove down the field and went for it on fourth and one. Because Joe Barry opted not to have Josh Norman travel from side to side with Brown, it was Bashaud Breeland with one-on-one coverage on the right side. Brown beat Breeland and DeAngelo Hall was late giving safety help and Big Ben put the ball on the money. The score put the Steelers ahead to stay.
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Finlay: It's easy to forget now that the Redskins had an early lead in the opener against Pittsburgh. In fact, their defense started well, until this point. In something that would be repeated throughout the year, the Steelers did not hesitate to go for it on 4th down against the Washington defense. Breeland was in pretty good position on the ball, though Roethlisberger's throw was right on the money. It would be only one more week until Josh Norman would then start traveling to cover other team's best receivers. Beyond the immediate impact of this play, it also seemed to stay with Breeland as he struggled somewhat in the first half of the season.
10 best plays countdown
10 worst plays countdown
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Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!