Patriots - Redskins: Game Plans & Matchups

The Redskins hope to knock off the vulnerable Patriots on Sunday despite the point spread. Here's what to watch.

REDSKINS

  In the wake of the suspensions of TE Fred Davis and OT Trent Williams for the rest of the season, the Redskins promoted DL Chris Baker from the practice squad and re-signed TE Dominique Byrd to the active roster. OT Cole Pemberton was signed to replace Baker on the practice squad.

INJURY IMPACT

   If FB Darrel Young (concussion) can't start again Sunday against New England, former starter Mike Sellers will take his place.

   If SS LaRon Landry (Achilles) can't play for a third straight game, Reed Doughty will likely start in his place.

  GAME PLAN:

A week after they rallied from a 17-7 deficit with less than 10 minutes to go to beat Seattle 23-17, the Redskins marched 82 yards to the end zone on their opening drive against the New York Jets. The rest of the way, they managed just four field goals and 222 yards. And that was with TE Fred Davis, their leading playmaker, and LT Trent Williams, their best offensive lineman. Those two are now suspended for the rest of the season after failing a third drug test. Roy Helu did become the first Redskins rookie running back to gain 100 yards in consecutive games, but the Patriots, led by linebacker Jerod Mayo, are 10th in rush defense. Ex-Patriot WR Jabar Gaffney is now Washington's leading receiver with 46 catches and 655 yards.

   The Redskins held the Seahawks and Jets to an average of 258 yards the past two weeks but now they get a much more serious challenge in the Patriots, who average 423.8 yards and have scored 43 touchdowns compared to just 20 for Washington. The Redskins are ninth against the pass, but New England's Tom Brady is a whole different level of opposing quarterback from the likes of Tarvaris Jackson, Matt Moore, Mark Sanchez and Alex Smith while losing five of their past six games.

   Washington is also tied for the NFL-low with a minus-13 turnover ratio. Ageless ILB London Fletcher leads the league with 124 tackles. The Redskins have 33 sacks but didn't get to Sanchez once last week.

   MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Redskins LTs Sean Locklear/Willie Smith vs. Patriots RDE Andre Carter -- Locklear was so lightly regarded by the Seahawks after he started 15 games in 2010 that they didn't re-sign him this summer. He caught on with Washington and has been functional in three starts but might be replaced by undrafted rookie Smith. Carter, who didn't fit Washington's 3-4 scheme last year, is better than ever in New England's 4-3 defense with a team-high nine sacks.

   Redskins ILB London Fletcher vs. Patriots QB Tom Brady -- A decade after they matched wits in Super Bowl XXXVI with Brady's Patriots edging Fletcher's Rams in the final seconds, the two stalwart leaders of their franchises will go at it again for the first time in four years. Brady is having a typical Hall of Fame-level season (3,916 yards, 30 TDs, 105.9 rating). Fletcher, the NFL's top tackler, quarterbacks the ninth-ranked defense.

PATRIOTS

 The Patriots recently added WR Dorin Dickerson to the practice squad. He replaced OL Nick McDonald, who was promoted to the active roster.
Dickerson also has the ability to play tight end, but that position has been filled ably by Rob Gronkowski, so the second-year pro from Pittsburgh will more than likely compete for a spot on the active roster at wide receiver, which is an open battle right now.

   Dickerson reportedly quit in Pittsburgh after the Steelers signed him to their practice squad in September, but Dickerson denied that report. At 6-foot-2, 227-pounds, Dickerson certainly has the size to fit in this system and could provide depth down the stretch.

  GAME PLAN:
Much like the Packers, the Patriots tend to give up a ton of yards defensively, but they're capable of making a big play at any given time. This might be the theme of Sunday's game considering Rex Grossman will be at the helm for the Redskins.

   After throwing four interceptions against the Eagles, the 'Skins benched Grossman in favor of John Beck, who promptly lost the next three games. Grossman won back the job, but has thrown only four touchdowns since his return with a whopping six interceptions.

   Washington can't seem to find an answer to its woes in the passing game. Playing New England is an elixir or sorts, but not with a mistake-prone quarterback. This could be a recipe for disaster, whether it's Grossman regaining his footing, or New England's ball-hawking secondary making yet another statement against a weak foe.

   The key for Washington will be Roy Helu, who has been outstanding as Tim Hightower's replacement. Helu has hit the 100-yard rushing mark in each of the last two weeks and also has a touchdown in each of the past two games. Stopping him is New England's No. 1 priority.

   MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Redskins WR Jabar Gaffney vs. Patriots CB Devin McCourty -- Gaffney was never more than a second or third option in New England, but he's been more valuable than any receiver in Washington this year -- even Santana Moss. Gaffney has more touchdowns and is averaging more yards per catch. Conversely, McCourty has struggled in his sophomore season and looked particularly sluggish last week in his first game back from a shoulder injury. Gaffney might have a chance to make some big plays on Sunday.

   Patriots RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis vs. Redskins LB London Fletcher
--  While he may not be the same explosive player he was in Buffalo, Fletcher is having a productive year in terms of big plays; he's forced two fumbles, and has two interceptions and 1 1/2 sacks. He can still be a disruptive force at times, so ball security will be as important as ever on Sunday, particularly in the running game.

   Patriots C Dan Connolly v. Redskins NT Barry Cofield -- The Patriots are somewhat familiar with Cofield from his days with the Giants, so they know he is as capable of being disruptive up the middle as any nose tackle in football. Connolly, who has filled in most of the year for injured starter Dan Koppen, is beyond the point of being a backup and is expected to be as much of a leader as his predecessor was. This is a good matchup in the trenches and can determine which side controls the line of scrimmage.

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