Redskins at Lions

The Redskins continue to remain confident, or so they say. But they need a win sooner or later to keep believing those words. And if they have any hopes of salvaging this season, or getting anywhere near seven wins then they must start winning now.

Winning at Detroit won't be easy. But don't be fooled: the Lions have many holes. Problem is, so, too do the Redskins.

Key defensive players: Corners Shawn Springs and Fred Smoot. They must limit the big plays by receivers Roy Williams and speedy Az Hakim. Both average more than 15.1 yards per catch and have combined for eight touchdowns. Ex-Redskin tight end Stephen Alexander has caught 17 passes and could be bothersome, but linebacker Marcus Washington has done a nice job in coverage.

Key offensive players: Guards Derrick Dockery and Randy Thomas and center Cory Raymer. They must contend with lots of beef in the middle when facing tackles Shaun Rogers and Dan Wilkinson. The massive Rogers is strong against the run and also has four sacks. But Rogers won't just line up against Dockery; he'll be trouble for Raymer and Thomas. Wilkinson has fared well since leaving Washington. He's primarily a run defender, but takes up space. Not what a weak interior needs. End James Hall leads Detroit with 5.5 sacks, making for a nice matchup against left tackle Chris Samuels. Defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson has fared well since leaving Washington.

Vulnerable: If the Redskins had a passing attack, this game wouldn't look so bad. But they don't. Still, all it takes is to connect on a couple deep balls and Detroit will surrender such plays. The Lions have allowed more than 30 points three times this season (all to teams with solid passing games). Detroit allows a staggering 43.4 percent of third downs to be converted. If the Redskins can protect the passer, they could snap out of their funk. That's a big if.

Maturing: While the Redskins remain uncertain at quarterback, the Lions aren't. Third-year QB Joey Harrington has blossomed, with 12 touchdowns to four interceptions.

But . . . : The Lions lack offensive balance and Harrington has been pressured, evidenced by his 17 sacks. Washington can get to him, if it can cover deep. Detroit has converted just 30.5 percent of its third downs and is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry. In many ways, the Lions' stats don't look like those of a 4-3 team. That bodes well for Washington.

Protective: Detroit's running backs haven't lost a fumble since Cory Schlesinger coughed one up on Nov. 24, 2002. That's 761 touches and 111 quarters since they last lost a fumble. The Lions are plus-12 in the turnover differential, a big reason they're 4-3. Meanwhile, Washington is minus-3, a big reason the Redskins are 2-5.

Prediction: Detroit wins, 21-17. The Redskins have an excellent shot and show life, but the Lions are just better this year. It will not be a surprise if they win.

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