Gameday: Redskins vs. 49ers

The Redskins have pointed to their high number of close losses this season, using that as an indication of how close they are to being good. If that's the case, then today should not be a close game. Put simple: San Francisco stinks.

And if the Redskins want to make any statement at the end of the season, this becomes a must win. Not to remain as a longshot in playoff competition, but to establish a mindset for next season. Sometimes, wins at the end of a season are meaningless and don't always carry over. But for the Redskins, if they finished with three straight wins that would carry over.

However, it must start today.

Look for: Big plays from Patrick Ramsey. The Redskins will test the 49ers downfield after setting them up with the run early. It's time to let Ramsey take more shots. This offense won't grow until he completes them. And if he's only given three chances to throw downfield, he won't improve in this area. He doesn't need to go crazy throwing downfield, but if they don't find out what they can do in this area, how will that help? Also, SF has allowed 22 touchdown passes this season (and 18 rushing).

Defensively speaking: The Niners don't force many turnovers, with only eight interceptions and eight fumble recoveries. They lack defensive playmakers, which the Redskins will exploit. If they hold onto the ball, they'll be fine.

Wondering about: the nickel corners. With Shawn Springs out, that removes a solid cover corner and puts Walt Harris in the starting lineup. Harris is a veteran and shouldn't struggle against these wideouts. San Francisco lacks a true No. 1 receiver; maybe even a No. 2. But players such as Ade Jimoh need to play well.

Watch out for: Tight end Eric Johnson. Considering how much pressure the Redskins want to apply, he'll be a factor as he's been all year. He leads the Niners with 69 catches. That means Sean Taylor and Marcus Washington must stop him. Taylor will be a key in this game because at times don't be surprised if they use him as a nickel corner. He can cover any receiver in this group and that just keeps the defense versatile. With Springs out, Taylor becomes an even bigger bonus.

Need to stop: Maurice Hicks. He rushed for 139 yards in a win over Arizona last week. The Niners best chance to win is to establish him. The only way QB Ken Dorsey can hurt Washington is if the running game helps. If not, he'll have a long day.

Going home I: Ray Brown played with SF from 1996-01, making a Pro Bowl while there. He's been a big help to Washington, but really he's also an indication of how bad their depth was before the season. One Eagles executive said Brown shouldn't even be in the league. That said, Brown has been a pleasure to deal with and young players can watch him work and see what it takes to last a long time in the NFL.

Going home II: Defensive lineman Ryan Boschetti, who could earn his first start, grew up a Niners fan in the Bay Area. Don't worry: he no longer wants them to win.

Prediction: Washington starts to gain momentum for a decent finish, beating the Niners, 23-10.


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