1. Will Clinton Portis play? He now says he will, though it sounds as if it will be in a limited role. If that's the case, what role will he play. Ladell Betts will start and perhaps Portis will play on third downs, where his pass protection skills are vital against a team that will blitz and can apply pressure.
2. Will the offense produce? We all know the Redskins showed about 2 percent of their offense. But zero points is zero points; shouldn't a team with playmakers scored more in the preseason? Our guess is the offense will be fine tonight. We know the offense they ran during the summer was much different than what they'll use tonight. Look for lots of motion, shifting and four-receiver sets. Look for 20 points, too.
3. Which quarterback will show his age first? Both Mark Brunell and Brad Johnson are entering their late 30s. But, for now, they'll show their experience more than their age. That means Johnson will pick apart Washington, or try to anyway, with smart decisions. And that means Brunell will wisely use his feet to make plays -- not by running for big yards, but by eluding the rush.
4. What's the big concern defensively? A couple things. One, they must stop the running attack -- obviously. But Minnesota's is an unknown one, albeit one with possibilities. Fullback Tony Richardson is an excellent blocker and the Vikings signed guard Steve Hutchinson in the offseason. Paired with center Matt Birk, they could run well up the middle. That leaves Chester Taylor as the question mark. He was stuck behind Jamal Lewis in Baltimore and finally gets his chance to shine. Look what that did for Priest Holmes.
5. What's the big concern offensively? The Vikings' front four. They have lots of speed and potential to wreak havoc. End Erasmus James had four sacks as a rookie, but look for him to have a bigger year; he has more than a few moves. They could use screens -- an Al Saunders favorite -- to slow them. But the ends are athletic enough, and the linebackers have enough speed, to snuff that play out.
6. How emotional will tonight's game be? Very. The Redskins will pay tribute to the victims of 9/11 and that will touch everyone in the stadium.
7. How should Washington attack offensively? It'll be hard to run up the gut, at least with consistency because of run-stuffing nose guard Pat Williams. But there are questions on the edge. Also, go after corner Fred Smoot. He's a good corner, but as we saw in Washington, he's not a special one by any means. The Vikings will play a lot of cover-2 and one way to beat that is with Chris Cooley underneath. The Redskins have the ability to send four wideouts downfield, opening it up for Cooley.
8. What are the key matchups? Offensively, it's the interior of Washington's offensive line vs. the Vikings' tackles -- Kevin and Pat Williams. The former is a good pass rusher, though he's coming off a down season. Defensively, the Redskins must stop the ground game as we stated above. But they also need to beware of tight end Jermaine Wiggins. The Redskins struggled with the tight end this summer and Wiggins could become a favorite target of Johnson.
9. Which newcomers will make an impact? The Redskins should hope all of them do. But I'm most curious to see receiver Brandon Lloyd. He's an excellent downfield route-runner. Question is, will Brunell have the time to get him the ball? It would have been nice to see the defensive newcomers, Andre Carter and Adam Archuleta, do something this summer to inspire confidence. Carter didn't get close to the quarterback. Is he rusty? Holding back? Or not good? We'll start to find out tonight. Archuleta needs to improve his tackling and cover skills for us to feel confident that he's an upgrade over Ryan Clark.
10. Will the Redskins win? Yes. There's too many questions surrounding Minnesota because it has a new coach, is using new systems on both sides of the ball and lacks playmakers on offense. That's hardly the recipe for a road upset. There will also be a ton of emotion in the stadium tonight, obviously playing to the Redskins' favor. They'll win 20-14.
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