1. What is the Redskins' mental state? There's simmering tension because of the inconsistent offense; some just want to pound the ball and aren't crazy about the gimmick plays that are called. But as a team they have a growing sense of urgency. In the past two years that usually resulted in a good game under Joe Gibbs.
2. But are they healthy enough? That's the problem. The Redskins' offense certainly is, but the defense remains a question mark because of the defensive tackles and the secondary. Others have minor injuries (Marcus Washington, Lemar Marshall) that has affected their play.
3. Which injury will affect them most? The tackles, if they can't play. Washington must first stop the run and make the Colts one-dimensional. Yes, the secondary could have major problems, but they'll have even more if they can't stop the run. And this secondary is not a good match for the Colts' receivers anyway. But more on that in a minute.
4. Will the noise be a factor? Of course. It's always louder in a dome and it won't be any different Sunday. The Redskins need to take the crowd out by controlling the ball. Also, they must stay out of third and longs, when the crowd noise makes it harder to hear on the edges -- giving the ends a half-second advantage. For some, that's all they need.
5. Will the Redskins play smash-mouth football? That's what many of them want to do. Considering the Colts rank last against the run, the Redskins will want to run the ball. And when Joe Gibbs mentions something about the run in his Monday press conference, you know what will happen the next Sunday. Clinton Portis clearly wants the ball; but here's a news flash for him: the coaches want him to have it, but he takes himself out at inopportune times. If he wants it, then he needs to play all game.
6. What about the passing game? What about it? The Redskins won't become one-dimensional; they can control the clock that way but they can't win that way. So Mark Brunell will need to make some big throws. He needs to stop eyeing one receiver, especially when he's double covered.
7. What are the key matchups against the Colts' defense? Left tackle Chris Samuels against right end Dwight Freeney. The latter does not yet have a sack, but he posted at least 11 in each of his first four seasons. He will break out at some point. It'll also be important to have a good game in the interior against newly-acquired Anthony McFarland.
8. What are the key matchups against the Colts' offense? Um, this is where it gets tricky. Shawn Springs' return will help against Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, but it's a mismatch when those two are matched against Kenny Wright or Mike Rumph. Right end Andre Carter has a tough matchup against left tackle Tarik Glenn and center Jeff Saturday is solid in the middle.
9. Can they stop Peyton Manning? Good question. It'll be difficult, but they can do it through a few ways. First, they must control the clock with their run game to keep him off the field. Second, they must vary their defenses. They have to disguise some, changing at the last second, and they have to play some straight. Manning plays a game of chicken with the defense and forces them to tip their hand early. He also is highly adept at figuring out what a defense is doing. Manning excels at play-action passes, so stopping the run is imperative. The Redskins will have to deal with the no-huddle attack, too, which could mean problems with substitutions. It's a tough task.
10. Will the Redskins win? First let's say how they can win. They absolutely must run the ball well and hit a few big plays in the passing game. Tennessee ran well on the Colts; Tennessee lost. Indy is 5-0 for a reason. They must be patient defensively; the Colts will hit big plays on their defense so they just have to accept them and just keep playing. They can play a lot of cover 2 and force them to use long drives to get downfield. And they need to force a team with only four turnovers this season to turn it over. That's the biggest challenge. Having said all that, I think the Redskins will play a good game. I don't think their defense is healthy enough to pull off the upset. Colts 27, Redskins 20.