1. What is the Redskins' mental state? We thought there was simmering tension, but that usually respond well to adversity under Joe Gibbs. For a half they did. And then they collapsed, partly because of injuries and mostly because of the Colts play. Now their mental state is likely one of confusion.
2. But are they healthy enough? To us that was the problem. And we were right. The Redskins missed Cornelius Griffin and Carlos Rogers. Hard to tell how much they missed Lemar Marshall considering his inconsistent play. And Shawn Springs is still not back to where he was last year. Injuries weren't the reason they lost; they certainly contributed to the defeat.
3. Which injury will affect them most? We said the tackles, figuring that Washington had to stop one facet of the Colts' offense and stopping the run would be easier. And Cornelius Griffin's absence was a problem. Rogers' absence hurt as well; maybe even more than Griffin. But he has not had a stellar year, so it's hard to say he would have made a big difference.
4. Will the noise be a factor? We thought it would. It wasn't a big deal. But it certainly helped the Colts' D-linemen get off the ball quicker in pass situations. That did make a difference.
5. Will the Redskins play smash-mouth football? We thought they would run the ball more. But they weren't smash-mouth. Instead, they tried to run toss sweeps early and had no success because of the quickness of the linebackers. It wasn't until they abandoned the sweeps that they had some success on the ground. Another problem is the inability of Clinton Portis to stay on the field.
6. What about the passing game? We said: What abut it? We thought Mark Brunell had to make some big plays, which was obvious. But the Redskins once again showed an ability to hit short passes but little else. Why? Because the tackles can't keep the linemen off him long enough to take seven-step drops consistently. A few times the Redskins used max protection, something that is not a part of Al Saunders' systemt. It is now, at least with this group.
7. What are the key matchups against the Colts' defense? We said Chris Samuels against Dwight Freeney. That wasn't a matchup; that was a mismatch. Freeney changed the way Washington called the game and Samuels could not consistently stop him.
8. What are the key matchups against the Colts' offense? Too many to mention; just know that Washington lost them all. The Redskins couldn't handle the tight ends early. Eventually that allowed the Colts to go deep to Reggie Wayne. Andre Carter had some success early against Tarik Glenn, but it was minimal and it wasn't against the run.
9. Can they stop Peyton Manning? Clearly we knew this would be difficult. Who didn't? But they couldn't stop him. They tried to make Manning dink and dunk his way downfield by using a lot of cover 2. But Manning did a good job of setting up the defense, starting by throwing shorter passes and working his way downfield. And he got them on some play-action passes. Another mismatch.
10. Will the Redskins win? No, we didn't think they would. But we thought it would be closer, a 27-20 loss. They attempted the right strategy, trying to run early (albeit with the wrong sort of runs); they tried to force Manning to work his way downfield. Heck, they even got a punt return for a touchdown. They couldn't make it work, however, because they're just not good enough. They somehow needed to create a turnover or two. It didn't help that they committed 10 penalties, once pushing themselves from a relatively easy field goal to a 49-yarder. Then again, Nick Novak might have missed the shorter kick, too. Great, another problem.