Ten Spot Preview: Lions vs. Redskins

John Keim takes a look at ten burning questions going into this weekend's matchup against the Detroit Lions -- and makes his predictions.

1. Will Santana Moss play?

My guess is that he won't. Moss has talked all week about the need to be smart about his injury so he won't be bothered for the next several weeks. The Redskins' offense needs him in the upcoming weeks; an ineffective Moss equals an ineffective offense. Better to try and win one game without him then a bunch when he's limited. Or worse. And Moss said he would prefer not to be in a position where he doesn't practice then tries to play. Maybe he'll feel a lot better by Sunday, but given his past, the Redskins would be wise to let him sit out a week. It's not a death sentence for them, either; remember, they beat Dallas without him last year.  But it is a fact that when he's not right, he does not produce as well. No one does.

2. How will James Thrash do?

Probably OK. He looked terrific in training camp, but he's done nothing in the passing game this season.  His best contribution has been blocking. Nothing wrong with that, but he's just no longer a big threat. However, Thrash remains a capable wideout with good hands and route-running ability. And Thrash steps into this role because Brandon Lloyd is the backup at X behind Antwaan Randle El. With good reason, we might add.

3. What happens to the passing game without Moss?

Well, the Redskins won't be able to threaten them with as many weapons, clearly. Moss' presence allows Randle El to get single coverage. They'll have to work hard to get Randle El open, which means lots of motion and lining him up in different spots. Also, they need to get Chris Cooley on more routes, which means the line has to hold up. Maybe Lloyd will actually contribute something in this game. Despite him being a dog, he does have some ability and at some point it will show; maybe only just for a play or two. Reche Caldwell is ready to contribute and it would say something about what they think of him if he doesn't get much action.  Keenan McCardell? Even if he does play, how much help can he provide? The Lions like to blitz, so don't be surprised if there are a lot of screens as well. So the passing game can survive -- the Lions aren't very good against the pass don't forget -- but it will take a lot of work.

4. Let's get to the real question: Can Washington slow Detroit's offense?

Ummmm (long pause), we're not sure. But it's not impossible. People have turned Detroit's offense into the greatest ever in the span of a couple weeks. While very good, it does have holes. The receivers are terrific, no doubt. The quarterback is hot right now. The Redskins have one way to really slow this offense: they must be able to rush the passer with the front four. Detroit usually keeps in just five blockers, so the Redskins can't use their max-protection excuse anymore (sometimes it's applicable; sometimes it's not). Andre Carter has to have a good game as a rusher because, despite the wave of attention he's received this week, he's not much help on the ground. Also, the Redskins must do well in cover-2, preventing big plays downfield. And they must jam the wideouts to disrupt the timing.

5. Is Kitna for real?

He's a good quarterback who provides the intangibles that make a team go. Of course, he had those same intangibles last year when the Lions went 3-13. But Kitna is a good decision maker and gets rid of the ball fast, two key traits in playcaller Mike Martz's offense. So the Redskins must, and do, respect him.


Detroit WR Roy Williams
Harry How/Getty Images

6. Who else should they worry about?

Clearly Roy Williams can be a receiving beast because of his height and athleticism. He's fantastic at taking short catches and turning them into long gains. But Shawn Springs and Carlos Rogers must be physical with him. Mike Furrey is a terrific unknown wideout capable of giving them fits; very tough kid and one to watch. And it depends what the Lions do with Calvin Johnson as well. If he plays, it makes them that much more dangerous. Yes, the Lions haven't run the ball well but in some cases it's been due to circumstances. Anyone think Tatum Bell isn't dangerous? Remember those runs he had in Denver against this D two years ago? If the Lions spread the D, then Bell can be dangerous hitting the creases. What helps the Redskins is the speed of the linebackers. They have the ability to close fast and that can limit runs out of a spread offense. If the Redskins allow Bell some big runs, then trouble looms.

7. What matchup worries you against the Redskins offense?

The interior matchup is one to watch for sure, especially DT Cory Redding against RG Jason Fabini. Redding is not a pass rusher, but he does well clogging lanes and Fabini is not a natural at this spot. The other DT Shaun Rogers is also stout. But Detroit is vulnerable on the ground and the Redskins likely will try to get those two moving laterally at times, hitting counters and edge runs behind Mike Sellers. The outside backers have speed and SLB Boss Bailey likes to blitz.

8. Where should the Redskins attack the Lions?

Their safeties and corners aren't much above average, if at all. Even without Moss, they must take their shots. The line has to protect Jason Campbell; if they do, the opportunities will be available. Also, we're expecting a decent amount of Clinton Portis and anticipating a homer from him.

9. Did the week off help Washington?

Well, we'll see now won't we? But it did come at an opportune time with so many nursing nagging injuries. They needed time off to heal and got it. They did seem to be relaxed and in a good frame of mind after the time away and, with 13 straight weeks coming up, it was probably a good move. If they lose, it won't be because they had time off. It'll be because they're merely an average team.

10. Who will win?

The Lions might just be a playoff team this season. But after four games is anyone really buying that just yet? We're not. In seven quarters before the fourth quarter against Chicago, they had been outscored 69-24. The Lions were aided by Chicago mistakes in that fourth quarter. It looks like they might have turned a corner, but cripes their two weeks removed from a horrible loss. Eventually, they'll win in Washington. But I'm not sold on them yet. Redskins 24, Lions 21.


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