1. What is the impact if Mike Sellers can't play?
Few Redskins fill as many roles as the versatile Sellers. He's much better as a lead blocker than anything else, where his assignment is clear: hit the linebacker over there. He's OK as a blocker in pass protection off the edge, but his productivity goes down the more defenders rush at him and he must then choose who to hit. Not his strength. But he can catch the ball as well and Jason Campbell likes him as a safety valve. The Redskins really don't have anyone to replace him. But Chris Cooley has done all the things Sellers has done. Todd Yoder can do some of the same things and Brian Kozlowski knows the offense. But losing Sellers is a subtle but tough hit.
2. Will the Redskins stay aggressive offensively?
Not like last week. The Redskins threw last week because that's what they needed to do, but no one wants balance more than Joe Gibbs. He can find all sorts of reasons not to pass and therefore lean on the run. When Gibbs said on Monday that they learned Campbell could pass the ball, I think he was more or less just talking about himself. The Bucs corners are pretty good, but teams can throw on Tampa and the Redskins must do so to be effective.
3. Was last week the start of something for Washington?
We'll see. But this might be the Redskins biggest game of the year because they'll learn an awful lot about themselves. If last week's ''good'' loss was a signal that this team was ready to start winning more games, then they win Sunday. A win Sunday and the Redskins are staring at a 10-win season; a loss and they're an 8- or 9- win team. That may or may not be good enough. But if last week was simply a pretty loss -- beating Pittsburgh didn't help the Jets on Thanksgiving -- then they'll continue their inconsistent ways.
4. Are the Redskins too banged up to win a big road game?
That's my biggest concern with them. No Mike Sellers or James Thrash or Sean Taylor and a banged-up receiving crew could mean trouble. But they were banged-up last week as well and still played well. Over the final six weeks, the injuries will be a factor but they are still capable of winning this game even with the missing players.
5. Where should Washington attack the Bucs?
Up the middle. Tampa's tackles -- Hovan and Haye`-- are effective and quick, but neither weighs more than 300 pounds. The Redskins can hurt them between the tackles. Tampa also does a good job defending the edge, even more reason to focus going up the gut. Not exclusively, of course, but a heavy diet.
6. What makes the defense so good?
Tampa has remade its defense over the years, but the Bucs have really been helped by their young safeties, especially rookie Tanard Jackson. He's the final piece in their defensive puzzle with his playmaking ability. Both hit hard, too. However, the Redskins still need to take some shots downfield. If they can get the safeties to walk up on occasion by running against the Cover 2, then the shots will be there.
7. Who needs to have a big game offensively?
Because Monte Kiffin is a fantastic coordinator, he will do things to try and fool Jason Campbell -- sometimes showing Cover 2 only to slip into a Cover 4. Therefore, Campbell needs to do a good job reading coverages and making sound decisions. Of course, the running game must function at a high level, but against a savvy defense, Campbell's decision-making will be key.
8. What must they do against Jeff Garcia?
Contain him in the pocket, which is sometimes hard because Tampa will roll the pocket to create better passing lanes and to use his athletic ability. That means the ends must do a good job in containment. Sometimes, it's the tackles responsibility if he's coming on a loop. Garcia can obviously hurt the Redskins. He's smart and will dink and dunk his way for a spell and then burn them downfield. They don't consistently hit big plays, but they will hit them. Andre Carter must show up this week.
9. Who must they stop?
Obviously two guys: Earnest Graham and Joey Galloway. The fear is that if they don't stop Graham, they'll struggle against Galloway, who can get behind defenses faster than Terrell Owens. The young safeties must do a better jof of recognizing situations and formations than they did last week. Or else Galloway will hurt them with two huge plays. Graham is a tough runner and will run behind the guards, both of whom are young. This is a very young line.
10. Who will win?
I don't know why, but I'm picking the Redskins. I guess for a couple reasons: they're more tested than Tampa Bay and this team seems to always win a big game when they look like they're about to be counted out. That's where they're at right now. My fear is the injuries will really start to cost them a chance at real momentum. But if they can win this game ... and then get Sean Taylor back ... then they could have a solid finish. Redskins 21, Bucs 17.
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