1. What starters will sit out?
At this point it's hard to say. Nobody is listed as doubtful, a good sign. It's amazing to think that James Thrash might play one week after suffering what was termed a high ankle sprain. But it must have been beyond mild because that usually keeps someone out for a while, fast healer or not. Marcus Washington practiced the last few days this week, a good sign. And the secondary appears healed.
2. Did the Redskins turn a corner last week offensively?
Maybe, but we'll need several games to see. Will it carry into this week? Some of it will. But Jason Campbell still made a number of mistakes that, if repeated, will cost Washington at some point. Then again, he made some plays that helped win them the game. What we need to see is improved accuracy and still quicker decisions on some throws. That's when we'll know the offense has turned that proverbial corner. We'll learn a lot Sunday.
3. Is this a must-win game?
Pretty darned close. Look at it this way, if they lose Sunday they have upcoming games at Dallas and Philadelphia. Anyone want to bet on the Redskins to win those games? Didn't think so. That means, if they have designs on the postseason, this is as close to a must-win game as they'll have early in the season. They're at home facing a team their equal; they need to win.
4. Where can the Redskins hurt the Cardinals?
In the running game. This is a line seemingly built to stop the passing game, with quickness and a lack of size. Their best DT Darnell Dockett only weighs 285 pounds. Now, he's very, very good. But he's also smaller. The Redskins need to use their size to gash the line and control the ball. Can the Redskins afford to be one-dimensional in their running game this week, tilting heavily to the left side? Yes, it worked last week, but at some point they'll have to trust the right side (read: Stephon Heyer). If they can't, why have him out there?
5. Will Moss return punts?
Sounds as if he will. Antwaan Randle El has been bad in this role for most of his time in Washington. The Redskins need a boost there and Santana Moss can provide one. I'm not really for this move; he's an injury-prone receiver who will now get extra pummeling each game. My guess is they'll save him for situational returns, maybe if the Cards are punting from their own end zone.
6. How good is the Cards' D?
Hard to say considering they've played San Francisco and Miami. But the Niners did hang up a bunch of points against Seattle last week so who knows. Arizona has shown it can pressure the passer and it has a decent amount of talent. Adrian Wilson is a good safety; Karlos Dansby is a fine linebacker. But slowing the ends are the key. Dockett commands double teams, leaving the ends one-on-one.
7. Can the Redskins stop the Cards' offense?
The running game they can stop. We think. Arizona will try to power the ball with Edgerrin James. But James is no threat running off-tackle anymore, so he won't hurt him like Brandon Jacobs did. Rookie Tim Hightower offers speed on the edge, but he's not even averaging 3.0 yards per carry. Then there's the passing game. This will be difficult to slow unless they get pressure from their ends. The secondary is equipped to handle this group or at least contain them.
8. What's the key to slowing the passing attack?
A couple things. One, obviously, is pressure on Kurt Warner. He's still an excellent passer and is willing to hold onto the ball as long as possible, allowing stuff to open up downfield. And he will get rid of the ball quick when necessary. They need to move him around, get him out of his rhythm. The corners need to do a good job tackling vs. Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald; the former especially runs well after the catch. Fitzgerald is more trouble downfield. They'll have to match his athleticism.
9. Who needs a big game?
Well, most guys. But punter Durant Brooks needs to show why he was drafted. If the Cardinals start with good field position, watch out. We'll learn a lot about Brooks this week. He's coming off a horrible game and w as knocked this week – by his own coaches. How he responds will say a lot about him.
10. Will the Redskins win?
There's something different about the Cards this year. They look and sound like a team that finally expects to win games. That's quite a departure. But they're not superior to the Redskins overall. And the Redskins are at home. Again, almost a must-win for Washington. I think the D will slow the Cards enough to keep it close and the running game will be the difference in the end. Redskins 23, Cardinals 20.
John Keim covers the Redskins for the Washington Examiner and is a contributing editor for Warpathinsiders.com. He has covered the team since 1994. Some of his other stories can be found at dcexaminer.com
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