1. Who will sit out?
Looks like the Redskins should be at full strength today. Whether that means fully healthy is another matter, but at this point every team has a handful of guys playing with major soreness and minor injuries. The one guy I wonder about is Shawn Springs because, as the Redskins keep saying, he wants to be 100 percent before returning. I don't think the Redskins will miss him once they get rid of him. He's still a very good player and they love how prepared he is, but when in doubt he usually sits out. More than that, at this stage in his career the injuries take longer to recover from.
2. Why do the Redskins play so much better on the road?
Well, they've lost the last three games at home because they played better teams (that doesn't explain St. Louis). And those teams each had defenses playing very well. Any team with a good defense will, at the least, make it a tight game. The Redskins' offense just isn't equipped to do much against a good D. So it's not a home-road thing; it's about the defense.
3. Can they dent the Ravens' defense?
It will be difficult. What they need to be is patient, committed to the run and turnover free. The Ravens have given up 30 points to the Giants, 27 to Cleveland and 31 to Indianapolis. They're very, very good but not invincible. The turnover part is crucial; Baltimore has intercepted 20 passes and returned five for touchdowns. Another tough aspect is their second-ranked red zone defense, an area where Washington has struggled offensively. The Redskins have scored just three touchdowns on their last 13 trips inside the 20.
4. Why is Baltimore so good defensively?
It's a combination of talent and scheme. The Ravens have the talent to run almost whatever they want. Their 3-4 works because they have a high-quality NG in Haloti Ngata. Casey Rabach will have a busy day trying to stop Ngata, who also plays some end. Behind him you have Ray Lewis and Bart Scott. Behind them is Ed Reed. Got the picture? Rex Ryan is a great D coordinator, but man does he have a lot of talent to work with. Did we mention Terrell Suggs?
5. Where can the Redskins hurt them?
Teams picked on their corners a little with Chris McAlister on IR. Samari Rolle and Frank Walker will be put in man coverage as Ryan loves to blitz. He'll do so more with his safeties and LB's Suggs, Lewis and Jarret Johnson. If Santana Moss is matched one on one with these corners, he can win. If, that is, Jason Campbell can get rid of the ball.
6. Will Clinton Portis be able to last all game?
The guy is banged up. He says it's nothing more than usual, but it certainly seems that way. I don't remember him limping to the finish line the way he is right now with all the aches and pains. He deserves a ton of credit for not missing a game; it would have been easy and understandable. But the Redskins will need to continue giving him a lot of breaks. They've limited him on third downs, which does not help the protection. Mike Sellers is an excellent lead blocker, but where he struggles is when he has to choose between two guys to block. He's best when he's assigned a man and goes and gets him.
7. Will the Redskins get more creative offensively in this game?
Maybe. But their big problem is they can't execute enough basic plays. And the trick plays work when the rest of the offense has a rhythm. When you're failing to gain yards on other plays, defenses start to look for more gadget plays. What the Redskins really need are rookie receivers Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly to improve in a hurry. That won't happen with Thomas, so it's up to Kelly. Problem is, both have trouble on certain plays and when they don't recognize something they go slower because they're thinking too hard. That leaves Washington with two receivers who can do anything. Also, finding Chris Cooley in the red zone would be nice. It's stunning that he has just one score. Because the Redskins lack many serious options, defenses can pay more attention to him and put a good cover guy on him. And he's always much better against zones than man coverage. Still, find him.
8. Is Joe Flacco for real?
He appears to be, but it's hard to say because they've played some bad teams. Then again, so have the Redskins and their offense couldn't even explode against the Detroits, Clevelands or Seattles. The success of the running game – they're second in the NFL in rushing – has opened up the passing game for him. In the past six games, Flacco is averaging 7.6 yards per pass attempt and has thrown nine touchdowns to only two interceptions. He's clearly getting better. It helps playing for a team whose defense continues to give him good field position and lots of opportunities.
9. Who should the Redskins worry about?
Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton. Mason leads the Ravens with 62 catches while Clayton averages 17 yards on 28 catches. Mason is quick, but more of a possession guy while Clayton is a burner. He will get chances in man coverage against DeAngelo Hall (if that's who the Redskins put on him). That's not a bad matchup to watch. Also, TE Todd Heap has 27 catches and is always a threat.
10. Will the Redskins win?
Like we said earlier, the Redskins struggle against really good defenses. I've got a funny feeling about this game, but I don't think I can really pick them. Can they turn it around offensively? After 12 games, this is who you are. And they're just not equipped to hurt this defense. Then again, can't the Redskins D do enough to hold down Baltimore? Absolutely. And I think they will. Earlier in the week I thought it would be a 10-point Ravens win. I've shrunk that margin to four because the Redskins should have a full allotment of defensive help. But I just can't get past the matchup with the Ravens' D. Ravens 17, Redskins 13.
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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