1. Does the game matter to the Redskins?
We'll find out early based on
their focus and what sort of mistakes they are or are not making.
Truthfully, they were a relaxed bunch during the week. Was that because
the end is here? Or the pressure is off? Washington plays its best
during these times. The Redskins are a strong veteran team and there's
a lot of pride on this team. I don't think they'll pack it in early.
2. Will they play the young guys?
Not all of them – and that's just
fine with us. We don't believe in playing them just to play them. A
half-dozen more snaps for Malcolm Kelly won't help him much at all. He
needs an offseason of learning followed by a healthy training camp.
That, not another game at the end of the season, is what will help him
improve. Chad Rinehart might be helped by playing, but would anyone
else? If he's not ready to play, why play him? If the Redskins had to
make a decision on him after the season, that would be one thing. But
they don't; he's coming back. Defensively, the young guys already are
3. Who will sit out this game?
If we had to guess, the only absentee
would be Jon Jansen, who is supposed to be a game-time decision. The
Redskins want to see if he can anchor against a pass rush. Beyond that,
all should be ready t
4. Does a 9-7 finish mean anything?
It would mean the team did not
quit, a good sign going forward. You can credit Joe Gibbs for that; he
assembled a very professional group, something that we worry about
going forward. But that's for another day. As for a winning record,
sure it matters in the short term. I don't know about momentum for next
season; that's a long time away. Besides, I think there will be a lot
of changes this offseason. But here's where the game matters: the
schedule. Though 14 games already are set for next year, and have
nothing to do with a team's finish, the final two games are determined
by standings. If the Redskins finish last in the NFC East, they would
play St. Louis and Detroit next season; if they finish third they would
play Green Bay and Seattle. Knowing that, will it be hard to root for a
5. How good are the Niners?
There's no doubt they're playing much
better lately, especially on defense. They haven't allowed more than 16
points in the past four games after a string of games over 30 points
earlier this season. They have a legit Pro Bowl middle linebacker in
Patrick Willis, two good corners in Nate Clements and Walt Harris and a
solid end in Justin Smith. But this is not a talent-laden defense.
6. What about their offense?
Running back Frank Gore is the one who
matters most. He's an excellent between-the-tackles runner – when
healthy. The Redskins have to make sure they stop him. Fortunately for
them, they should be strong up the middle today with a healthy tackle
rotation and middle linebacker London Fletcher.
7. Who needs a big game today?
Jason Campbell. Not to win, necessarily,
but to enter the offseason on a high note. He's had very few of them
lately. He hasn't been horrible, but he hasn't done much to help them
win, either. The Niners have allowed 12 pass plays of 40 yards or more,
second worst in the league. The Redskins can win if Campbell has a
mediocre day, provided Clinton Portis has a good game. But there's no
doubt the Redskins would love Campbell to finish strong.
8. Anyone else?
Santana Moss. He hasn't surpassed 75 yards receiving
since the win over Detroit. You can't blame everything on being
double-teamed. Moss is still a highly effective receiver and the one
legit big-time playmaker offensively. If the Redskins are going to go
downfield, obviously it'll be Moss doing the damage. If he has a big
day, they won't lose.
9. How dangerous is QB Shaun Hill?
He's an OK quarterback who can
provide an occasional spark, partly with his legs. But he's not the
second coming of Joe Montana. What he does, though, is make plays at
the right time to win games. However, this will be the best defense he's faced in a month. The Redskins will use their secondary to confuse
him and generate some coverage sacks.
10. Will the Redskins win?
This might be the hardest game to predict.
What does it mean to the players to win? It's really hard to measure
that despite being around them all week. As we said earlier, the fact
that this is such a veteran bunch makes a difference. Also, enough
players have unsettled futures that they'll want another good day on
film. That should make a difference. Of course, it's a huge deal for
the Niners to finish 7-9; it sounds a lot better than 6-10. And they're
at home. But we're guessing the Redskins will play well now that the
pressure is off. That's been their habit the past few years. Redskins
20, Niners 14.
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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