The Washington Redskins looked better than advertised in a dominant 40-32 shellacking of the heavily favored New Orleans Saints on Sunday. Now, the burgundy and gold are looking for a 2-0 start to the season to get a leg up on their rivals in the NFC East.
Their opponent this Sunday is St. Louis, and the Rams have given the Redskins fits over the past few years. Four of the last five meetings have been decided by a touchdown or less, and none of those games were particularly well-played by either squad.
Washington will be riding on a high this week, but Mike Shanahan and company must be wary of the upset-minded Rams. With that being said, here are five things that will happen this Sunday in St. Louis:
1. Robert Griffin III will finally throw an interception
Counting the three preseason games that he started, RG3 has started his NFL career without throwing a single pick. In fact, he hasn't even really come close. Griffin has been eerily efficient for a rookie, but I think that his luck runs out this week. He will throw at least one interception, but it won't be too detrimental. It's simply hard to believe that a rookie starting quarterback can go so long without tossing it to the other team.
2. If it's close, the Redskins will be going for it
If the Redskins face fourth-and-short near or around midfield, they will probably take their chances with a play. There are two reasons for this. First of all, Billy Cundiff's leg isn't strong—he's only made five of 19 field goals from 50-plus yards in his career.
The second and more important reason is that the Redskins' punt team will be breaking in a new long snapper after starter Nick Sundberg broke his forearm. As the nation saw on Monday night when Oakland played San Diego, this is never an easy thing to adjust to.
Who will win on Sunday in St. Louis?
There was also a critical punt block at the end of the first half in the win over the Saints that could place some doubt in Shanahan's mind. So I think that if the Redskins face a manageable fourth down around midfield, they will simply eschew their special teams and take a chance.
3. The Redskins will pile up over 400 yards of offense again
Washington put together a surprisingly balanced 464-yard performance at the Superdome, and never really looked challenged by the Saints' front seven or the secondary. It will be a little bit different against the Rams, who boast more talent on defense—but the results will be similar.
It all starts with the Shanahans calling a good game, which I think they will. RG3 will be used on read-option plays and the one-cut ability of Alfred Morris will be utilized well. I also think that the play-action fakes that the Shanahans love to concoct will play another huge role. I see Griffin throwing for 285 yards and I see the committee of running backs teaming up to gain around 130.
Until opposing teams have sufficient game film on this Redskins offense, the burgundy and gold should be flying around the field without a huge amount of resistance.
4. The defense will limit the Rams to under 320 yards
After a stunning performance against one of the most talented offenses in recent NFL history, fans may expect the Redskins' defense to take a step back in Week 2. I don't see it happening. While the secondary remains the biggest question mark on the team, the front seven is monstrous and the Rams will have all kinds of trouble keeping the pressure off of quarterback Sam Bradford.
The Redskins should be able to generate lots of heavy rushes and force a few turnovers against a mediocre Rams offensive line. The secondary has its deficiencies, but the Redskins' big guys up front make up for it. The Rams have no threatening receivers, meaning Bradford will have a long day evading pressure and throwing into traffic.
5. The Redskins will win 27-20
The Rams have a better defense than the Saints, but not that much better. The Redskins will find a way to put three touchdowns on the board and take a large enough lead so that they can pound the ball down St. Louis' throat in the fourth quarter. A turnover will be the only reason the Rams make it close, and the Redskins will dominate time of possession.
It all seems to add up to a Redskins blowout, but let's not get ahead of ourselves—this is still a squad that finished 5-11 last season and is trying to find its identity. There will be frustrating moments, but Washington will pull out another impressive win on the road and head back to D.C. in high spirits.