The 1-2 Washington Redskins face off against the 1-2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. The Redskins are coming off of a devastating 38-31 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals and the Bucs are looking to rebound from an ugly 16-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Tampa Bay is a three-point favorite.
Each team has strengths and weaknesses. Here are three bold predictions for how the action will play out.
1. The Redskins will run for over 150 yards.
How is this a bold prediction? The Redskins average 180 rushing yards per game.
Well, it's going to come down to the proverbial unstoppable force meeting an immovable object: Washington has the NFL's second-best rushing attack and Tampa Bay has the No. 1 rush defense.
The Bucs give up a shade under 50 yards per game on the ground, so it will be tough sledding for Robert Griffin III and company. And it's not like we can assume the read-option will cause the Bucs trouble—remember, Tampa Bay held Cam Newton and the vaunted Panthers ground game to a measly 10 yards.
Essentially, the onus is on RGIII to make the correct reads and for Alfred Morris to continue running hard. In addition, Kyle Shanahan must keep running the ball even if it's not working in the beginning. The Redskins have added backfield depth after signing Ryan Grant this week, so there's no excuse not to run the ball even more.
The battle between each team's best unit will be fun to watch. But in the end, I think that RGIII will find a way to utilize the option play to his advantage. It may be a slow start, but if the Redskins keep pounding the ball on the ground they will wear down the Buccaneers defense and become the first team to really penetrate their run stoppers.
2. Washington's defense will dominate.
The story of the 2012 Washington Redskins thus far has been the terrible defense. Before the year started, the talent was questionable. Then Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker went down, and the already oft-injured defense was put in an even bigger hole.
But in Week 4, the Redskins defense will bounce back in a huge way.
On paper, it looks like a nightmare of a matchup. The Bucs have a solid stable of running backs, a good tight end, some great receivers and a dual-threat quarterback.
But despite the talent, the Redskins have a number of things working in their favor. First of all, the Buccaneers have the worst offense in the NFL.
For all of the props that Josh Freeman gets as a great young quarterback, he has been pretty bad this year. The offensive line is a mess and the only reason the offensive numbers are even decent is because of a wild fourth quarter against the New York Giants in which both defenses essentially threw in the towel.
Second of all, the Buccaneers do one thing with a little bit of success and that's running the football. Good luck: the Redskins have the No. 9 rush defense in the NFL and put on an absolute show last week against Cincinnati. The Buccaneers will not be able to find any room.
And that leads to the third point: The Redskins will make the Buccaneers one-dimensional. As I said before, everyone loves Josh Freeman but the reality is, he's just not that special. Even with time, his skills are questionable and he's not an all-star when it comes to throwing outside the pocket.
People seem to think he's a dangerous runner—well, he is, but he never utilizes his legs to his advantage. He's a dead-on pocket passer who fails to use the talent that his legs possess.
The maligned Redskins defense will have a huge bounce-back week and wreak havoc on the Bucs even if they fail to bring a huge amount of pressure. They may give up a few big plays to Vincent Jackson, but they'll force a few turnovers and will have a lot to be proud of after the game.
3. The Redskins will win 34-24.
Yes, it's a bit of a homer pick. It's probably unrealistic. But I still think the Redskins will find a way to win by double digits. While Tampa Bay's defense is solid overall, the Redskins run an offense that give even the best players problems. The read-option offense is an equalizer. It turns a decent offense into a very good one because it takes an incredible amount of discipline on defense to stop it. Therefore, I don't see the Bucs putting up much of a fight against a superior Redskins offense.
On the other side, the Bucs will get their yards and their plays, but the Redskins will force at least two turnovers. This will stop a few drives and prevent points from being put on the board. Tampa Bay's struggling offense will continue to be flat and the Redskins will build an early lead and control the flow of the game.