The playoff-hopeful Washington Redskins (7-6) travel to Cleveland to take on the Browns (5-8) in a matchup that has both teams' seasons virtually on the line.
Washington is still in the hunt in the NFC East division as well and will finish off its season against both the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles down the stretch. A win in Cleveland is crucial if it hopes to catch the New York Giants for the division title or chase down the Seattle Seahawks or Chicago Bears for a wild-card berth.
The Browns aren't as close to sniffing the playoffs but could shock the world if a multitude of things fall in line for the young and promising team.
If Cleveland comes away with the win, that would be its fourth straight win. The last time the Browns won four games in a row was at the end of the 2009 season. The team beat Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Oakland and Jacksonville after winning just one game during the first 12 games of the season.
Where: Cleveland Browns Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio
When: Sunday, Dec. 16 at 1 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket on DIRECTV
Betting Line: Cleveland (+1), according to Covers
Washington Injury Report via CBS Sports (as of 12/9/2012)
|LB London Fletcher||Ankle||Questionable|
|WR Pierre Garcon||Foot||Probable|
|QB Robert Griffin III||Knee||Questionable|
|CB DeAngelo Hall||Ankle/Knee||Questionable|
|P Sav Rocca||Right Knee||Probable|
|OT Trent Williams||Thigh||Questionable|
|CB Josh Wilson||Shoulder||Probable|
|DB Cedric Griffin||Suspension||Out|
|DB Tanard Jackson||Suspension||Out|
Cleveland Injury Report via CBS Sports (as of 12/9/2012)
|WR Travis Benjamin||Finger||Probable|
|TE Jordan Cameron||Groin||Probable|
|WR Joshua Cribbs||Shoulder/Chest||Probable|
|LB James-Michael Johnson||Finger||Probable|
|T Ryan Miller||Forearm||Probable|
|CB Dimitri Patterson||Ankle||Probable|
|RB Trent Richardson||Chest/Rib/Finger||Probable|
|DE Frostee Rucker||Shoulder/Finger||Probable|
|S Ray Ventrone||Calf||Probable|
|S Usama Young||Head||Probable|
What's At Stake?
Both the Redskins and Browns are still alive in their respective wild-card playoff races. Washington is in a much better position than Cleveland, but crazier things have happened in the NFL.
This is a must-win game for both teams due to those implications.
The Browns are in ninth place in the AFC standings with a 5-8 record. One loss will effectively end their outside hopes of sneaking into the postseason.
For the Redskins, things are looking much, much better. The team currently sits just one game behind both Seattle and Chicago for a wild-card berth. Winning their remaining games is a real possibility with remaining games against Cleveland, Philadelphia and Dallas.
Washington RB Alfred Morris
Morris, a late-round draft pick in the 2012 NFL draft, has surprised as a must-start fantasy player this season. Washington, or any team led by Mike Shanahan, has been known to be unpredictable in the backfield. That's changed now that Shanahan has found a back that he likes enough to stick to.
Cleveland gave up 180 yards to the Kansas City Chiefs last week on the ground, including an 80-yard touchdown run by Jamaal Charles on the first play of the game. Charles finished with 165 yards despite missing some game time due to a rib injury.
Cleveland RB Trent Richardson
Richardson got into the end zone twice against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 14. He also had a questionable offensive pass interference call negate a touchdown reception. Those scores helped him tie a Cleveland Browns franchise record for most rushing touchdowns by a rookie (nine).
Washington has been susceptible to giving up big chunks on the ground this season. Richardson's physical running style will wear on the Skins and help the bruising rookie to a good day on the ground. Ray Rice ran for 121 yards on 20 carries (6.1 YPC) and one touchdown against them in Week 14.
What They Are Saying
The biggest buzz leading up to this game is whether or not Robert Griffin III will be available after sustaining a knee injury during the team's Week 14 win over Baltimore.
Mike Shanahan said things are looking positive for the dynamic rookie QB to play this week, according to Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:
Robert has a mild sprain of the LCL — it’s Grade 1. He’s had some mild swelling. He had his right knee repaired, his ACL, in 2009, and that looks great. No problem there. We’ll evaluate it day by day, see how it is on Wednesday, but talking to him today he felt pretty good.
Cleveland Browns head coach Pat Shurmur said he knew RGIII would be a success no matter where he went in the NFL, according to Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer.
There was no doubt in my mind [Griffin] would be a success in this league. I credit their coaching staff because they've incorporated things in their offense that utilize his skill and ability.
He likely would have preferred that the St. Louis Rams accepted their offer to move up to the No. 2 slot to draft him.
Key Matchup: Browns' secondary vs. play-action pass
The Skins, with RGIII in the game, utilize a very effective read-option that keeps defenses constantly guessing. If their star rookie does play in this game, Cleveland will have to be mindful of the play-action pass that RGIII executes perfectly off of this same play.
It has burned nearly every team Washington has faced and the Browns' secondary has proven to be susceptible to the big play at times. That's especially true given defensive coordinator Dick Jauron's propensity to blitz safeties. Containing RGIII and being mindful of the home-run plays should be the Browns' biggest defensive priorities in this one.
The Browns have won three straight games and have a winning record at Cleveland Browns Stadium (4-3). Things will be tough for Washington if RGIII is absent or even slowed due to the knee injury he sustained in Week 14.
With RGIII slowed down and the Browns playing increasingly competitive football, Cleveland will sneak away with another win and deal the Redskins a devastating blow to their playoff hopes.
Browns 24, Redskins 20