Washington Redskins vs. Cleveland Browns: Preview & Prediction

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistDecember 14, 2012

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 03:  Head coach Mike Shanahan of the Washington Redskins looks on from the sideline while the Redskins take on the New York Giants at FedExField on December 3, 2012 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The Washington Redskins can make it five wins in a row for the first time since 2005 by beating the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, but it won't be easy. Cleveland has won three straight for the first time since 2009 and five out of eight for the first time since 2007, and only two defenses have given up fewer points than the Browns since Week 6.

Plus, the 'Skins don't know if they'll have their franchise quarterback or if a rookie will be making his first start under center. 

Here's my final preview of the game, along with a prediction.


What Washington must do to win, offensive edition: Regardless of who's at quarterback, the Redskins have to make Alfred Morris the centerpiece of the offense and establish balance, shortening the game and keeping the heat off of Griffin or Kirk Cousins. 


What Washington must do to win, defensive edition: Another week without Cedric Griffin, and DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson have surrendered more yards in coverage than any other cornerbacks in the league, so the key will be to avoid bombs.


How Washington can lose: By failing to win the turnover battle and by letting Griffin or Cousins get roughed up by a physical defense. 


Five most important non-quarterbacks: Alfred Morris, Trent Williams, Josh Wilson, DeAngelo Hall, Perry Riley

Morris has run for 110-plus yards in three straight games and the Browns are vulnerable in run defense. Cleveland can get after the quarterback quite effectively, so the blind side left tackle Williams is again crucial. Wilson and Hall will have to prevent those big plays, and Riley will key the run defense against the talented Trent Richardson. 


Injury analysis, Redskins edition: Obviously the main concern is Griffin, and the 'Skins have already lost a slew of key contributors this year. That said, at least they can take solace in the fact Williams, Hall and London Fletcher are healthier now than they were a week ago. I really don't think the drop-off from Griffin to Cousins will necessarily cost Washington this game. 


Injury analysis, Browns edition: Not a single player is out, doubtful or questionable for the Browns, who are extremely healthy right now. But Richardson has looked worn down lately and his ribs are clearly a factor. That's good news for a Redskins run defense that has struggled of late.


B/R NFC East Blog prediction: Yes, the Browns have won three in a row, but two of those wins came against Oakland and Kansas City, and the Redskins are even hotter. I think the hungry 'Skins make it five in a row regardless of who's at quarterback.

Redskins 21, Browns 20