The Redskins are going to have to do this on their own accord, therefore they need to win out if they want to guarantee in the playoffs.
That’s where this Sunday’s game at Cleveland cannot be underestimated. Below are the 10 keys to the game.
While Richardson has not be tearing up the statistical charts this season, he has become a valued dual-threat in Cleveland’s offense.
He has 45 receptions this season (which would make him the leading receiver on the Redskins) and 869 yards rushing.
The Redskins' rush defense has been great all season, but it has taken a step back the past couple weeks against the Giants and Ravens. I would look for them to make an adjustment.
Keeping the ball out of Richardson’s hands will force Brandon Weeden to throw more often than the Browns want, thus putting the Redskins in a position to make plays.
Regardless if Robert Griffin plays or not, the Redskins will need another heavy dose of Alfred Morris carrying the football.
Assumingly, the Browns know this too. That’s where Kyle Shanahan needs to trust his linemen to outperform Cleveland’s defense.
Rather than overanalyze the offensive scheme, Kyle needs to stick with what works—a powerful running game—and keep doing it until they can prove to stop it on a consistent basis.
It's difficult writing the keys to the game when we don’t know who will be starting behind center for the Redskins.
RGIII and Kirk Cousins are two entirely different quarterbacks and Mike Shanahan will have a different game plan for whoever plays.
Either way, I would expect a more conservative approach to the offense this week. Controlling the time of possession is vital to a team’s victory.
Let’s say Kirk Cousins ends up starting. If that were the case, than Kyle Shanahan needs to devise a scheme that is conducive to Cousins’ skill sets—short and efficient passes that enable speedsters like Pierre Garcon and Aldrick Robinson to get yards after the catch.
Let’s say Robert Griffin ends up starting. If that’s the case, than they can’t run the same complicated offense because it sets RGIII up to get re-injured.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of a pro-style/standard type of offense. It might not be the same exciting games that we’ve watched this season, but it shouldn't matter as long as the Redskins win.
Over the past four games, the effort coming from the Redskins has been remarkable. The Cleveland Browns may not be the same opponent as the Cowboys, Giants and Ravens, but the same urgency will need to be applied.
If the Redskins get caught napping on Sunday afternoon, the Browns will make them pay after winning three consecutive games.
In previous years, the Skins were notorious for playing down to the level of their opponent. If they succumb to that approach, then it will be very concerning.
Hold on a second, is Brandon Banks still on the roster? How is that possible? Didn’t Richard Crawford prove that we don’t need him?
Crawford’s punt return in overtime last week proved how important special teams can be. Effective special-teams performances can shift the momentum to one side or the other.
I have a feeling that this is going to be a sloppy game, and if Crawford can produce again, it could easily change the outcome.
We’re in the home stretch. Coach Shanahan is going to need to get all of his players in line for the duration of the season.
Keeping RGIII healthy is priority No. 1, but players such as Trent Williams, London Fletcher and Pierre Garcon need to keep fighting through their injuries.
Josh Gordon is going to be a difficult task for the Redskins’ cornerbacks. He’s averaging over 17 yards per catch in his rookie season.
However, Gordon has not been effective in the Browns' losses this season. I would expect DeAngelo Hall paired up with Gordon all day, as he fares better against taller receivers (Gordon is 6’2").
While Kyle Shanahan has done a masterful job this season—which actually might get him some head-coaching looks—this is where he has struggled.
The play-calling on third down appears to be erratic and if the Skins want to manage the game and control the time of possession, third downs need to be converted.
Brandon Weeden has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns as the starter this season, and the Skins defense could be licking their chops entering this game.
So the goal is to shut down Cleveland's two best offensive options in Trent Richardson and Josh Gordon, putting Weeden in 3rd-and-long situations and setting up the defense to make plays.
That’s why the Redskins are in this 3-4 defense in the first place. This defensive scheme is supposed to confuse offenses, thus creating opportunities for guys like DeAngelo Hall and others.