Two notable winning streaks will be on the line on Sunday when the Washington Redskins (7-6) travel to play the Cleveland Browns (5-8).
The Redskins have been red-hot since coming off of a bye week in Week 10. After a rough 3-6 start to the season, Robert Griffin III and Co. have rallied to win four straight, putting them right in the thick of things in the NFC East playoff picture.
The Browns have been a bit more shaky this season, but have garnered some momentum in their own right. Thanks to some impressive defense and progression in the offense, the Browns have ripped off three wins in a row to bring their record to 5-8.
With both teams still in the playoff hunt—the Browns haven't technically been eliminated quite yet—both teams have plenty to play for. Throw in the fact that many Browns fans wanted the team to outbid the Redskins for RGIII's services in last year's draft, and this should be an interesting game as Griffin III and Browns' rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden go head-to-head.
Read on for everything you need to know about this matchup including spread info, injury reports, best fantasy football options and predictions.
Where: Cleveland Browns Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio
When: Sunday, Dec. 16 at 1 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket on DIRECTV
Spread: Washington -1 (via Covers)
Vegas has been hesitant to put out a line on this one due to Robert Griffin III's knee sprain that he suffered in last week's win over the Baltimore Ravens.
This could be an opportunity for some easy money for bettors. Rookie backup quarterback Kirk Cousins came in at the end of the game last week and directed the final drive that tied the game and set up the win in overtime.
Cousins is obviously no Griffin III, but there has been more to this team's winning streak than just the quarterback. The Redskins are playing incredibly well as a team.
It still hasn't been confirmed or denied whether Griffin III will play or not. He has been limited at practice, but the fact that he hasn't been held out completely is a good sign. If he plays the Redskins should cover in a win.
Over/Under: 43.5 (via Covers)
The under appears to be the play here.
It may be tempting to go with the over considering the likes of Trent Richardson, Griffin III and Alfred Morris, but this one could very easily wind up being a defensive battle.
The Browns have had issues punching in touchdowns in the red zone all season long. The Redskins will either have a slowed-down version of Griffin III or Cousins in at quarterback, so the offense will be less explosive than usual.
According to Covers, the under is 5-2 in the Redskins last seven games and 10-2 in the Browns last 12 home games. Those are convincing trends that should continue for both teams with the results of this game.
Injury Report (via CBS Sports) as of 12/14/2012
|QB||Robert Griffin III||Knee||Questionable|
The question on everyone's mind is whether or not RGIII will play, and it appears to be question on the mind of the Washington coaching staff too. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan iterated that it would not be his decision, but it wouldn't really be decided until game time. He also noted that Cousins is capable of coming in and making throws as the backup (h/t NFL.com's Around the League).
Redskins OC Kyle Shanahan says it's not his call on whether RG3 plays vs. Browns. Says he won't know until Sunday how effective RG3 can be— NFL: AroundTheLeague (@NFL_ATL) December 13, 2012
Kyle Shanahan delights reporters by comparing RG3 to Gumby; also says on Cousins: "Kirk will come in and sling it around (if need be)."— NFL: AroundTheLeague (@NFL_ATL) December 13, 2012
|LB||James-Michael Johnson||Thigh, finger||Probable|
|RB||Trent Richardson||Chest, rib, finger||Probable|
Fantasy Big Plays
Washington: RB Alfred Morris
Regardless of who suits up at quarterback for the Redskins, Morris is a must-play at the running back position. The rookie running back has been nearly as important to this offense as Griffin III has.
Morris has been a consistent threat for fantasy owners and has really turned it up in recent weeks. He has three 100-yard rushing performances in a row and has found the end zone in two of his last three games.
The Browns had issues stopping Jamaal Charles when he was on the field last week. Morris should find openings and break off some big runs against this Browns defense.
Projected Stats: 22 Carries, 135 yards, one TD
Cleveland: WR Josh Gordon
It's tempting to go with rookie running back here again with Trent Richardson. His receiving ability and goal-line touches make him a good option from week-to-week, but Gordon could have a breakout game.
The Redskins secondary is definitely the weak link of their defense. The team ranks seventh in the NFL in rushing yards allowed, but is giving up 289 yards per game through the air—31st in the league.
Gordon put up big numbers two weeks ago against the Raiders when he went for 116 yards on six catches with a touchdown, and he followed it up last week by hauling in eight passes for 86 yards.
Considering the general weakness of the secondary, this should resemble his big day against the Raiders.
Projected Stats: Eight receptions, 107 yards
Key to Victory
Stopping the Run
This game really comes down to which team can stop the run.
Griffin III gets a ton of credit for making the Redskins offense work, but it's the rushing yards that he and Morris pile up that allow him to be so prolific through the air. If the Browns are able to play disciplined up front, they can make things much more difficult for a presumably hobbled Griffin III.
The Browns are also a team who plays much better when they get the run game going. Weeden is a rookie quarterback who tends to play like a rookie when the offense's success is completely reliant on him throwing the ball to beat the defense.
Both of these rookie quarterbacks need help from their run game to aid them in being successful. Whichever gets the most support will win.
Both teams are playing really well right now, so this should be a competitive game.
Griffin III's presence is sure to make this a different game, but we can probably assume that if he does take the field, he won't be his usual playmaking self.
In the end, the Browns have won three straight, but two of those wins came against arguably the worst teams in the league in the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders. The win streak is a good sign of progress, but it is not a very good litmus test for their ability to beat Washington.
The Redskins' determined march for the playoffs should continue.
Final Score: Washington 20, Cleveland 16