Continuing their playoff drive, the Washington Redskins will travel to Cleveland to meet the Browns. This week, Alfred Morris will be the standout rookie to lead the Redskins to victory—not Robert Griffin III.
Throughout this season, the Browns have been better at defending running plays than passing plays. They’ve held opponents to an average of 120.5 rushing yards per game—good enough for 17th best in the NFL.
However, only one of the teams they’ve beaten in their three-game winning streak have had a strong running game.
The Browns made an example of the Kansas City Chiefs last week, defeating them 30-7. Even in that blowout victory, Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles ran for 165 yards and his team's sole touchdown.
The Chiefs have a great running game, but the ‘Skins are better. If the Browns allowed Charles to take it to them in such a lopsided victory, how are they going to protect against Morris and Washington’s rush?
The Redskins and Chiefs have shown similar dominance when running the ball and Morris and Charles are very close in the NFL running back standings. Morris is averaging 95 rushing yards per game while Charles is averaging 93.8.
The Redskins’ Week 14 game against the Ravens was Morris’ third straight game running for more than 100 yards. His average over those three games alone is enough to surpass the Browns’ average of 100.5 rushing yards allowed.
Another reason Morris may be a major factor Sunday vs. the Browns is the late-game knee injury forced Griffin out of Washington’s game against the Baltimore Ravens last week.
His status for Sunday’s game in Cleveland is still questionable and, according to Mike Shanahan, a decision will be made Saturday night or Sunday morning.
Shanahan said Griffin III will know Saturday night or Sunday morning whether he will start. It will be announced right before game. #HTTR— Redskins (@Redskins) December 14, 2012
Even if Griffin does take the field on Sunday, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him shy away from running plays.
If that’s the case, Morris will certainly get handed the ball even more often.
He rushed for a season-high of 129 yards against the Ravens. Could he end up breaking his own personal best on Sunday? It's not a long shot to say it's probable.
Griffin’s injury could force the ‘Skins to play a more run-oriented game, which could actually benefit him.
The Browns have a very physical defense. By putting more emphasis on the running game, they will help take the pressure off the quarterback. This will allow the quarterback to make bigger plays and, if Griffin plays, will help make sure he doesn't aggravate his injury.
It’s going to be a close game. Both the ‘Skins and the Browns are hotter than they have been in recent years.
In the end, though, it will be Morris’ continuing dominance on the ground that will play a major part in the Redskins securing their fifth straight win and getting even closer to the NFC East-leading New York Giants.