Mike Shanahan's return to Denver is a cool storyline, I suppose, but it's probably not something Washington Redskins fans will be thinking about once the opening kickoff has taken place Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Once that happens, it'll probably feel like any other game. Except this one is against the MVP of the first half of the NFL season and the league's top-rated offense.
It's not an ideal matchup. Washington's defense surrendered 34 points last week to a Chicago Bears team that was without its starting quarterback for the majority of the afternoon. Now they go up against Peyton Manning and a Broncos team that leads the league in scoring.
But Redskins franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III has been improving week by week, and when this Washington offense is clicking it can hang with anybody. So we could wind up with a shootout on our hands here.
Here's a final preview of the matchup from the Redskins' perspective, along with a prediction...
What Washington must do to win, offensive edition
Keep the Broncos guessing all day and control the pace. Lots of running with Griffin, Alfred Morris and Roy Helu, setting up opportunities to move the chains through the air with Jordan Reed, Pierre Garcon et al. Denver's defense has been struggling almost as much as Washington's, so the 'Skins might be able to keep Manning and Co. off the field just enough to limit the damage.
What Washington must do to win, defensive edition
Do what the Colts did. In other words, limit the time Manning has to find his deep group of receivers. Manning was pressured 24 times on 54 dropbacks against the Colts, and he really struggled when blitzed. For the 'Skins to win this game, they'll need to get natural pressure while also mixing in some well-timed blitzes.
Five most important non-quarterbacks
Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan: The pressure will have to come from these two, and it'll have to come often.
|Where they rank on defense|
|PPG (rank)||YPG (rank)|
|Redskins||30.7 (30th)||389 (25th)|
|Broncos||28.1 (27th)||397 (30th)|
DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson: But the coverage has to be decent, too. Vontae Davis had a great game against Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker last week. They'll need Hall and Wilson to control those guys again this week.
Trent Williams: He's been stellar all season. Now, he'll have to step it up against Von Miller.
Injury analysis, Redskins edition
Defensive starters Stephen Bowen and Reed Doughty are both questionable for the 'Skins. Neither are big-time players, but you need everyone you have against the Broncos. With safety Brandon Meriweather suspended, losing Doughty could really hurt an already-weak secondary. I just don't know how they're going to stop the Broncos.
Injury analysis, Broncos edition
They're already without left tackle Ryan Clady, and right tackle Orlando Franklin is just coming back from an ankle injury. That's why they're so vulnerable when you get the pass rush rolling.
On defense, the Broncos will once again be without Champ Bailey. Both of these defenses are in big trouble.
B/R NFC East blog prediction: Redskins 38, Broncos 30
The Broncos might have finally lost, but this is still a team that has hammered all four of its home opponents this season. The Redskins are starting to get into an offensive groove, though, so they'll keep it respectable.
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