When the schedule-makers placed this one on a Monday night, ESPN was probably fired up. Prior to the 2013 season, you couldn't envision a much sexier matchup between two young quarterbacks than Colin Kaepernick vs. Robert Griffin III.
But one year after leading their respective franchises to division titles, both Kaepernick and RGIII have struggled more than expected. Coming off reconstructive knee surgery, Griffin hasn't been as fast or as accurate, and Kaepernick has the league's lowest fourth-quarter passer rating among qualified quarterbacks, per The Washington Post.
At least San Francisco is still alive despite its quarterback. The Niners are 6-4 and in the thick of the playoff race, while Griffin's Redskins have fallen to 3-7 in what looks to be a lost season.
Will they redeem themselves just a little bit with a home victory over a stellar opponent in prime time, or will the bleeding continue? Here's our final preview of the matchup from Washington's perspective, along with a prediction.
What Washington must do to win, offensive edition
Take some shots. The 49ers haven't been getting a lot of pressure this year, so Griffin might have some time. Besides, Washington has little to lose at this point. Of course, that doesn't mean ditch the run—Alfred Morris has been the offensive MVP, and this San Fran run D is not as dominant as it once was— but the 'Skins still have to be aggressive.
What Washington must do to win, defensive edition
Take it away and find the end zone. Not easy, I know, but this is a defense that has scored five times this season. To beat a semi-heavyweight like San Francisco, Washington will have to take some chances and force Kaepernick and Co. to make some mistakes.
Five most important non-quarterbacks
Morris: Washington simply can't win without Morris, who leads all NFL starting running backs with 5.1 yards per carry.
Chris Chester: Aldon Smith is back, and Justin Smith is still a force. That line needs to hold up. The tackles have been good, but Chester's been a mess in pass protection.
DeAngelo Hall: Nobody can find the end zone on this defense like Hall.
Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan: Under pressure this season, Kaepernick is the league's least accurate quarterback, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). That's all on the Redskins' top two pass-rushers.
|Worst accuracy under pressure through Week 11|
|Pro Football Focus (min. 50% of team's snaps)|
Injury analysis, 49ers edition
Cornerback Tarell Brown has injured ribs and is out, per Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee, which could help Washington quite a bit. If the 'Skins can move Carlos Rogers into the slot to cover Santana Moss, Pierre Garcon could gain some sweet matchups outside.
On offense, Kaepernick's been banged up and has a back injury, but he practiced throughout the week. San Fran has lost plenty of guys this season and is still without Michael Crabtree, but there's not a lot to report from recent weeks.
Injury analysis, Redskins edition
Leonard Hankerson has a torn ACL and is done for the year, so expect to see more of Aldrick Robinson. That's not necessarily a game-changer, but it could be a factor because Washington will be shorthanded, as tight end Jordan Reed is out with a concussion, per Mike Jones of The Washington Post.
With Reed sidelined, Fred Davis will have one last chance to impress in Washington.
B/R NFC East blog prediction: 49ers 37, Redskins 13
I don't like the vibe out of Washington right now, and I get the feeling Washington won't react in a positive way to what happened last week in Philly. San Francisco rebounds from last week's heartbreaker, rolling on the road.
Note: Injury information updated hours before game time.
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