Buffalo Bills vs. Washington Redskins: Full Washington Game Preview

Marcel Davis@@Mar_CelDavis24Correspondent IDecember 16, 2015

Buffalo Bills vs. Washington Redskins: Full Washington Game Preview

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    With their biggest win on the year in the rearview and a divisional bout looming in Week 16, the Washington Redskins will have to avoid looking past the Buffalo Bills in Week 15 on Sunday.

    Contrary to preseason predictions, Washington, not Buffalo, is in the mix for a playoff berth. And it's come without the team displaying much consistency. The Redskins have yet to register back-to-back wins in 2015, a feat they accomplished just once last season.

    With its playoff hopes hanging in the balance, is this the week Washington puts a streak together?

    Let's find out. Here is the Week 15 preview for the Redskins.

     

    Location: FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland

    Time: 1 p.m. ET

    TV: Fox

Week 14 Results and Recap

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    David Banks/Getty Images

    NFC East Standings

    Washington Redskins (6-7)

    Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)

    New York Giants (6-7)

    Dallas Cowboys (4-9)

     

    Behind a 24-21 victory in Week 14 over the Chicago Bears, the Redskins kept pace in the tight NFC East. Both the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants won their contests, maintaining a three-way tie atop the division.

    With the win, they ended a nine-game road losing streak. It wouldn't be a Washington football game, though, if a bit of drama wasn't involved. The team blew a 14-point lead and needed both a fourth-quarter shutout and a missed field goal on Chicago's end to preserve the win.

    Although they were outgained 377-374 in total yards, the Redskins held the edge in time of possession (34:22) and benefited from converting all three of their red-zone trips into touchdowns.

    Next up, Washington will wrap up its home schedule and look to finish with six home wins for the first time since 2005.

News and Notes

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    Washington will turn to Smith to back up Reed and contribute as a run-blocker.
    Washington will turn to Smith to back up Reed and contribute as a run-blocker.Associated Press

    Welcome, Tight End Alex Smith

    Marred by injury as a whole, Washington's injured reserve list is particularly stocked with tight ends.

    Before the season even started, Niles Paul and Logan Paulsen were lost for the season. After tearing his MCL and ACL, Derek Carrier is the latest tight end to suffer this fate.

    In his absence, Tom Compton and Ty Nsekhe, both offensive tackles, saw time at tight end next to starter Jordan Reed. Needing to restock the position, the Redskins signed Alex Smith, per Mike Jones of the Washington Post.

    On his seventh NFL team, Smith has 163 career receptions, only 30 of which have come in the past four seasons.

    As marginal as this production is, though, his presence alone won't hint at a running call coming for Washington, as was the case with Compton and Nsekhe in the game. 

     

    Schedule Favors Redskins in NFC East Race

    Finally with a road win under its belt, Washington's closing schedule isn't as daunting as initially perceived. Particularly in comparison to its division counterparts.

    The Skins' final three opponents are a combined 16-23. Two road games remain against the Eagles and Dallas Cowboys. But it's worth noting the team did leave its last visit to Dallas victorious.

    This is a stark contrast to how Philadelphia and New York close the season. The Giants' opponents are 29-12 and the Eagles' 23-16. The caveat here, though, for New York is two games remaining at home.  

    The outlier of the group, Dallas' opponents sport a 20-19 combined record, with two of three at home.

Injury Report

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    Injuries have derailed Jackson in 2015.
    Injuries have derailed Jackson in 2015.Rob Carr/Getty Images

    WR DeSean Jackson

    With the drastic effect he's had on the offense, DeSean Jackson's knee injury is cause for concern.

    While he didn't remove himself from the game in Week 14, Jackson was noticeably limited by what was deemed to be a knee bruise following the game.

    Given how he's played since Jackson's return, Kirk Cousins' success looms in the balance with Jackson listed as questionable. 

    Cousins' yards per attempt has risen from 6.8 and 6.3 yards the first two months of the year—sans Jackson—to 8.4 and 8.3 yards since his return, according to ESPN.com. Furthermore, he has nine touchdowns to just three picks. This is after tallying eight of his 11 interceptions without Jackson.

    Even with Jackson's numbers short of his career norm, this speaks to the impact he has on the offense as the lone deep threat.

     

    RB Chris Thompson

    With short passes and negative gains on the ground prevalent in the Washington offense, Chris Thompson has a large role as the team's third-down back. 

    Even without the use of tempo to increase its amount of offensive possessions, the team is 12th in the NFL in third-down attempts.

    Knowing this, the potential absence of Thompson (34 catches, 428 total yards) can't be understated. He missed last week's bout and is listed as questionable on the injury report with a shoulder injury.

    Matt Jones has shown to be a capable receiver and thus can step into Thompson's role. Thing is, in lieu of Alfred Morris' struggles on the ground, he's taken on a larger role as the team's feature back in recent weeks.

    He's had 18 carries in consecutive contests. With Jones' fatigue to think about, the team would either have to turn to the recently signed Pierre Thomas on third down or hand Morris more carries to free up Jones. 

    With neither being an ideal scenario, Thompson's status will be something to monitor in the present and the weeks ahead.

Key Matchups

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    Containing Taylor has to be a priority for Washington's defense.
    Containing Taylor has to be a priority for Washington's defense.Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    Washington Pass Rush vs. QB Tyrod Taylor

    The Redskins pass rush has been uneven in 2015, a fact that was readily evident against Chicago. 

    While the defense did accumulate three sacks and three quarterback hits, an inability to produce a consistent rush enabled Jay Cutler to throw for 315 yards, at a clip of 10.2 yards an attempt. 

    A failure to maintain rushing lanes exacerbated this issue. Cutler was able to break contain and, as was the case on his 50-yard completion to Alshon Jeffery, make big plays off script. 

    While Cutler is an underrated athlete, he pales in comparison to Tyrod Taylor. Taylor has 371 yards rushing in his first year as a starting quarterback.

    This, coupled with his ability to throw the deep ball (21 completions of 20-plus yards), makes it pivotal for Washington to confine him to making plays solely from the pocket.

     

    Redskins Front Seven vs. Bills Running Game

    Following a solid showing against the Giants' porous running game, Week 14 was set up to serve as a true indicator on whether Washington had improved in defending the run.

    The Bears entered the contest second in the NFL in attempts. But courtesy of an early deficit, Chicago never enforced its will on the ground, tallying 87 yards on 22 carries.

    This figures to change against the Bills. Buffalo is third in the NFL in attempts and yards. In addition to Taylor's contributions as a dual threat, they have both LeSean McCoy and rookie Karlos Williams averaging north of 4.5 yards a rush.

    With Sammy Watkins' big-play ability serving as a deterrent, the onus will fall on the Skins front seven to stymie this attack without safety help.

Matchup X-Factor

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    Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

    Redskins X-Factor: Offensive Line

    Looking at the sum of their parts, the Bills by all accounts have underachieved on defense. With much of the same personnel, Buffalo has fallen from fourth in total defense and first in sacks in 2014 to 20th and 30th, respectively.

    Even so, having surrendered three sacks in consecutive weeks, the Redskins offensive line still can't rest on its laurels as the No. 7 team in sacks allowed.

    Both the Cowboys and Bears, specifically Dallas, had success using the blitz against an inexperienced Washington front. Given head coach Rex Ryan's history, it can expect to see a similar method employed in Week 15.

    In a search for balance, following a failed opportunity to exploit Chicago's run defense, the team needs to find traction on the ground against the Bills' No. 20 rush defense.

Prediction: Bills 31, Redskins 23

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    With the upset the Bills will drop the Redskins a rung in the NFC East race.
    With the upset the Bills will drop the Redskins a rung in the NFC East race.Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Entering the closing stretch of the season, Washington is in unchartered territory with the playoffs at stake. 

    With any hope at qualifying for the postseason faint at best, the role of spoiler is all that remains for Buffalo. Free of expectations, it's a role it'll relish in Week 14.

    One of the most penalized teams in the NFL, the Bills have been their own worst enemy in 2015, with opponents also tallying 51 points off their turnovers. 

    But after being victimized all season for such miscues, Buffalo is finally running into the perfect opponent. All year long the Redskins have failed to monetize such mistakes into points. 

    The team is 28th in the league in takeaway points (25) and last in point differential off turnovers (minus-80), according to Sporting Charts. This is reflected in Washington being 17th in scoring (21.7), having eclipsed 24 points just twice. 

    As such, with a running game and a deep threat in Watkins to keep Washington's defense honest, the Bills will mount a point total the Redskins simply can't match.

    Having to lead his team back from a deficit—and without a running game—Cousins will continue a disparaging trend and turn the ball over with him dropping back to attempt 30-plus passes.

     

    Injury statuses courtesy of CBSSports.com.