Buffalo Bills vs. Washington Redskins: What's the Game Plan for Washington?

Marcel Davis@@Mar_CelDavis24Correspondent IDecember 18, 2015

LANDOVER, MD - AUGUST 24: Nickell Robey #37 of the Buffalo Bills fumbles a punt return in front of Lance Lewis #18 of the Washington Redskins and teammate Chip Reeves #17 in the third quarter during a preseason game at FedExField on August 24, 2013 in Landover, Maryland. The Washington Redskins won, 30-7. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Behind their first road win in a calendar year, the Washington Redskins maintained their position atop the NFC East. 

And by virtue of being the lone team among the three 6-7 teams within the division playing a sub-.500 opponent in Week 15, they're in prime position to remain in the driver's seat. 

While it's slated to play the 6-7 Buffalo Bills Sunday, Washington also has a recent trend it needs to combat. The team has yet to register consecutive wins this season, with the last occurrence coming in Week 7 and 8 last year.

Is this the week it'll find consistency?

Let's find out. Here's the Redskins' Week 15 game plan.

 

Offensive Game Plan

CHICAGO, IL- DECEMBER 13: Jordan Reed #86 of the Washington Redskins catches a pass against the Chicago Bears during the first quarter on December 13, 2015 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Washington Redskins won 24-21. (Photo by David Banks/Get
David Banks/Getty Images

While the play of the team at large has varied week to week, the rushing attack has routinely struggled to get going. Against the Chicago Bears' No. 29 run defense, Washington only managed to post 99 yards on 33 carries.

In Buffalo, though, the Redskins have another opponent vulnerable against the run. It owns Football Outsiders' No. 28 defense against the run.

In particular, the Bills are susceptible to gains on the outside. Their opponents average over 5.1 yards a carry on runs off tackle.

Washington's average on runs off tackle is south of 3.7 yards. But with Matt Jones emerging as the feature back in lieu of the slower Alfred Morris in recent weeks, this is a deficiency the team can exploit.

Moving to the passing game, Jordan Reed needs to have prominent role. The tight end leads the team in receptions, yards and touchdowns. And in the process of racking up these numbers, he makes Kirk Cousins look—dare I say—elite!

As ESPN's John Keim notes, Cousins has a passer rating of 116.3 and a QBR of 85.6 when targeting Reed.

So even with the Bills sporting Football Outsiders' No. 5 defense against tight ends, Reed has to be the focal point of Washington's passing attack.

 

Defensive Game Plan

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 13: Tyrod Taylor #5 of the Buffalo Bills runs with the ball in the game against the Philadelphia Eagles on December 13, 2015 at the Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Following Jay Cutler's success outside the pocket in Week 14, quarterback containment has to be the Washington defense's chief priority.

As was the case on his 50-yard completion to Alshon Jeffery, Cutler routinely escaped the pocket against the Redskins pass rush. And the result was big plays. He averaged 10.2 yards per attempt and had five completions of 20-plus yards.

Given Tyrod Taylor's exploits in his first year as a starting quarterback, a repeat performance from defensive coordinator Joe Barry's defense would have drastic consequences.

As a runner alone, Taylor is dangerous in the open field. He has 371 yards rushing, 151 of which he's accumulated on third down.

Then there's his deep ball. Taylor has 23 completions of 20-plus yards. Furthermore, according to ESPN.com, he's completed six of 11 passes thrown 40-plus yards downfield.

With Taylor sporting only two touchdowns and a 58 percent completion rate against the blitz, the Redskins' best bet is to quickly force the ball out of his hands by sending pressure.

If only Taylor was the only worry.

Buffalo also fields one of the league's better rushing attacks. 

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

More than adequate at grinding out yards and controlling the clock, the Bills will also spring the big play. They have 16 runs of 20-plus yards.

Knowing the threat Buffalo's backs pose on the second level, the onus will be on Washington's front seven to stymie this attack at or behind the line of scrimmage.

 

Key Players and Matchups

CB Bashaud Breeland vs. WR Sammy Watkins

Michael Perez/Associated Press

Upset with his role in the offense, it wasn't too long ago that Sammy Watkins was clamoring for more targets. Looking at his play of late, one has to wonder why he wasn't receiving more looks to begin with. 

Since his comments, Watkins has posted five touchdowns and averaged 94.8 yards per contest in six games with Taylor under center.

Washington's new No. 1 corner, Bashaud Breeland will be tasked with slowing the surging Watkins. With Watkins owning the speed advantage, it'll be important for Breeland to keep Watkins in front of him.

Contrary to what he did as a rookie and during his collegiate career at Clemson, Watkins has struggled to garner yards after the catch in 2015. He has just 108 yards after the catch on the year and is averaging just 7.7 yards per reception on passes thrown under 10 yards, per ESPN.com.

 

Redskins Offensive Line vs. Bills Pass Rush

Winslow Townson/Associated Press

There's little doubt Buffalo's pass rush has underachieved under head coach Rex Ryan. First in sacks in 2014, the Bills are 30th in 2015.

Kyle Williams is out, but this production, or lack thereof, is coming from roughly the same personnel. 

Still, given the mishaps in pass protection the past two weeks (six sacks allowed), it's not as if the Skins offensive line can rest easy.

The same vulnerabilities—youth and inexperience—the Dallas Cowboys and Bears preyed on remain. Regardless of their production to date, Marcell Dareus, Jerry Hughes and Mario Williams still rank among the league's top pass-rushers. 

The revival of the running game would be nice. But more than anything, with the Bills 20th against the pass, the Redskins' fate on offense will be determined by how the offensive line holds up in pass protection.

 

Prediction

Mistakes are sure to be prevalent in this contest given the two teams involved here. Buffalo is one of the NFL's most penalized teams, and Washington is prone to turnovers, with 21 (20th).

But where the Bills have been adequate in translating their opponents' miscues into points, the Redskins have been abysmal. 

The team is 28th in the league in takeaway points (25) and last in point differential off turnovers (minus-80), according to Sporting Charts. 

Behind such struggles, it's no wonder why Washington hasn't eclipsed 24 points but two times. With six such games under its belt, scoring isn't as much of an issue for Buffalo.

And that's the difference here. With a deep threat in Watkins to prevent Washington from loading the box, the Bills will find success on the ground against the Skins' No. 23 rush defense and in turn use play action to supplement Taylor through the air.

Cousins too will capitalize on Buffalo's undisciplined defense. But facing a deficit—and without the aid of running game—he'll make the critical mistake late to continue the Redskins' run of inconsistent play.

Final Score: Bills 31, Redskins 23

 

Stats are courtesy of Football Outsiders, unless noted otherwise.