The Washington Redskins take on a red-hot Buffalo Bills team this Sunday at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, part of the NFL's International Game experience. The Redskins currently hold a 3-3 record in the NFC East, while the Bills are at a surprising 4-2 record after coming off of a devastating loss to the New York Giants just two weeks ago.
This game could define the outcome of the season for both teams, as the Redskins are battling with the Giants and Dallas Cowboys to stay on top of their division, while the Bills are battling with the New England Patriots and the New York Jets to grab what appears to be, at most, two playoff spots.
This game will be decided by some key individual player vs. player matchups, as listed below.
Washington Redskins' Pass Offense Vs. Buffalo Bills' Pass Defense
Redskins head coach, Mike Shanahan, benched former starter Rex Grossman in favor of John Beck last week. Beck performed decently, completing 59.5 percent of his passes for 279 yards, while throwing one touchdown and one interception.
Wide receiver Santana Moss and tight end Chris Cooley are both expected to miss Sunday's game, leaving Beck with tight end Fred Davis and wideout Anthony Armstrong as his top targets.
The Bills have been licking their chops in pass situations, as they have intercepted 12 passes and forced five fumbles in the first six games of the year. Led by safeties George Wilson and Bryan Scott who have had spectacular seasons combining for 89 tackles, seven deflected passes, five interceptions and two forced fumbles, the Bills' secondary has finally become scary in the seams.
As far as the Bills' pass rush is concerned, Redskins left tackle, Trent Williams, isn't expected to suit up, so the Bills need to be aggressive in getting after Beck. Unfortunately for the Bills, both OLB Shawne Merriman and NT Kyle Williams will also miss the game, greatly weakening what has already been an anemic Bills' pass rush that has registered just five sacks on the season.
Washington Redskins' Run Offense Vs. Buffalo Bills' Run Defense
The Redskins are without their leading running back, Tim Hightower, leaving Ryan Torain and rookie Roy Helu to split carries. Torain has rushed just 31 times for 179 yards and a touchdown, while Helu has rushed 27 times for 131 yards, both averaging 4.1 yards-per-carry.
The Bills are again at the bottom of the league in terms of rush defense, ranked 30th while allowing 135.7 yards per game on the ground. With the Bills without nose tackle Kyle Williams, Kellen Heard is left to hold down the trenches next to rookie Marcell Dareus and veteran defensive end Dwan Edwards.
Buffalo Bills' Pass Offense Vs. Washington Redskins' Pass Defense
The Bills have averaged over 30 points per game, with much thanks to the stellar play of quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick has has completed 66.3 percent of his passes, passing for 1,477 yards, with a touchdown to interception ratio of 12:6.
With left guard Andy Levitre expected to get the start at left tackle due to injuries to Demetrius Bell and rookie Chris Hairston, guard Chad Rinehart will most likely start at left guard. Fitzpatrick has been sacked just six times this season, but after being brutalized by the strong pass rush of the New York Giants, the Bills face another blitz-happy defense in the Redskins.
The Redskins' outside linebackers, Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan have combined for 45 tackles, 6.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and are relentless in their pursuit of the quarterback. However, Orakpo and Kerrigan aren't the only players the Bills' offensive line needs to worry about. Defensive end Alex Carriker has also racked up 4.5 sacks on the year, and the Bills really need some strong play by their offensive line to allow Fitzpatrick enough time in the pocket to complete passes.
Bills coach, Chan Gailey has been utilizing a spread offense that has pretty much distributed the ball evenly to all four wideouts that line up. Stevie Johnson, who has caught 33 passes for 383 yards and four touchdowns, is a quick wide receiver that has the ability to move the chains.
With Donald Jones sidelined, Namaan Roosevelt has stepped up, as has slot receiver David Nelson, who is Fitzpatrick's favorite third-down target. Nelson has caught 27 passes for 319 yards and scored twice this season.
Buffalo Bills' Rush Offense Vs. Washington Redskins' Rush Defense
Bills' running back, Fred Jackson, has been absolutely unbelievable this year, and has kept the 2010 No. 9 overall draft pick, C.J. Spiller off of the field. Jackson has excelled not only in rushing, but in his receiving out of the backfield and his stellar pass protection. On the year, Freddy has rushed for 601 yards for an average of 5.7 yards-per-carry, while scoring a career-high six touchdowns. He has also caught 24 passes for 279 yards out of the backfield.
The Redskins will need to focus on containing Jackson, as their 17th-ranked rush defense that has allowed roughly 117 yards per game on the ground, may not be enough to control the power running style he employs.
Inside linebackers Rocky McIntosh, who has 45 tackles, one sack and a tackle for a loss, and London Fletcher, who has 43 tackles, half a sack, four pass deflections, an interception and a forced fumble, will need to penetrate the gaps and keep Jackson from breaking away.