Washington Redskins: Updated Game-by-Game Outlook

Rollin Yeatts@@TSBRollinFeatured ColumnistOctober 12, 2012

Washington Redskins: Updated Game-by-Game Outlook

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    The drama never ends in Washington.

    Through just five games, the Redskins have already gone through a season's worth of highs and lows. Robert Griffin III was pulled with a concussion early in the second half against the Atlanta Falcons, helping along another tough loss last Sunday.

    Griffin is confident he will play this Sunday, though. “The only symptom I do have is irritability because [the trainers and doctors] keep asking me the same questions,” he said, according to Mark Maske of The Washington Post.

    Whether you agree with it or not, there is an extremely high probability he plays.

    Other players have been lost, though, and they won't have the same opportunity to come back in 2012. Brian Orakpo, Adam Carriker, Chris Neild, Roy Helu and a promising Chase Minnifield are out for the season.

    One piece of good news is that Jammal Brown could be back as soon as Nov. 18.

    Another is that the Redskins' previously woeful offense has turned into a sustainable and occasionally explosive force. It's not firing on all cylinders yet, but it still ranks sixth in total offense—10 spaces higher than last season.

    Unfortunately, the same can't be said of their defense. It has dropped from 13th in 2011 to 27th this season. The defense did show up against Atlanta, but it was just on the field too long against the Falcons' potent offense.

    Needless to say, this season has been a roller coaster. But that is football, and the Redskins seem to be more prone to devastation than most.

    It's not too late to turn things around, though. It's all about clicking at the right time—just ask the Giants.

Week 6: Washington Redskins vs. Minnesota Vikings

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    When: Oct. 14 at 4:25 p.m. EST

    Where: FedEx Field

    TV Broadcast: FOX

    You have to admire what Christian Ponder and the Minnesota Vikings have managed to put together so far this season. Currently, the Vikings are 4-1 and could easily be 5-0 if it weren't for the heart-breaking loss in Indianapolis.

    As much attention as the offense has received, it's really the defense that is the Vikings' scariest component—especially in terms of keeping Griffin safe. The defense has kept constant pressure on opposing quarterbacks, racking up 14 sacks along the way. They've also forced seven fumbles, recovering five of those.

    Minnesota ranks ninth in total defense.

    On the flip side, Percy Harvin has 407 of Ponder's 1,082 yards passing this season. But 329 of Harvin's yards came after the catch. If the Redskins can lock him down on bubble screens and minimize his yards after the catch, Washington will stand a good chance at shutting down this offense.

    Adrian Peterson will naturally be another big concern for the Redskins, but they have held teams to just 87.8 yards per game. Consider it a moral victory if they can do the same to Peterson.

    I believe Washington will get things rolling again on offense, behind the arm of Robert Griffin III. As good as Minnesota looks on defense, San Francisco is the only offense they have faced inside the top 20. Alfred Morris will do enough against this stingy run defense to eat up the clock and keep the Washington defense rested.

    Rollin's Prediction: WAS 27, MIN 17

Week 7: Washington Redskins at New York Giants

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    When: Oct 21 at 1 p.m. EST

    Where: MetLife Stadium

    TV Broadcast: FOX

    Let division play begin!

    Washington may be sitting at the bottom of the East as I write this piece, but nobody is running away with it right now. Philadelphia and New York sit at the top with 3-2 records, but both of the Giants' losses have come to divisional opponents.

    On top of that, Philadelphia looks ugly in every win and Dallas just looks ugly. It's 2011 all over again—the East just can't get it together.

    That's good news for a Washington team that is still coming together. It's time to take advantage while they're down.

    Eli Manning needs no introduction. He has molded himself into a top-five quarterback; I don't care what anyone else says. He also has two prolific receivers to toss the rock to, in Hakeem "The Dream" Nicks and Victor Cruz.

    It won't be an easy task for the Washington secondary to shut these two guys down. The key will be getting pressure up front and not allowing Manning time to pick them apart.

    Easier said than done.

    But the Redskins' defense is getting better, and the Giants only scored 17 points versus Dallas and Philly. However, they averaged 39 points against Tampa Bay, Carolina and Cleveland.

    The Giants defensive front hasn't been as impressive this season. They only have eight sacks and just haven't been able to pressure the quarterback. That won't last long with players like Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck manning the front.

    With the physical 49ers on tap for the Giants in Week 6, the Redskins should still be able to catch them on the down slope.

    Alfred Morris will put up a career-high 126 yards on the ground against this run defense that has allowed 120.2 per game to this point. The Giants' pass defense hasn't fared much better, and the Shanahans should be able to put together a very balanced attack.

    Nonetheless, this game will be a nail-biter.

    Rollin's Prediction: WAS 33, NYG 31

Week 8: Washington Redskins at Pittsburgh Steelers

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    When: Oct 28 at 1 p.m. EST

    Where: Heinz Field

    TV Broadcast: FOX 

    Who are these Pittsburgh Steelers anyway?

    Their defensive numbers are impressive enough to rank second in the NFL. They've only allowed 95 yards per game on the ground and 200.8 in the air. But they allowed Denver, Oakland and Tennessee 31, 34 and 26 points, respectively, in their losses.

    This is a tough defense, but it's still not up to par with past Pittsburgh teams.

    The lure of Ben Roethlisberger isn't quite as scary as it used to be, either. But he does have two great weapons at wide receiver with Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace. The Redskins won't have an easy time with any team that has two high-caliber receivers.

    Again, Jim Haslett will have to be creative in finding a way to get behind the offensive line and disrupt Big Ben.

    Despite the numbers Denver and Oakland managed to put up, it will be a tougher day for RGIII and the Redskins. Pittsburgh didn't have James Harrison in those games.

    Kyle Shanahan, please don't call the triple option.

    Griffin will have to get the ball out fast. Too much dancing will leave him splattered on the turf. Morris needs to be at the top of his game, picking up blitzes and churning out a good portion of the Redskins' offense on the ground.

    This game won't be pretty. We may see what new kicker Kai Forbath has to offer.

    For the record, why is it so hard to find a guy that can kick a ball through uprights? I'm just sayin'.

    Rollin's Prediction: WAS 19, PIT 17

Week 9: Washington Redskins vs. Carolina Panthers

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    When: Nov. 4 at 1 p.m. EST

    Where: FedEx Field

    TV Broadcast: FOX 

    Robert Griffin III versus Cam Newton—that might get some attention. 

    Oh, Cam. Last year's star rookie has hit a sophomore slump. While Newton has put up 1,154 yards in the air, he only has four touchdowns to go with five interceptions.

    He's had his shining moments, but they just haven't come with the frequency of last season. And despite all the hype from putting up 400 yards in his first two NFL games, he's only had two 300-yard games since.

    Despite what I consider to be over-hype, Cam Newton is still a weapon. The defense should be worried. Forcing him to stay in the pocket is a step in the right direction, though. He makes fewer mistakes with his legs than his arm—though his late fumble did cost them the Atlanta game.

    Washington should be able to take advantage of their defense. Carolina is allowing 127.4 yards rushing per game, and that's right down the Redskins' alley. Alfred Morris will be the workhorse in this one, which will also help keep the Panthers' top weapon off the field.

    Robert Griffin III will have to work with caution. Carolina may not have a top pass defense as far as yardage is concerned, but they have five interceptions on the season—two from linebackers, two from safeties and one from cornerback Captain Munnerlyn.

    If the Redskins' receiving corps is healthy, they have a lot more weapons than the Panthers. I'm not so sure this will be the shootout most people will be hoping for, though.

    Rollin's Prediction: WAS 31, CAR 24

Week 11: Washington Redskins vs. Philadelphia Eagles

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    When: Nov. 18 at 1 p.m. EST

    Where: FedEx Field

    TV Broadcast: FOX 

    If my predictions are correct, Philadelphia will be rolling into D.C. during a four-game winning streak by the Redskins. That's hard to believe, isn't it?

    That streak just might come to an end with the Eagles in town. The Redskins are 1-5 against them since 2009. Remember Michael Vick's six-touchdown game in 2010?

    Of course you do. What a silly question.

    It just hasn't been easy for the Redskins to contain Vick or LeSean McCoy. I'd venture to say McCoy has caused even more trouble than Vick. The Redskins must hone in on stopping McCoy.

    From there, it's the same strategy as going up against Cam Newton. Keep him in the pocket and allow him to make his mistakes. Vick has turned the ball over nine times in five games.

    The key for Washington will be to jump on the Philly defense early, even if they have to use some trickery to get it done. Vick and the Eagles have been much more effective in the fourth quarter, so a close game is to their advantage.

    I have a feeling Vick versus Griffin will make for some top headlines, too. But it will be less exciting offensively than the last game.

    Rollin's Prediction: PHI 22, WAS 17

Week 12: Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys

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    When: Nov. 22 at 4:15 p.m. EST

    Where: Cowboys Stadium

    TV Broadcast: FOX 

    Vick isn't the only East quarterback that's turnover happy in 2012. Tony Romo has given up the ball 10 times in just four games. The Cowboys' passing offense is good enough to rank fourth in the NFL in yardage, but those turnovers helped produce their current 2-2 record.

    This game is over a month away, though. Romo will get out of his slump and the Cowboys will start rolling again—until they have their late-season crumble.

    The Redskins will be facing their biggest rival in Jerry Land. They are also 1-5 against the Cowboys since 2009.

    To make things worse, the Dallas defense was awful in Rob Ryan's first year as the defensive coordinator. He's turned it around this year, though. The Cowboys are the top-ranked defense in the NFL.

    Robert Griffin III will not have a pleasant day against this defense. Dallas is only giving up 169.5 yards per game through the air. However, linebacker Sean Lee is the only Cowboy with an interception.

    Dallas does give up 108 yards per game on the ground, though. As usual, expect a heavy dose of Morris in this one.

    This won't be the Redskins' game, though. I think they'll hit Dallas on a roll, and the defense will have a hard time shutting down Romo and Dez Bryant.

    Rollin's Prediction: DAL 38, WAS 27

Week 13: Washington Redskins vs. New York Giants

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    When: Dec. 3 at 8:30 p.m. EST

    Where: FedEx Field

    TV Broadcast: ESPN 

    Can the Redskins get back to their winning ways, after a two-game losing streak against divisional opponents?

    According to my previous prediction, that would mean a sweep of the Giants. Sorry Redskin fans, that just isn't happening.

    Eli Manning will just have one of those days where he is ugly in the first quarter and then turns it on in the last three. It'll be one of those performances only Eli is capable of, where the football gods shine down on him and even mistakes turn into big plays.

    There's just nothing you can do about it.

    By now, the Giants have gotten things going on the defensive end, too. Their sack totals will continue to go up and RGIII will learn what it truly means to be a quarterback in the East.

    Rollin's Prediction: NYG 39, WAS 24

Week 14: Washington Redskins vs. Baltimore Ravens

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    When: Dec. 9 at 1 p.m. EST

    Where: FedEx Field

    TV Broadcast: CBS 

    The Redskins will be riding a three-game losing streak as they go up against their cross-town rivals. The Ravens will be sitting at the top of the AFC North with a 9-3 record, but they will be on a two-game losing streak after facing the Steelers and the Chargers.

    The Ravens defense, to this point, isn't quite as scary as it used to be. However, Terrell Suggs may be back by this game. That could really turn this team around, though it's hard to have faith in someone that partially tore his Achilles tendon.

    The Ravens' offense can be potent with the arm of Joe Flacco, the legs of Ray Rice, the speed of Torrey Smith and the toughness of Anquan Boldin. But it can be shut down.

    The Redskins will hold Ray Rice under 100 total yards, which is a big step in the right direction. They will also be able to pressure, as Rob Jackson and Chris Wilson have more experience under their belt filling in for Brian Orakpo.

    Constant pressure forces Joe Flacco to make bad mistakes, and those mistakes will come back to haunt him. This game won't be about Robert Griffin and the offense, it will be about the play of the Redskins' front seven.

    Rollin's Prediction: WAS 20, BAL 16

Week 15: Washington Redskins at Cleveland Browns

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    When: Dec. 16 at 1 p.m. EST

    Where: Cleveland Browns Stadium

    TV Broadcast: FOX 

    Don't overlook Brandon Weeden and the Cleveland Browns. They may be 0-5 at the time of this article, but they are a somewhat competitive team.

    Weeden has had some issues with interceptions, though. He has nine through the first five games and was only error-free against Cincinnati. Despite that, Weeden has put up 1,288 yards so far.

    Their offense will continue to improve, and this will be a much better team when the Redskins roll into Cleveland. They won't be good enough, though.

    The Redskins get back on an offensive roll, starting with this game against the Browns.

    Morris will tear up the turf for 153 yards rushing and receiving, while Robert Griffin III has his finest day through the air with 394 yards. It will be all about Pierre Garcon and Fred Davis in the passing game, combining for 212 of those passing yards and three touchdowns.

    The Browns get hit hard from the jump, never having much of a chance to make it a game.

    Rollin's Prediction: WAS 37, CLE 19

Week 16: Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles

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    When: Dec. 23 at 1 p.m. EST

    Where: Lincoln Financial Field

    TV Broadcast: FOX 

    It's Round 2 of Philly versus Washington, and the division is getting tight. The Redskins will have to win this one to still have a shot at the playoffs.

    Yes, I said playoffs.

    I have Washington at 8-6 at this point in the season. That may shock many, but it shouldn't be hard to fathom, considering their three losses were by an average of 5.7 points. It's not like they're getting blown away.

    With the offense coming off a 39-point game, they do a little better job on the Eagles this time.

    The Redskins will take advantage of two interceptions and a fumble by Michael Vick, allowing them to put points on the board early and fast. By the time Vick starts clicking again, it's too late for the Eagles.

    Rollin's Prediction: WAS 36, PHI 22

Week 17: Washington Redskins vs. Dallas Cowboys

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    When: Dec. 30 at 1 p.m. EST

    Where: FedEx Field

    TV Broadcast: FOX 

    Now it's do-or-die time for the Washington Redskins. They will have a chance to take the division, but it will have to come against their biggest rivals in the Dallas Cowboys.

    The Redskins will be up to the task.

    Though the offense has been rolling for the Redskins, the defense has played a big part in that with pressure and turnovers—not to mention a stout run defense. The ball continues to roll on both sides for Washington.

    The offense will put up 453 yards and the defense will hold Dallas to 326. Brandon Banks will also add to the pounding with a 98-yard return for a touchdown.

    After all the games that have been lost over the past two years at FedEx field, the fans will finally be able to rejoice and Mike Shanahan will no longer be a marked man in Washington.

    The feeling won't last, as they will lose the first game of the playoffs. It won't be the Giants' story from last season. But they will prove this team is on its way up, and will be one to fear for years to come.

    Rollin's Prediction: WAS 41, DAL 26

    Redskins Record: 10-6