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Dallas Week: Washington Redskins Keys to the Game vs. Cowboys

December 28, 2012 in Washington Redskins Keys to the Game

By Staff Writer John Manuel:

Its Dallas Week.  Here are my keys to the game for the Redskins to beat the Cowboys in the Sunday Night Showdown at FedEx for the NFC East crown.

1 – I will get right into it with first and foremost we need to look at the opponent.  The Dallas Cowboys are an 8-7 football team not a 10-5 or even 9-6.  They are what their record is.  And honestly if Antonio Brown could have protected the football on a punt return this game could have been meaningless for them.  I do think they can be explosive and play like they did week one versus New York but that was week one, not seventeen.

Although the Redskins have not had any games of this magnitude in years, Dallas has had a few and when they have they failed.  The Cowboys have been up and down all season, eking out wins the past two months usually having to come from behind late in games.  The Redskins did the same versus Baltimore but took care of business against teams like Cleveland, in Dallas, New York and last week in Philadelphia over this six game win streak.  Yes, the games ended close but except versus Baltimore, Washington had the lead in all those games down the stretch of the fourth quarter.

2- I could almost copy the same thing I had on the quarterbacks before the Thanksgiving game in Dallas.  Tony Romo did have a big statistical game that day almost all in the second half after the Cowboys fell way behind.  The knock on Romo has been that he can't win these types of games and now to do it on the road gives me confidence he won't be able again.  Before the season I thought Dallas could be a disaster waiting to happen and that Romo could be the fall guy by seasons end.  I will admit that Romo has played very well but let’s see what he does Sunday night.

On the other hand we as Skins fans have full confidence that Robert Griffin III will show up and do what he has done all season.  Yes, the knee will have an effect but all Griffin does is move the ball, don't turn it over and put up 100+ passer rating performances.  And oh yeah, be a true leader as a rookie.  A captain.  That is what he does.

3- Everyone's main concern this week is dealing with Dez Bryant.  And by having to deal with Dez Bryant does that open it up for Jason Witten and Miles Austin.  Bryant last week was as good as anyone other than Calvin Johnson and clearly the weakness of the Redskins is in their secondary.  But will Dez Bryant show up?  Does Dallas add 2 or 3 more chaperones this week to make sure?  I still think that the Cowboys need to watch over a 24 year old is a joke by the way.  Though every time Dez Bryant looks to be on the right path, he does something stupid.  As for on the field, I do think he will be tough to handle.

The return of DeMarco Murray also will be a factor in the Washington defense being able to slow down the Dallas offense and force turnovers.  Washington's bend but don't break approach has worked in recent weeks but it has worked because of causing timely turnovers.  Ryan Kerrigan has to do what he did last week.  Rob Jackson has to get back to level of play versus the Ravens as well to help the struggling secondary face the likes of Bryant, Austin and Witten.

4- The first game showed a head to head coaching advantage for the Redskins.  This must happen again.  Mike Shanahan has obviously been in more big games than Jason Garrett and Shanny needs to win the coaching battle.

Can Shanahan win the coaching battle Sunday night?

Can Shanahan win the coaching battle Sunday night?

The obvious battle between the coaches will pit Kyle Shanahan and his offense against Rob Ryan and his defense.  Shanahan worked Ryan in Dallas on Thanksgiving and I would expect no change this week.  Rob Ryan like all the Ryans', is a clown.  Kyle has had his ups and downs but right now has it going and going good.  Ryan will not be helped by Demarcus Ware being far from 100% but Ware is tough and even at 70-80% will give Pro Bowler Trent Williams a handful like always.

On the other side it was turning into a long season for Jim Haslett until the win streak occurred.  His defense is still giving up yards but just holding opponents points down enough to win.  Just holding them down this week may not work so he will need to find holes in a suspect Dallas offensive line.

5- Maybe the most famous Redskins/Cowboys game for Washington fans is 1982 NFC Championship Game.  The game will be mostly remembered for Darryl Grant's touchdown and Dexter Manley knocking out Danny White but what can't be forgotten is how the Redskins were able to run the ball down Dallas' throat with John Riggins all day.  Washington must do the same Sunday night with Alfred Morris.

Morris has proven all season to be this team's Diesel.  And although I doubt Alfred Morris needs any motivation losing out on a Pro Bowl nod to Frank Gore makes for adding motivation.  I expect Griffin to be more of a run threat Sunday night which will open it up more for Morris as well as the receiving core.  Dallas has been torched like the Redskins many times this season so matching big plays with Dallas will be a key as well.  But I would love to see the 2012 Cowboys get pounded into the FedEx turf like 1982 Cowboys were at RFK.  Here is a link to that game.

As for what will happen.  It is crazy to say that we finally have a huge game at FedEx Field after so long.  It is actually embarrassing after the success the team had for many years under Gibbs' first coaching run.  But I have confidence in my quarterback and I have confidence in our leaders like London Fletcher.

Over the past six weeks these guys have yet to fail us on the field and I don't see it happening Sunday night.  I see a win and a division title but not as high scoring as Thanksgiving and more like the Giants Monday night game.  Redskins 23  Dallas 17




Preview & Keys to the Game for Redskins vs. the Eagles

December 21, 2012 in Washington Redskins Keys to the Game

By Staff Writer John Manuel:

Previewing the Redskins @ the Eagles this Sunday with keys to the game and what to watch for.

1 – First Meeting vs. This Game:

Based on the first meeting between the Redskins and Eagles, as well as the Eagles losses at home versus the Bengals and Panthers, I would normally not be that concerned with this game.  The only thing that concerns me is that this will be Andy Reid's final home game as coach of the Eagles.

How will his players react?  I would hope they would show respect and come to play if I was an Eagles fan.  A lot of the Reid mainstays like Michael Vick are either gone or injured, but you have to think Reid is popular still with most of his players and they don't want to send him off with another embarrassing loss.

The Eagles fans have given up on the team and Reid, but could step up this week and give them a home field advantage they haven't had in over a month.  I have been in Philly a lot lately though and listened to WIP and not so sure that will happen.

2- Leadership:

I think last week’s game showed major strides for this team coached by Mike Shanahan.  Even though it was against an opponent that was overall not that good, it was still the kind of game the Redskins teams of the recent past would have no problem dropping.  The Redskins coming back in Cleveland from some early issues to dominate the second half reassured me that this team is not the same we saw in October.

I think the coaching staff deserves a lot credit as do the veteran team leaders like London Fletcher for the fast turnaround.  Fletcher in the end may not rank up there with former Skins like Green, Jurgenson, Riggins, and Monk, but what he meant the past five years to a franchise with little success until now should put him in the conversation.

3- Defense & Adjustments:

I have made it to #3 and have yet to mention Robert Griffin or Kirk Cousins.  I think I have one more important point before I get to them.  The offense has been there all season with the ability to run the ball and turn that into big plays in the passing game.

The defense has not been there all season.  I find it very weird that the defense led by Jim Haslett has quickly transformed from playing two bad halves down to one bad half which has allowed the Redskins to win games in the second half.

A lot was made in the glory days of Joe Gibbs and his staff's ability to access what was going on in the game and make adjustments at the half.  We are seeing that once again.  Add to that the ability to force turnovers in key points in the game and we now have a defense we can have some confidence in.

4- Griffin's Return:

As for who is behind center Sunday I expect it to be Robert Griffin III.  Griffin looks to be on his way to returning to action of missing last week.  If he is cleared to play I completely agree if the team decides for him to be out there.

Kirk Cousins was great last week but RG3 is the one who needs to be out there in another must win.  Griffin had a solid effort on the field in the first meeting and a spectacular one in the stat book.  I would expect him and the offense to be able to move the ball on the Eagles Defense.

Injuries to both Will Montgomery and Tyler Polumbus up front worry me even though both should be able to go.  Jordan Black is suspended and is a major blow if Polumbus can't go.  The Eagles even without Jason Babin have guys who can get to the quarterback and that should be the Redskins biggest concern Sunday.

5- Prediction:

Sunday's game could go down as a battle with the worst collection of safeties on one field in NFL history.  Both teams have been marred by horrible play at safety all season and it could be a main factor.

Nick Foles was unimpressive a few weeks back at FedEx but I have to believe he will be better this time around.  Although I feel he is way overrated as a wide receiver not having DeSean Jackson will help the Skins.  I still have bad memories of him flying by Dirty 30 on the first play of that Monday night game after Dirty did his share of talking pregame.  Unlike my buddy Kingston, who still is mad that Laron Landry is gone and even though our secondary has struggled, I still agree with the decision to let him walk.

As for the game.  The Philadelphia Eagles should be up for Andy Reid's final home game but I think this is a different Washington team than year's past.  I am confident that the better team will win and that the Redskins can not only move the ball as normal, but also force Foles and company into turnovers just like the Bengals did last week.  I see this game as a Redskins victory, 30-17.



Redskins Keys to the Game vs. Cleveland Browns

December 13, 2012 in Washington Redskins Keys to the Game

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By Staff Writer John Manuel:

Here are the five biggest factors for the Redskins to defeat the Cleveland Browns this Sunday:

1.  First question is obvious, what should be the determination on if Robert Griffin III plays Sunday.

Monday I would have given little chance that he would be out there by then came practice on Wednesday and that Griffin was doing much better.  Right now no one is going to say any percentage chance he is at until Friday's injury report.  And I am fine with that move by Shanahan.

That being said, my guess is that the doctors will OK him to play and the Griffin will want to play.  It's going to come down to Mike Shanahan's call after he weighs the chances to win with Kirk Cousins versus the potential long term injury risk.  These are the big decisions that Shanahan is paid megabucks by Dan Snyder for.  I don't think anyone knows the answer yet.

2. If Griffin goes it most likely means he will be able to do what we have seen all season.

Big Ben would be out there Sunday in the same situation but his playing style would allow it.  If Griffin goes he will slash the Browns Defense like he has all defenses.  It will continue the Skins ability to run the ball down the throats of the Browns even though they have a solid front as of late with Phil Taylor back.

The Browns have been playing better but it’s very low impressive wins versus teams like the Chiefs and Raiders.  I am convinced at this point that an 80% Griffin can move the ball against any NFL defense.

3. If Kirk Cousins is under center it is a big change.

Who will play this Sunday in Cleveland...Griffin or Cousins?

Who will play this Sunday in Cleveland…Griffin or Cousins?

I do think the Redskins can win this game with Cousins, although we have seen very little.  I think the coaching staff and Rex Grossman will have Cousins ready to play.  Cousins having Pierre Garcon out there will be a huge assist as well.  I have been amazed with the offensive game plans this season and especially most recently.  So I would expect the same if they have to prepare for a Cousins start.

The big difference could be protecting the football.  Griffin has been Brady-like all season throwing only four picks.  Cousins threw two in short work versus Atlanta so that would be the team’s biggest concern going with Cousins.

4. The Cleveland Browns offense is very young even though the quarterback is almost 30.

Sounds weird but it is what it is.  Brandon Weeden has played better than most expected and recently has found a big play connection with fellow rookie Josh Gordon.  Gordon has to be licking his chops to get against the Washington secondary like any wideout in the NFL, CFL, BCS, High School, or college intermurals.

For the defense it has to start up front stopping another rookie in Trent Richardson.  Richardson has been solid this season and is due for a monster game.  Both Rice and Pierce ran at 6 yard clips last week which is scary since the run defense has been decent.  Although that could be misleading since any good passing team should just pick the Skins apart and put the running game on the back burner.

Richardson scares me a lot more than Weeden in this game.  I can't see Weeden picking the Skins D apart as easily as Flacco, Manning and Romo did for a half of each game.

5. I am going to add this until they do something about it.  The Redskins must add a kickoff specialist this week.

I know roster spots are valuable but one long kickoff return can cost them any of these three final games.  Josh Cribbs or Travis Benjamin can easily burn us bad this week.  The Brandon Banks roster is useless now with Richard Crawford returning punts.  Make the move now.

I would even take Billy Cundiff back for kickoffs only at this point.  Cobra Kai Forbath is money on field goals but the Skins can't risk a big return even if their coverage teams are solid.  Goodell is giving teams a touchback with the 35 yard line rule so we need to take it.

As for my predictions.  Plural, because RG3 playing or not may be bigger than the game prediction itself.  I think Griffin goes Sunday and leads them to another win but it will be tough.  I'm thinking 20-17 win for this game.



Battle of the Beltway: Redskins Keys to the Game vs. Ravens

December 7, 2012 in Washington Redskins Keys to the Game

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By Staff Writer John Manuel:

1. Offensive System & Play Calling:

I think the one major advantage right now the Redskins have is with how their offensive system and play calling has been working compared to the Ravens.  The Redskins have constantly been able to run the ball to set up big plays in play-action.  I can see Washington continue to have success this week in the run game versus Baltimore going forward much like Monday versus the Giants.

With the Ravens you have not had that consistency with their offense led by Joe Flacco, and moving the ball on the road has been a major problem.   The Redskins need to do what kills the Baltimore fan base, which is to get Cam Cameron to forget that he has Ray Rice in the offensive huddle.  A player like Rice will give the Redskins more trouble than any back they have seen all season even though the Redskins have had success stopping the run.

 2. Pass Defense:

As for the defenses I think it comes down to one major question for each team.  First for the Redskins, they cannot get beat by the deep ball to Torrey Smith.  Flacco is not afraid to try it and the Redskins are a prime target.  Madieu Williams cannot be caught flat footed, side footed, or goofy footed with a threat like Torrey Smith.  And with Cedric Griffin done and DeAngelo Hall in a walking boot the secondary is in very bad shape as is.

As for the Ravens the question is can they be the first team to solve the read option of Robert Griffin III.  And it is going to start by being able to stop the run since the Ravens are also hurting at the corner position.  It will be interesting to see the battle between Griffin andHall of Famer Ed Reed.  RG3 has not faced a play making safety like Reed so far.

3. Turnover Margin:

Both teams have solid positive turnover margins coming into the game so I expect this to be a major factor.  The Redskins actually won a game versus the Giants where they lost the turnover battle Monday night.  They will not want to chance that again versus Baltimore.  Griffin protects the ball better than Flacco, which is surprising for a rookie versus someone who has played in many playoff games in his career.

As I say every week, the Washington defense has to force pressure on Flacco but I don't see that happening being that they are not facing a shaky line like Dallas or Philly.  The Skins got a huge sack from Rob Jackson versus the Giants but that was about it.  It’s time for Ryan Kerrigan to step up in one-on-one situations.

Griffin got lucky last week with his fumble and cannot risk plays like that.  Baltimore is always opportunistic as guys like Reed always find the ball and change games.  Ask Mark Brunell and Clinton Portis.  Reed has already single-handily beaten Washington twice in his career.

4. Home Field Advantage:

The Washington crowd has to continue what it started last week versus the Giants and have a home field advantage.  It is embarrassing that I have to make this point and that it’s not a given like the RFK days, but it is very important.  Baltimore has struggled on the road especially on offense and the crowd must be a factor.  I know that many Ravens fans will make the short trip down to FedEx but the Skins will have an advantage.  The one thing that can eliminate a home crowd is getting behind big early and the Redskins have to get off to a solid start.

5. Game Prediction:

As for the game.  The short series has been won by Baltimore 3 of 4 times with the Redskins only highlight being a Stephen Davis stiff arm to Rod Woodson.  Since the Browns moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens, the more successful organization has easily been Baltimore.  This could easily be summed up by the Redskins former GM for most of that period is now out of the league and doing radio in Baltimore.  All the while the Ravens have Ozzie Newsome.

That being said and hopefully quickly forgotten, these teams are a lot closer than their 9-3 and 6-6 records.  I have a lot more confidence in Robert Griffin III than I would in Joe Flacco.  The Skins defense blows but has been better as of late while the Ravens Defense is better than Washington, it is not the same of years past.  And possibly once again without a monster like Terrell Suggs they are much closer than one would think.

It is hard to see a John Harbaugh coached Ravens team dropping two straight but based on the Ravens road struggles where they cannot put together a solid 4 quarters I have the Redskins winning 24-13.



Redskins Keys to the Game on MNF Against the Giants

December 1, 2012 in Washington Redskins Keys to the Game

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By Staff Writer John Manuel:

Here are the five things Washington Redskins need to do to beat Giants on Monday Night Football:

1. As always with a weak secondary the Redskins will need to get to Eli Manning all night.

This is the team’s most certain area of concern and it was shown by putting a claim in on Jason Babin who is a 4-3 defensive end.  What worries me is that the Redskins the past couple seasons have been fortunate in facing the Giants without or with a banged up Hakeem Nicks.  This game he seems to be back and mostly healthy.  We all know the issues keeping with Victor Cruz so a healthy Nicks will not help.  It is time for Kerrigan to do what we see each week from guys like Aldon Smith and Von Miller for their teams.  Not asking for a 4 sack effort but just to make Eli feel the heat all night and force the Giants into a few holding calls.

2. Pressure on Eli was easy so is this one.  Robert Griffin III has to play like he has the past few weeks and like in New York.

I was very confident the big stage of Thanksgiving in Dallas would not be a worry for RG3 and I am confident neither will his Monday Night Football debut.  I am worried though his offensive line, which has played well as of late could tank versus the Giants defensive front.  Griffin has to be…well Griffin, make plays by giving his receivers more time to get open and also get a few big runs.  Garcon wasn't there in New York remember, so that will be big.  Not only does Griffin need to make plays in the passing game but so does his ball catchers as well.  Griffin's short history shows he will not disappoint in prime time.

3. Another shocker, win the turnover battle.

The Redskins ability to constantly win the turnover battle has probably kept this team from being the Chiefs or Jaguars.  Eli always gives us a few chances and the secondary cannot afford to miss out.  Even Atogwe was able to pick one off last season.  We cannot have any Carlos Rogers-like bobbles and drops.  On the other side fumbles crushed us in New York and they cannot happen Monday.  Mostly sure handed RG3 and Alfred Morris both coughed it up in big situations which ended up to be costly as well the Santana fumble to end the game.  The Giants have to remember this and should be looking to do this again.

4. The offensive line has to hold their own.

Tyler Polumbus will be key in this game, as he will have his hands full with Pierre-Paul, Tuck, Umenyiora and others all night.  We can't see another effort like the one versus Carolina.  The ability to get off the ball and be able to run the ball versus the Giants will be needed.  Washington can't get into a one dimensional passing situation so that the Giants pass rush crew can go to town.  I think the Giants underestimated Griffin's skill set in the first meeting but won't for sure this week.  The offensive line has seemed to come together and has stayed healthy and intact and this will need to continue.

5. I say it everything week and now that we are at Washington's twelfth game it is about time it happens.  Do something Brandon Banks!

Make a play in the return game or can we please try Santana back on punts?  Word is Shanny and Smith have looked into why Banks has been useless on returns and this week would be a good time to break one.  As for the kicking game, everyone has to be thrilled with Kai Forbath especially after the late game kick in Dallas.  I have full confidence in Forbath and the "he is due to miss a big kick" thoughts are slowly evaporating.

I hope Washington is over the home field disadvantage of the past year and now that they have won back to back games finally a third can happen.  The defense is still bad but they play ok enough to keep it close for Griffin to put on a show and the Skins win 31-23.  Homer call but I have a feeling they pull this one.



Washington Redskins Keys to the Game: Atlanta Falcons

October 5, 2012 in NFL

Washington Redskins Keys to the Game:

1. Control the Clock:

-In week one versus the Saints, the Washington Redskins held the ball for nearly 40 minutes, which proved to be the team's best defense versus New Orleans high powered offense. The Redskins need to do the same thing this week if they hope to slow down the Atlanta Falcons and all of their offensive weapons.The best way for them to do that is a repeat of their Saints game plan of running the football. Against New Orleans the Redskins ran the ball over 60% of the time, which ate up the clock. They will need a similar number if they hope to keep Matt Ryan off the field as much as possible.

2. Get Pressure on Matt Ryan:

-Now last week Matt Ryan showed that he is talented enough to succeed even when under heavy pressure, which would make you think he minimizes the effect of the pass rush. The opposite is true though as the only times when Ryan actually look human were when he was under pressure. The Falcons offensive line has struggled this season somewhat to keep guys away from their quarterback. The Redskins pass rush has disappeared at times in games, which is something they can't afford to have happen this time. Ryan Kerrigan has been pretty good getting after the quarterback, but for the most part the rest of the team has been quiet, which needs to change. Stephen Bowen and Chris Wilson especially need to step it up to offer a competent option to Kerrigan.

3. Protect Robert Griffin III-

-The Falcons are going to look to bring some pressure of their own and ensure that Robert Griffin III doesn't feel comfortable back there. When Griffin has time to throw, he's absolutely dangerous back there, but when he faces some pressure he's either forced to scramble or dump the ball off, ending drives. This is what both the Rams and Bengals (especially) were able to do so well, which led to the passing game not being as effective. The Washington Redskins also need to keep minimizing the number of hits that Robert Griffin is taking, to help keep him around for all 16 games.

4. No Special Teams Miscues:

-The Redskins have had major special teams errors in three out of four games this season, and it has cost them. The punting has been better and there hasn't been a blocked put from the Rams game, but this has to be a concern area. In the return game Brandon Banks may not be able to play, though hopefully that will lead to better decision making in returns. Also that should lessen the chance of a fumble on a return, which has been a major issue for Brandon Banks. Sure their cahnces of a big return may have gone down slightly, but that is a small price to pay if it avoids any really poor returns/fumbles. Lastly kicker Billy Cundiff needs a big redemption game. Yes it could be poor weather conditions on Sunday, but the Redskins can't afford to miss out on any points to a team like the Falcons. If he's attempting a field goal he has to connect, if the Redskins have any hope of winning this game.


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