Oct 30, 2016; London, United Kingdom; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) scrambles during the third quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports
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The Washington Redskins are getting ready to play their first game since Week 8. Here are some bold predictions for the contest.
The Washington Redskins are coming into a week that will be critical to their late season success. They are taking on the Minnesota Vikings in a game that will help further decide the NFC Wild Card race.
The Redskins (4-3-1) are currently sitting in the sixth seed while the Vikings (5-3) are fighting for the NFC North title. If the duo ends up being in contention for wild card berths, this game could end up being a decisive factor in that.
With that in mind, here is a look at some bold predictions for the Sunday matchup.
Oct 23, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay (23) tries to tackle Washington Redskins running back Matt Jones (31) during the first quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
5. Matt Jones Ends Up Being Inactive For The Game
Earlier in the week, Jay Gruden declared that Robert Kelley would likely be the No. 1 back for the Redskins in the Week 10 matchup against the Vikings. As the week has rolled on, more and more bad news has been coming in about Matt Jones. It seems like the former starter could end up being inactive for the game as a healthy scratch.
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Altogether, this could seem like a surprising move. However, Jones had struggled for a couple games prior to hurting his knee and missing Week 8. Now, it seems like the coaching staff does not trust him and his lack of ball security. In a piece from earlier this week, I said this about the Jones situation:
In the preseason, Brown was one of the best running backs in the league. He was an explosive playmaker, and it looked like he would make the final roster. He did not quite make the cut, and lived on the practice squad until being called up Week 8. Since Jones has not lived up to expectations yet, the team could elect to give Brown a chance to get a couple of carries. That way they can see what he offers against an NFL caliber defense. That would leave Jones on the inactive list.
I think that is likely to happen. Simply put, Jones has not shown enough to be on the active roster. Brown has potential, and even if he just gets a couple of carries, Kelley and Chris Thompson can carry the load. That makes Jones expendable, at least for this week.
Oct 2, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed (86) runs with the ball as Cleveland Browns defensive back Briean Boddy-Calhoun (20) chases in the third quarter at FedEx Field. The Redskins won 31-20. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
4. Jordan Reed Leads Redskins In Receiving Yards
Though the Redskins receiving corps was considered to be a strength coming into the second half of the season, they do not have the personnel to effectively matchup with the Vikings secondary. The Vikings just have too many good players on the unit, and the team is going to have trouble finding an open man. Because of this, the Redskins will have to look to their tight ends to produce and that will leave Jordan Reed to be the main producer.
Reed is having a solid season for the Redskins, and he has had a couple of big games. Against the Vikings, he has the advantage as he will be matching up against safeties and linebackers. While Harrison Smith is a great safety, the other players at the positions do not matchup with Reed as well in coverage. Because of this, he could get open often, and be the major target for the Redskins offense.
I do not think that the Redskins will have a huge passing day, more on that later, but I think Reed will have a solid game. He has the ability to transform himself into a matchup nightmare and he should be able to do that against the Vikings. He will not make an impact every play, but he should make a difference in this one for the Redskins offense.
Oct 30, 2016; London, United Kingdom; Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman (24) deflects a pass intended for Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (18) during game 17 of the NFL International Series at Wembley Stadium. The Redskins and Bengals tied 27-27. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
3. Josh Norman Limits Stefon Diggs To 3 Catches
Over the last couple of games, Stefon Diggs has been playing at a very high level for the Vikings. He has been targeted by Sam Bradford a whopping 27 times, and he converted it into 21 catches for 156 yards and a touchdown. He has been the only true weapon in the Vikings receiving corps, and he should be targeted heavily again.
That said, Diggs may not be as effective this week because of his matchup with Josh Norman. Norman has been arguably the best cornerback in the NFL this season, and he should shadow Diggs for the entire game. Because of Norman’s ability to break up passes, Diggs could have trouble getting open. He has some athleticism, but is not all that explosive. That may make it hard for him to beat Norman more than once.
When it is all said and done, it is likely that Norman will have the upper hand in this matchup. He is a savvy veteran while Diggs is facing one of the toughest challenges of his young career. I think that Diggs will be able to make a couple of plays, but do not expect to see him get more than three catches on Sunday afternoon.
Oct 30, 2016; London, United Kingdom; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) during game 17 of the NFL International Series against the Cincinnati Bengals at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
2. Kirk Cousins Throws For Under 200 Yards
The Vikings have a very strong defense, and the Redskins are going to have to figure out a way to beat them in order to win this game. However, I doubt that will be through the air. The Vikings simply matchup with the Redskins too well on offense, and as a result Kirk Cousins could struggle.
Cousins is already going to be without speed threat DeSean Jackson for Sunday’s game, and the other receiving options he has could be shut down as well. Pierre Garcon has a tough matchup while Jamison Crowder will likely be the focus of the Minnesota defense for the game. That said, the Vikings will be without slot cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, so there is an area that the Redskins can attack.
Still, it seems unlike that the Redskins are going to be able to have a major breakthrough. Not only will Cousins have to find openings against a strong secondary, but he will not be able to take his time while throwing. Tackle Morgan Moses is dealing with an ankle issue while Ty Nsekhe is making his first start at left tackle. If the Vikings can pressure Cousins, they will throw him off his game. That would be bad news for the Redskins.
Overall, these factors make it seem like Cousins will have a tough day. I think that he will fail to reach the 200 yard mark, but he may remain mistake free otherwise. His performance in this game will be heavily scrutinized regardless.
Oct 16, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) passes as Washington Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan (91) defends during the second half at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
1. Ryan Kerrigan Records 3 Sacks
This is one of the boldest predictions I have made all year. I have been skeptical of the offensive tackles for both teams coming into this game, but I am particularly skeptical of how the Vikings will deal with Ryan Kerrigan and company. The pass rush unit has done well this season, and they will have a chance to have a big impact in Week 10.
This week, Kerrigan is my choice to have a big game. I was between him and Trent Murphy, but I decided Kerrigan would have the better chance. The Redskins can move Kerrigan to either side in order to take advantage of matchups with the decent right tackle Jeremiah Sirles, or the raw, left tackle T.J. Clemmings. Kerrigan should be able to use his speed and strength to beat both of them and make Bradford uncomfortable.
Bradford also will play a major role in this. He is often statuesque in the pocket, as his various knee injuries have sapped him of some mobility. He may not be able to effectively move away from oncoming rushers and that would stand to benefit Kerrigan.
At the end of the day, Kerrigan getting three sacks would not be surprising at all. He is going to be working hard all day Sunday and that will greatly benefit the Redskins team.