Nov 20, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden looks on from the sidelines against the Green Bay Packers in the third quarter at FedEx Field. The Redskins won 42-24. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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The Washington Redskins are in need of a win coming off of a Thanksgiving loss. Can they get one against the Arizona Cardinals?
The Washington Redskins are about to enter the most important month of their season. Sitting at 6-4-1, they are right in the thick of the playoff race and have the inside edge to get a spot. In order to get closer to clinching a spot, they need to keep winning. That quest will begin in Week 13 against the Cardinals.
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The Cardinals are floundering pretty badly right now. They have severely underperformed in 2016 and check into the game at 4-6-1. They were considered to be a Super Bowl contender coming into the season, and they have not lived up to expectations.
That said, this game is going to be an important one for both sides. Here is an in-depth preview of the Week 13 contest.
Nov 24, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) throws the ball against the Dallas Cowboys during the second half at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Redskins Passing Attack vs. Cardinals Defense
The Redskins are going to have a serious chance to do some damage against the Cardinals secondary. Kirk Cousins has been on fire lately, and the receivers have stepped up as well. DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, and Jamison Crowder have all put up great numbers over the past two games and they should find some success against the Cardinals.
Though the Cardinals have one of the league’s most talented cornerbacks in Patrick Peterson, they do not have much aside from him. Tyrann Mathieu is a solid player at safety and slot corner, but he is just in his second game back from an injury. Adding to the issue is the fact that Peterson is banged up this week.
The No. 2 corner, Marcus Cooper, is not going to be able to hold up without the other two at full strength. Behind him, the team really does not have much depth. They have unproven former draft picks and special teams ace Justin Bethel. They will not be able to hold up against the Redskins receivers.
If Peterson is fully healthy, he will have a chance to shut down the top receiver for the Redskins. In all likelihood, that would be Jackson since Peterson is the only player with enough speed to keep track of him. Even if Jackson is limited, Garcon and Crowder can carry the load with Vernon Davis taking place of Jordan Reed, who may miss the game due to injury. Overall, this area will be a major advantage for the Redskins.
Nov 20, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins running back Robert Kelley (32) carries the ball as Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Mike Daniels (76) defends in the first quarter at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Redskins Rushing Offense vs. Cardinals Defense
The Cardinals have relatively solid run defense, as they rank 11th in the league in that category, but they are better than the numbers indicate. They have only allowed 3.7 yards per carry and have generally been able to bottle up opposing running backs.
On Sunday, the Redskins are likely to have trouble moving the ball with their running game. Robert Kelley is coming off of one of his worst games as a starter against the Dallas Cowboys. The team was unable to get much push against the Dallas Cowboys front line, and they should have similar issues against the Cardinals. Calais Campbell is one of the best 3-4 ends in the league so he could wreak havoc.
At the end of the day, the Redskins would be lucky to get more than 50 yards out of Kelley. He could do it, but I expect the team to focus more on the passing game. They will have more of an advantage in that category, so as long as they keep them honest by running, they will be in fine shape.
Nov 27, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) attempts a pass in the third quarter of their game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons won 38-19. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Cardinals Passing Attack vs. Redskins Defense
It was widely expected that the Cardinals would have a strong passing attack in the 2016 season. Carson Palmer was coming off of a great season, and he was entering the year with a full stable of weapons. Larry Fitzgerald was supposed to be his top option with Michael Floyd and John Brown taking the next step to be top notch options.
However, that has not been the case this year. Brown has dealt with some injury issues pertaining to his sickle cell disease while Floyd has been wildly inconsistent. In addition to those problems, Palmer has had some problems as well. He has not been nearly as accurate this season and he has had problems with turnovers. He has been a major source for the Cardinals struggles, and his regression is why they find themselves under .500.
The Redskins should be able to have a chance to contain the Cardinals. There are some questions about Brown’s durability, and if he cannot play the team should do well to cover the receivers. Josh Norman will absolutely go against Fitzgerald for most of the day, while Bashaud Breeland will likely go against Floyd. That should be enough to get the team by, and Kendall Fuller can help out in coverage as well.
The only concern for the Redskins is the play of their safeties. Donte Whitner has been poor in coverage lately, and the team is going to have to work to give him help against the Cardinals tight ends. Jermaine Gresham could give the team fits if Whitner has issues again.
Nov 27, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) runs for yards in the first quarter of their game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Cardinals Rushing Offense vs. Redskins Defense
There are few running backs in the NFL that have as much talent as David Johnson. The second year back has been absolutely terrific for the Cardinals and he is one of the best dual threats in the league. He has an immense amount of talent running between the tackles, but he is also arguably the best receiving back in the league. There is truly no way to take Johnson out of the game plan.
The Redskins are going to have absolute fits when dealing with the talented back. They had issues last week against Ezekiel Elliott, and their rush defense has been an issue for the entire season. They simply do not have the strength on the defensive line to slow down Johnson, and he could be the single force that keeps the Cardinals in the game.
The only positive for the Redskins is that the Cardinals do not have much behind him. Andre Ellington is a change of pace option who cannot do much and he is the only one that really has talent. Should Johnson tire, the Redskins may be able to slow the Cardinals offense a bit.
Nov 13, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden walks off the field after the game against the Minnesota Vikings at FedEx Field. The Washington Redskins won 26 – 20. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
The Redskins are coming into this game off of a loss to a divisional rival. They have had 10 days to plan for the Cardinals, and they need to win to keep pace in the wild card game. This is a critical game to them as the season winds down.
Conversely, the Cardinals seem to be on the decline. They are simply too old and they do not have the offensive talent to keep pace with the Redskins. They just surrendered 38 points to the Falcons, and the Redskins could put up similar numbers.
At the end of the day, the Redskins seem to have the best chance to win this game. They have the advantage and need the win more. Expect a big day from the offense to carry them to victory.