Redskins at 49ers
Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
Let’s take a look at the pros, cons, and X factors for the Washington Redskins as they take on the San Francisco 29ers on Sunday and then I’ll give my prediction.
Here are two factors that work against a Redskins win:
—If a heavy road underdog wants to pull off the upset it almost has to win the turnover battle. There is little indication that the Redskins will be able to do that. Washington has a net turnover rate of minus-11 (21 giveaways, eight takeaways). The 49ers are at plus-10 (11 giveaways, 21 takeaways). There is an element of luck in turnovers so it could always turn around in a given game. But the chances are strong that the Redskins will wind up giving it away more than they take it away and that will make a steep hill to climb even tougher to navigate.
—Despite losing some key players, the 49ers defense has remained strong. They are in the top 10 statistically in almost every major defensive category including points per game (10th), yards per play (4th), rushing yards per game (6th), and passing yards per game (4th). It’s not an ideal week for an offense that mustered just seven points at home against a terrible Tampa Bay defense to be facing this unit.
Here are two factors in favor of a Redskins win:
—Despite the fact that they have a tough defense, one thing they have not done well is sack the quarterback. They have just 17 sacks, 25th in the NFL. Certainly the return of Aldon Smith to the lineup will help them; he had one QB hit and six hurries last week in his season debut after returning from a nine-game suspension. But if they can handle him, Robert Griffin III could have some time to throw.
—And if Griffin has time to throw he should have time to find DeSean Jackson deep. The Redskins could struggle offensively for long stretches but they have the ability to go the length of the field in one play and get back into the game.
And two X factors:
—I don’t think that the media storm this week will have much of an effect on Griffin’s play but I think Jay Gruden’s pointed public criticism will. It could either inspire him and push him to a solid performance or have him pressing so hard that he can’t do anything right. Or there could be some elements of both.
—The 49ers have been anything but a consistent team. They lost to the Bears and Rams at home. Last week at New York they had to scrape out a 16-10 win over the Giants despite picking off Eli Manning five times. They appear to be one of those teams that plays down to the competition. And after the Redskins game they play the Seahawks four days later, on Thanksgiving. Perhaps Washington will catch the Niners looking ahead.
So what will happen?
If we get a reasonably good version of Griffin, like the one we saw in Minnesota, this one could be competitive. The 49ers have won only one game by more than five points since the season opener so they are not a team that blows others out.
It’s still very difficult to see the Redskins winning. But it also was hard to see them winning in Dallas. That doesn’t mean I’m picking the upset. I think it will be an ugly game that the Redskins are in until the fairly late going.
49ers 16, Redskins 13
(record this year 5-5)