A week ago, Washington pushed the high-scoring Falcons to overtime but ultimately allowed a huge opportunity to slip.
This week, the Redskins (2-3) are simply looking to stay relevant.
If Kirk Cousins and an injury-depleted roster can beat the upstart Jets (3-1), get to .500 (with a home game against the Buccaneers looming), there will be hope, optimism even, that something can still come from this season. A defeat, however, would drop their record to 2-4 and, well, hope would begin to turn into doubt.
So, yeah, Sunday’s game in the Meadowlands is big. Really big.
Here are Tarik’s five areas/matchups to monitor:
*All NFL teams battle injuries. But what the Redskins are facing this week borders on ludicrous. Ruled out are: three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams (concussion), starting center Kory Lichtensteiger (shoulder/finger), cornerbacks Chris Culliver (knee) and DeAngelo Hall (toe) and tight end Jordan Reed (concussion). Listed as questionable are running back Matt Jones (toe) and wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Coach Jay Gruden did not sound overly optimistic about Jones or Jackson. “I told [the team] today, ‘We’ve got a heck of a team not playing. But we have got a heck of a team playing.’ …We have a job we’ve got to do and we’ve got to do it with the able bodies that we have playing.”
*The Redskins’ offensive line produced solid performances against formidable Detroit and St. Louis defensive fronts. And it will be tested again at MetLife Stadium by Sheldon Richardson, who is returning from a four-game suspension, Leonard Williams, who was selected one spot behind Brandon Scherff in this year's draft, and Muhammad Wilkerson, who has a team-high 3.5 sacks. Adding to the level of difficult are the O-line injuries. Ty Nsekhe (10 career snaps) will start for Williams and Josh LeRibeus will start for Lichtensteiger. In fact, only Scherff and second-year tackle Morgan Moses remain from the group that started Week 1.
*The Redskins must take care of the football against the Jets’ talented defense. Not only has New York allowed the second-fewest yards per game (280.3) and the fewest points (13.8), the unit is tied for second in takeaways with 13 (6 interceptions and 7 recovered fumbles). The Redskins’ offense, meantime, is tied for the third most giveaways (6 interceptions, 3 lost fumbles).
*Staying along those lines, the Redskins are tied for sixth worst turnover differential (minus-3). And a big reason for that deficit is Cousins' six interceptions. Say what you want about who is to blame for the individual picks—every one of them has its own set of variables—but it’s concerning when the starting quarterback has thrown a pair of picks in each of the team’s three losses. Meantime, three of the Jets’ four starters in the secondary have at least one interception; four-time All-Pro Darrelle Revis has two. And it’s probably safe to assume that Cousins will be under more pressure due to the inexperience up front combined with the Jets’ formidable defensive front.
*Can the Redskins get the running game going again? After averaging 171 yards on the ground the first two games, it’s been hit or miss. More miss, really. In fact, Alfred Morris, Jones and Co. were held to a season-low 51 yards (2.1 yards per carry) last week in Atlanta. Is it the line? Do the backs share some of the blame? Is it what the opponent has been doing? Some combination of the three? Whatever it is, the Redskins need to run the ball, run it well and run it often on Sunday to have a shot. The Jets, by the way, have the eighth best run defense in the league (94.8 yards per game and 3.8 per carry).
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