What I'm looking for today as the New England Patriots host the Washington Redskins at Gillette Stadium:
1) The Redskins secondary is beat up. D'Angelo Hall is not likely to play. Their best corner, Bashaud Breeland, has a bad hamstring and will try to gut it out (although he first may need to convince trainers he can go). Another corner, Chris Culliver, has a sore knee and is in the same predicament as Breeland. Couple that with a pair of safeties in Dashon Goldson and Trenton Robinson who haven't been average this season, and it's easy to see Tom Brady doing what he's done every week: Going for 300 yards, if that's the route the Pats choose.
2) Of course the Pats could attack the Redskins between the tackles as well, with injuries playing a role there. Terrance "Pot Roast" Knighton didn't make the trip to Foxboro. He's dealing with something called cluster headaches, which are debillitating. Knighton hasn't been playing great football this year. He's been merely average. But he's the 'Skins starting nose tackle and his absence could force Jason Hatcher to a more prominent role over rookie center David Andrews. Hatcher is better suited as a defensive end either over the tackle or shaded betwen the tackle/guard gap. He might get lost on the interior. So that could entice the Pats to finally unleash LeGarrette Blount, though I'm still of the opinion that every game should be a Dion Lewis game until he proves otherwise.
3) There's also the matter of the Pats' offensive line. I expect Andrews to remain at center despite the activation of last year's man in the middle, Bryan Stork. Stork got work at guard this week in practice and it seems a smart decision to let him stay there for now, especially with Tre' Jackson out this week and Shaq Mason also recovering from a knee injury that's kept him sidelined the last two games. This is an area the Pats can ill-afford any more injuries, having placed Ryan Wendell on season-ending IR yesterday (where he joins starting left tackle Nate Solder). The third tackle would seem to be TE Michael Williams, who played tackle with Detroit before being dealt to New England.
4) If you're buying on Chandler Jones and his breakout performance this year, his matchup with Redskins left tackle Trent Williams is one to watch. Williams is a top-3 left tackle in my book, and elite as a pass blocker.
5) Little bit different of a test for the Pats secondary. DeSean Jackson is expected to play, and he is a straight burner with a big-play resume. To me, he's the guy I keep a body over the top of, and take my chances being physical with the other wideout, Pierre Garcon. The Redskins' best threat in the passing game is tight end Jordan Reed, at least when he's healthy. He is for this game, but he's been brittle. If the Pats are without LB Jamie Collins, who showed up as questionable on the injury report with illness yesterday, Matt Patricia's defense loses someone who could give Reed a different look, with the size and speed to run with Reed. Pat Chung, who's played his best football as a Patriot in the last month, surrenders 3 inches and 25 pounds to Reed.
6) Lastly, I love Ryan Kerrigan, the Redskins hybrid LB/DE. He got off to a fast start this year but has been quieter in recent weeks, and then broke his hand versus the Buccaneers two weeks ago and couldn't finish the game. One of the things that makes Kerrigan so impressive is how well he uses his hands both as a pass rusher and in the run game, disengaging from blockers. If he's casted up, or wrapped up, as you would expect him to be, I would think that would be a big deterrent on Kerrigan reaching the levels he's capable of reaching.