The latest NFC East/AFC East matchup finds The Washington Redskins traveling to the surprisingly dangerous Buffalo Bills. Both teams have been the laughingstock of their divisions for years, and after a few games both teams seemed to be contenders at least in their own divisions.
The Redskins have since proved their critics right who claimed they couldn’t they compete with Rex Grossman or John Beck leading the offense, along with losing several key players to injury, especially on the offensive side of the ball. They come into this game at 3-3 and still have a chance at the postseason, but they are without a doubt the more desperate team this week.
The Bills meanwhile have not cooled off quite as much as the Redskins with a 4-2 record that includes no home losses. They are also the only team so far to beat the New England Patriots, a team they had not beaten in 15 games before this year. With Ryan Fitzpatrick continuing the solid play he showed off last year, and the defense making a few game-changing plays (though far from elite), the Redskins have to think they’ll have a tough 60 minute fight on their hands.
However, Safety George Wilson may have been right this week when he said that playing in Toronto isn’t really a “home game”; in their three previous regular season games there, they are 0-3. Buffalo has become an increasingly difficult place to play with the resurgence of the Bills, but the Redskins won’t have to worry about that disadvantage.
1) Redskins offense minus Moss and Hightower
The Washington Redskins lost their two highest overall graded offensive players in Santana Moss (+5.8) and Tim Hightower (+4.7) last week, and will have to find a way to cope without them. They’ll look to replace Moss’s productivity with the speedy but inconsistent Anthony Armstrong (-3.3), journeymen Donte Stallworth (-2.7) and Jabar Gaffney (+0.6) along with Terence Austin (+0.2) and rookies Niles Paul (+1.5) and Leonard Hankerson (who’s only target this season was intercepted). This group has combined for just two TDs, but also six drops and a fumble. Someone will have to step up to keep the Redskins in this game
Replacing Hightower will mean that this running back-by-committee will now only be a two-man rotation between Ryan Torain (+0.5), who hasn’t played three full games this season, and rookie Roy Helu (0.0). Torain has forced as many missed tackles as Hightower did (six), but all but one of those came against the helpless Rams defense. They will also miss Hightower’s fantastic pass protection which was perfect with no pressure of any kind given up in 37 blitz pick up situations. The Bills’ defensive unit (-11.3) is vulnerable, despite their ability to convert turnovers into touchdowns, so there will be opportunities for some of these guys to make a difference in the game.
2) Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. John Beck
Ryan Fitzpatrick (+15.7), our 10th highest overall rated quarterback, has nearly played himself into a new contract ever since he took over last season. He has thrown for 1,477 yards, 12 touchdowns and six interceptions through six games, but two of those picks came in their last game against the New York Giants. The Redskins defense has only allowed five passing touchdowns so far this season while intercepting five passes, so this matchup will continue to test Buffalo’s rising star.
Meanwhile, John Beck will be making his second start since 2007. He moved the offense last week and in relief duty in the week five loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. In those games, he’s passed for a touchdown and ran in two more scores, but he’s also proven to be prone to turnovers. In addition to that, in those two games he’s fumbled twice (luckily one was recovered) and thrown one pick. However, he’s had a few other passes that should have been intercepted. He will have to play with better ball security to give his road team a chance in this hostile environment.
3) Fred Jackson vs. the Redskins D
Entering week eight, Fred Jackson remains our top rated running back (+19.9) and is tied for third for most forced missed tackles (24) with Adrian Peterson. The Redskins’ defense’s strength is rushing the passer (+18.7 Pass Rush grade), while their run defense has been its biggest weakness (-8.4). They’ve struggled in particular with the fast and elusive Lesean McCoy, which is good news for Buffalo because Jackson can accelerate and break tackles as well. On several occasions Jackson will likely find himself up against Laron Landry, one of the few Washington players with a solid run defense grade (+1.8) along with a violent reputation. Landry and his teammates’ performance against Buffalo’s other rising star will go a long way in determining the winner of this game.
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