The biggest question facing the Redskins this week is if Robert Griffin will play or not. With him on the field the offense is dramatically different than if they had a standard pocket passer like Kirk Cousins. Cousins did a great job in helping to win the game against the Ravens but he is no RGIII and without the threat of the run the offense is drastically reduced. The zone read option plays that have opened large gains in the passing play and for Alfred Morris as well as RGIII are a stable of the Redskins offense, and those simply won’t be as effective if Griffin doesn’t play. These are also the thoughts the Ravens had in the fourth quarter when Kirk Cousins ran a QB draw on a two-point conversion so even from the bench the threat of RGIII’s running ability is a weapon.
Looking at the Browns record and the Redskins should be favored over them. The Redskins are coming off a win over the best team in the Brown’s division, but did lose earlier in the season to .500 or worse teams in the Rams and Panthers. That was without Garcon who has been the biggest difference maker during the Redskins four game winning streak. Any offense would be different with a number one passing threat on the field as opposed to the sidelines. Garcon’s ability to create yards after the catch will help whichever quarterback is starting for the Redskins.
One bit of good news for the Redskins is that the Browns passing defense is in the bottom half of the league ranking 21st having allowed 242.7 yards a game. The Browns rushing defense is likewise ranked in the bottom half of the league at 18th having allowed 120.5 yards a game. Even if Griffin doesn’t play Morris on his own is a strong runner that isn’t easily brought down and the Redskins should still be able to manage large chunks of yardage on the ground.
The bad news for the Redskins is that while their rushing defense ranks seventh it hasn’t truly been tested because their passing defense ranks 31st. During the four game winning streak there has been more of a bend but don’t break philosophy as the Redskins defense has allowed large chunks of yardage but done a moderately good job of keeping opposing teams out of the end zone. The Browns passing attack is not good on paper, but they earned their 221.4 yards a game and ranking of 20th against secondaries better than the Redskins. As good a rookie as Trent Richardson is the Browns overall rushing attack is nothing to get worked up about having averaged 100.5 yards a game and the 24th ranking in the NFL.
This game looks to come down to if RGIII plays or not. If he does the Redskins should be favored to win and if not it is unexpected as to what the Redskins will get from Kirk Cousins. The Browns are not a good football team, but they are dangerous, especially to a team in the Redskins position that needs to virtually win out to make the playoffs. This is also the game with the most likelihood of being overlooked. The Redskins finish out the season against division rivals the Eagles and Cowboys and if they can get past the Browns those games have a chance of being even bigger. It has been a long time since the Redskins have played meaningful games in December, and while 9-7 may be enough for a Wild Card the Redskins goal should be to finish 10-6. As it stands right now the toughest test is the one in front of them and right now that is the Cleveland Browns.