September 21, 2019

Washington Redskins Week 9 Preview: at New England Patriots

The Washington Redskins are coming off a nice long bye week to their toughest road test of the season: the mighty Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots. The Redskins hope to build off of the miracle 31-30 comeback win vs. Tampa Bay two weeks ago, and will be healthier than they have been for most of the season. However, they are running into the juggernaut that is Bill Belichick and the Patriots.

Not much needs to be said about the Patriots that has not been repeated ad nauseam. New England is a dynasty, with four Super Bowl Rings in six appearances in the past 15 seasons. They are the very antithesis of the Redskins during that time, and are now 7-0 for the first time since their historic 16-0 regular season in 2007.

It is hard to dance around the fact that the Patriots are a better team than the Redskins and a huge favorite in this one. QB Tom Brady, TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Julian Edelman and company form the best scoring offense (35 points/game) and the 2nd best passing offense (329 yards/game) in the NFL. New England rarely loses at home, with only 4 losses at Gillette Stadium this decade.

The Redskins are going to have to really dig deep and believe that they belong on the same field as the champs. Washington must establish the running game, which has only produced 135 yards over the past three games, against a stout New England rushing defense that allows less than 100 per game this season. The Pats have not fallen to the Redskins since September of 2003, but could get caught sleeping against a team they should run up the score against. The key for Washington is to dictate the pace and somehow keep the ball out of their opponents’ hands.

Key Matchups

Tom Brady vs. Redskins’ secondary

It is yet to be determined how many of the Redskins’ regular cornerbacks are healthy enough to play, but regardless, they will have their hands full. Bashaud Breeland (hamstring), DeAngelo Hall (toe), and Chris Culliver (knee) have all been hampered by injuries, but have had a bye week to rest them. Hopefully at least one is able to play and help out S DaShon Goldson, S Trenton Robinson, nickel CB Kysheon Jarret, and others against perhaps the most potent passer of all time.

Tom Brady lives to pick apart defenses, and he can do it so many ways with so many weapons. RB Dion Lewis has become a force out of the backfield, Rob Gronkowski is the best TE in the NFL by a wide margin, and Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, and Brandon LaFell have proved to be an effective WR threesome. Brady now has 20 TDs passing to only 1 INT, and is on pace to break Peyton Manning’s single-season passing yards record. It could be a very long day for the back end of the Redskins’ defense Sunday if they do not step up to the challenge.

Rob Gronkowski vs. Redskins LBs/Safeties

Rob Gronkowski is a bona fide monster. He catches everything, he’s impossible to bring down, and he lives to score TDs in the red zone. There is no doubt that Joe Barry had the team prepare strenuously to stop him, but is that enough? ILBs Keenan Robinson, Will Compton, and Perry Riley, Jr., along with safeties DaShon Goldson and Trenton Robinson will be tasked with containing the monster and not allowing him to have open looks in the middle of the field.

The key will be to jump in front of the passing lanes, because once Gronk is able to catch the ball, it takes about three men to take him down. As has been the story in most of New England’s games, when he gets going early he is hard to stop and will shred a defense for 3 TDs in the blink of an eye.

Kirk Cousins vs. Patriots’ Defense

Captain Kirk Cousins has enjoyed his 2 weeks of fame after his dramatic comeback and NFL Player of the Week performance against Tampa Bay. However, the defense he is facing Sunday is a lot more tenacious and effective than that of the Buccaneers. The reason I choose to make this matchup Kirk vs. the entire defense is the fact that he will have to worry about pass rushers like OLB Jamie Collins and DE Chandler Jones, while also thinking about talents in the secondary like CB Malcolm Butler, S Devin McCourty and S Patrick Chung.

For Kirk to be effective, he will have to be accurate, disciplined, and not get overwhelmed by the moment. He has done a good job of keeping his composure at home and leading long drives, but can he do it on the road against a powerful team? Can he come from behind on the road without trying to force too many bad throws? Hopefully his newfound confidence and bye week break will help, along with the return of star WR DeSean Jackson.

Redskins’ “Stud” of the Game

WR DeSean Jackson

Hello again, DeSean! So good to have you back. DeSean, last year’s best big play threat, is finally back after missing the past 6.5 games with a bad hamstring.Jackson demands attention no matter how many games he has missed. He also tends to do well against favorable opponents, with big games last year vs. Philadelphia, Seattle, Arizon, and Dallas. If he can make plays and stretch out the field, keeping the Patriots’ secondary hanging back, the Washington passing offense will be able to move the ball effectively.

Staff Predictions

Seamus Kane: Redskins 10, Patriots 31

The Redskins come out fired up but the Patriots’ offense just wears them down and shows why they are undefeated. The Redskins keep them to under their average point total but just can’t get enough offense going to cover that +14 spread.

Eric Hobeck: Redskins 17, Patriots 35

Redskins play well but just can’t hang with New England yet at this stage of the rebuild. Nothing wrong with that.

Brian Skinnell: Redskins 14, Patriots 34

It’s hard to see a way where the Redskins pull this one out of the hat. The Patriots’ biggest weakness, stopping the run, is also the Redskins’ biggest weakness on offense. If Alfred Morris and Co. can get it going on the ground, then the Redskins can control the clock and keep Tom Brady and that volatile offense on the sidelines. If the Redskins want to win, they need to turn this into a ground-and-pound football game where they rely on the offensive line, which I think has performed well up to this point. But, alas, Tom Brady is Tom Brady, even if he is 38 years old. Even worse, key secondary players may not play for Washington. Patriots win easily.

Dave Nichols: Redskins 13, Patriots 42

A nightmare game. The only hope the Redskins have is if they can control the ground game early and hope — HOPE — Tom Brady makes a mistake to get on the board in the first quarter. Even then, it’ll probably just serve as more motivation for the self-suffering Patriots.

About Seamus Kane

Seamus Kane is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Redskins and Wizards. A native of Silver Spring, MD, Seamus grew up in the area all his life rooting for the Redskins, Nationals, Wizards, Caps, and Terps. He graduated from the University of Maryland in 2014 with a degree in American History and now lives in Washington, DC. His favorite DC sports legend is Hall of Fame cornerback Darrell Green, and his favorite DC sports moment was Ryan Zimmerman's walk-off in the first-ever game at Nationals Park, a game which he attended. You can follow Seamus on Twitter @ShamelessKane

Trackbacks

  1. […] In our preview and prediction post, I wrote that the Redskins’ best chance to beat the Patriots was to make the game a ground-and-pound contest. That, however, is quite the opposite of what transpired Sunday. Washington handed the football off just 15 times for 37 yards while throwing the football 40 times. The offense’s lack of effort to establish a running game proved costly in this as it allowed Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense to return to the field in fairly short order. And Alfred Morris, who is the best running on the team, touched the football just four times. […]

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