First of all, this game is crucial for the Redskins and the Colts. Both teams want to get a little further away from .500, and one team isn’t going to do that (barring a tie). This marks the 4th high-profile quarterback the Redskins have faced this season (and the 5th considering Vick was playing at a high level this season).
The Redskins have defeated 3 playoff teams from last season… two of whom have been favored by many as the only two teams to potentially represent the NFC outside of the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings. Oh but how a weary game of parity is being played out here in the NFL this season, the football Gods once again stirring the pot. Not even the most knowledgeable of oracles could have predicted the first 5 weeks of this crazy season.
In the previous four games, the Redskins have withdrawn the superstars of those teams for either the game, or several weeks after. Andre Johnson’s ankle has been a problem since the Redskins game, Stephen Jackson’s knee has been a problem since the Redskins game, Mike Vick’s ribs have been a problem since the Redskins game, and Aaron Rodgers & Clay Matthews suffered injuries. If this is a trend that will continue, Colts playmakers need to have their heads on a swivel.
Peyton Manning’s Colts have looked very… unlike themselves, so far this season. Having lost to both the Texans and Jaguars, the Colts are 0-2 in their division. McNabb’s Redskins are 2-0 in the NFC East so far this season. The Colts have struggled to beat speed, and Manning’s weapons haven’t played a bit like their 2009-10 ways (except for Reggie Wayne and at times, Dallas Clark).
The Colts struggled last week to defeat a speedy, inexperienced, yet on-fire Kansas City Chiefs who play physical defense. Manning’s crew won’t have a terrible outing like that twice in a row, but the Redskins have become accustom to giving up yards and still finding a way to win games.
If the Redskins want to win, they’ve got to do it the way we always preach… eat up clock. The Redskins have got to run the ball as they did vs. the Eagles (or better) or else it will be a long day. McNabb is good, and the receivers proved they could show up a bit vs. Houston… but unless you’re planning on pulling out all stops like the Saints, the Colts aren’t a team to get into a shootout with.
The emergence of wideout Anthony Armstrong (or Triple A) as a deep threat is starting to keep defenses a bit more honest. The Redskins don’t get the clearance that a Randy Moss would have provided, but they sure will find a few more one-on-one looks for Santana Moss when Armstrong is on the field. The speed the Redskins have on the outside could expose the hole left by Bob Sanders as well as the run game… but I’d still rely a bit more on Torain, Williams, and Simpson in attacking the Colts.
The run game also eliminates abuse on McNabb by Freeney and Mathis and lets Jammal Brown and Trent Williams attack rather than endure a barrage. Playaction against these defenders (especially with McNabb’s accuracy on deep throws) could really be a golden opportunity… not to mention the Colts like to overpursue and tend to leave some space at times (where McNabb on a bootleg could either launch it or take off for a good chunk of yards.
The Redskins could see their redzone numbers increase, especially if Fred Davis gets the opportunities he seems to be requesting.
Defensively, this team needs to attack Manning and try to jam the better receivers to kill the timing between them and Manning. Landry should have a huge day… but Kareem Moore is going to need his big-boy gloves on to try and pull a few passes in.
Special teams? Brandon Banks should be explosive… and the Colts are notorious for letting speedy return-guys cut up their coverage units… so Banks may find the endzone this week.
But Manning is a dagger… and if you toss that dagger and don’t catch the handle or pinch the blade properly… you’re looking at being cut up yourself…