By Rick Brown
The Denver Broncos (5-9) will be traveling to play the Washington Redskins (6-8) for an 1 p.m. EST Christmas Eve matchup. Before the season started, there was some excitement about the Week 16 Redskins-Broncos contest and how it might determine the playoff picture, even though it is interconference play.
Fast forward to December and both the Broncos and the Redskins are playing for pride, as neither team will be appearing in the postseason. However, both teams would still like to finish the year strong.
Redskins Record (6-8)
The Broncos will be playing the Redskins, who are coming off a win against the Arizona Cardinals, for the 14th time when they head to FedEx Field on Christmas Eve. The Broncos lead the series 7-6, and the Redskins are 3-2 against the Broncos at home. The last time these two teams met was in October of 2013.
The Redskins have faced a lot adversity with a roster full of injured players. The team has listed 15 players as out for the season, which is tough to overcome as there is only so much talent to go around. Even with all these injuries, the Redskins have been able to win six games, and a lot of that is a testament to Washington’s starting quarterback Kirk Cousins. There is some speculation about the QB’s future and the possibility of Cousins coming to play for the Broncos next season, which means Broncos fans will be watching this game closely for a number of reasons.
Year-to-year, Cousins continues to put up great numbers. He has thrown for 3,636 yards, 24 touchdowns and five interceptions. Meanwhile, the Broncos’ group of quarterbacks has thrown for 2,934 yards, 17 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.
Washington’s offense is ranked 18th in total yards per game, 14th in passing yards per game, 26th in rushing yards and averages 21.8 points a game, which is good enough for 18th in the league.
Wide receiver Terrelle Pryor was brought to Washington to be a big name target and did not quite work out before ending up on the IR. But the impact injuries have had on this Redskins team was most pronounced after losing running backs Chris Thompson and Rob Kelley. A collection of backs have now taken up the Redskins’ rushing attack. It has been a tough season for the Redskins offensive line as well. Without many weapons, it has been difficult for Cousins to score points. It will be interesting to see how this Redskins offense handles the Broncos defense.
The Redskins defense is ranked 20th in total yards allowed, 16th in passing yards allowed, and 28th in rushing yards allowed, and is giving up 25 points per game—good for 29th in the league. The defense has not been able to create a lot of turnovers, as the team is -3 in the turnover ratio.
The Redskins do have some talented players on defense. Zach Brown and Josh Norman have done their best to try and help earn some victories, though Brown was ruled out last week against the Cardinals (Achilles) and is questionable for Sunday’s game. Ryan Kerrigan has been able to get pressure on the quarterback and has a team-leading nine sacks. Kerrigan should be able to add to those numbers when he lines up against the Broncos offensive line.
Players To Watch
All eyes will be on Cousins when the Broncos travel to Washington D.C. There are a growing number of Broncos fans that think a quick fix to the Broncos’ QB situation would be to try and bid for Cousins’ services after the 2017 season. All this is speculation, of course, as no one knows which direction Redskins owner Daniel Synder will go. Snyder has been known to make some questionable moves. If for whatever reason Cousins did make it to free agency, the Broncos would be strong contenders. As for this weekend, Cousins may be able to carve up the Broncos’ secondary if he’s able to find any weapons.
The Broncos have done a better job of running the ball and protecting the passer, but this week will be a different case. Look for players along the Redskins defensive line to cause problems to the Broncos offensive line. Outside linebacker Preston Smith will test the tackles coming off the edge all day, while defensive end Matthew Ioannidis will create havoc upfront.
It is expected but not guaranteed that Paxton Lynch will be starting this game. The Broncos do not have anything to play for but pride, so expect to see an increase in the amount of playing time for rookies and younger players. The Redskins defense should be able to keep the Broncos offense in check and look for them to come out on top in this matchup.