By Jerrell Richardson
Washington Redskins (3-7)
Head Coach: Mike Shanahan
Players To Watch: Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris, Pierre Garcon, DeAngelo Hall, London Fletcher
The 49ers are still in the thick of the playoffs, but can’t afford to lose a third straight game. To do this, they will have to go on the road and beat the Washington Redskins. Despite their record, Washington is a dangerous team, and remarkably are still in a hunt for their division crown. San Francisco will have to deal with dual threat quarterback Robert Griffin III, and a potent rushing attack, but the 49ers have to like their chances to move the ball against a less than impressive Washington defense. Combine that with the recent play of the San Francisco defense and this is a game that the 49ers can win. To go on the road in consecutive weeks and beat a talented Redskins team is no easy task, but it’s not only something San Francisco should be able to do, but it’s something that they can’t afford not to.
When Washington Has the Ball: Advantage 49ers
Statistically, Washington has one of the best offenses in the NFL. Lead by Robert Griffin III, number wise they have no weakness, but there is no question that their rushing attack is their best weapon. Their workhorse is running back Alfred Morris who is third in the NFL with 918 yards on the ground, and the team’s second leading rusher is Griffin who has over 300 yards on the season. As a team, Washington has the league’s best ranked rushing attack, but will have to hope for a few lucky big plays as they are going against a stout 49er front that matches up well against the speed of Griffin and the strength of Morris. The battle in the trenches will not only determine if Washington can run the ball, but will have a direct effect on their aerial attack as well.
When they pass the ball, Washington is looking to get the ball in the hands of their playmaker, Pierre Garcon. The former Indianapolis Colt has 871 receiving yards which places him eighth in the league and he’s a big play waiting to happen. The team’s next leading receiver is tight end Jordan Reed who has a more than modest 44 catches on the season, giving the San Francisco secondary two legitimate targets to worry about. The 49ers pass defense has been solid all year though, and should be able to at least neutralize both of the Redskins main threats.
There is no getting around the fact that the Redskins have offensive playmakers across the board, but none of them poise a big enough mismatch on their own to cause problems for the 49ers defense. San Francisco defensively should be able to limit the Redskins scoring just enough for the struggling 49er offense to get the team back on track and back in the win column.
When San Francisco Has the Ball: Advantage 49ers
For an offense looking to get back on track, there may be no better opponent than the Washington Redskins. While the names are there at every position, they have not played well as a unit and on average allow over 30 points per game. The leader of the defense is the ageless London Fletcher whose 69 total tackles puts him second on the team, but they are ranked 18th against the run and figure to have their trouble against the 49ers fifth-ranked ground game. If the game plan is to stick to the run and get Frank Gore two or more touches, San Francisco will have success running the ball, which will give them a chance to make some plays with the passing game.
With the passing game still not quite ready for primetime, for at least one more week it will be a wildcard. There is a reason that they are ranked dead last in the NFL in this area, but they still have in Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis, two players who are more than capable of a big day. If the offensive line gives Colin Kaepernick time, then he could have a big day with his main targets, but as we have also seen, the passing game could be a no show.
The Redskins are vulnerable to the pass, ranked 26th though, so even the struggling 49er passing game should be able to offer something to help take some pressure off the running game.
With each team on a two-game skid, this is a must-win for both sides. The 49ers are the more talented of the two, but the Redskins season rests on the outcome and could be hungrier come game time. With a bevy of playmakers on both sides of the ball, the outcome could go either way, but when it comes down to it, the 49ers are the better team. They should be able to score points which has not been the case the past two weeks, and if they can do this, will be able to ride the stellar play of the defense to another win.
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. Jerrell is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.