Las Vegas oddsmakers are usually pretty well in touch with what an NFL game is going to look like. Sunday’s game between the Chargers and Redskins is presenting one of those rare instances where they are simply flummoxed.
Some of the books have Washington as slight favorites. Some places have San Diego as slight favorites. Others have it as a “Pick ‘Em.” At least one place took the game off the board completely.
What that tells me is, the national perception of this matchup is a resounding, “Your guess is as good as mine.”
The Redskins have talent coming out their ears, but have yet to figure out a way to put it all together. At 2-5 they’re still alive in the awful NFC East, but they can’t waste any more time getting on track. As Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said during the week, “Your record is just that, what you are now, not what you’re capable of.” Eventually you have to figure the Redskins are going to put it all together. The question everyone has is, when?
On the other side you have the Chargers, a team many people feel has overachieved to reach their 4-3 mark. But the numbers suggest it’s not overachieving, it’s simply playing darn good football. The Bolts have not allowed an offensive touchdown in 11 consecutive quarters (defensive stat of note), and lead the league in scoring points on drives that take 10 or more plays (offensive stat of note).
On offense, the Chargers should be able to continue their ball-controlling ways and finishing long drives with points. Washington is allowing the second-most points per game in the NFL.
However, the Bolts have not faced an offense defense with the kind of explosive, big-play ability the Redskins have since Week 4 against Dallas, to that touchdown-less streak is in serious jeopardy at FedEx Field. All that should lay the groundwork for this week’s three players to keep an eye on come Sunday.
Jarret Johnson, OLB:
Johnson is back after missing two games with a hamstring injury, and not a moment too soon. The Redskins own the NFL’s most efficient rushing attack. Washington averages just a hair less than 5 yards per carry.
They only average a middling 6.5 yards per play in the passing game, one of the reasons the Redskins have run the ball 30 more times than they’ve thrown it (well, that and the fact Robert Griffin III has pulled the ball down and run 43 times, second –most on the team). Johnson is one of the best linebackers in the NFL at “sealing the edge.” That means he is extremely adept at determining the outside edge of the defense, the widest point on the field the offense will be able to operate on a given play.
Washington runs a zone scheme that tries to open up holes for running backs all across the field. Jarret Johnson will have a lot to say about how effective they are in doing that. Expect Johnson to get to know running back Alfred Morris and his 5.2 yard-per-carry average awfully well by the end of the day.
Johnny Patrick, CB:
Derek Cox and Shareece Wright will get the starts, but Patrick will be on the field an awful lot against the Redskins. Wide receiver Pierre Garcon leads the NFC in receptions. He will likely be covered by a number of different Chargers but he is certainly not the only threat in the passing game.
Tight end Jordan Reed leads all NFL rookies in catches and Santana Moss is still an effective wideout, and Leonard Hankerson leads the team with 3 touchdown catches. Washington will go 3-wide with regularity, and Griffin has already been picked off eight times (with just nine touchdown passes), so he will force balls in to bad spots on occasion. Patrick has a chance to put himself in position to create those bad spots, and force a few turnovers of his own.
LaDarius Green, TE:
For the first three games of the season, the Chargers were tremendous in the Red Zone, converting on eight of eleven trips inside the 20. Since then the Bolts are just 5 of 15. It may not be a “problem” but it certainly is a “concern” and not the kind of percentage that is going to help you “win games.” Enter LaDarius Green. He has been used mostly between the 20’s this season, but near the goal line Green presents the kind of matchup problem teams salivate over. He’s 6’6” and can jump over most defensive backs.
There are absolutely no statistics or trends to back this up, but something tells me the Chargers will start test-driving him inside the 20. He just might turn out to be the piece they’ve been missing since Malcom Floyd’s injury.
This has all the makings of a classic shootout. The Redskins defense is a colander, and the Chargers have had an extra week to put a game plan together (something Mike McCoy and Ken Whisenhunt have done an amazing job with so far).
While San Diego’s defense is on a tremendous run, Washington has too many weapons on offense to be held out of the end zone. But, the Redskins do not have enough firepower to overcome the deficiencies on D.
It won’t be as high-scoring as some might think, simply because the Chargers will continue to control the ball, dominating time of possession again. Make it 5-3 at the half-way point, and riding a 3-game winning streak in to next week’s showdown against Denver.
FINAL SCORE: Chargers 27, Redskins 17