Fail to the Redskins! Here are my five keys to a Cincy win in the Capitol this Sunday:
1. Score Early/Get Ahead: The Bengals are on the road for the Redskins home opener. FedEx field is huge, and usually sold out. They will be loud and rocking as they get their highly-anticipated first look at RGIII. The Bengals would do well to get up on the skins by a touchdown early, to limit the impact of the 80,000+ that will be in attendance.
2. Contain RGIII: I know this sounds nearly impossible for any defense, especially this one. The Redskins will use the dynamic Heisman winner on QB draws and option plays to the edge. Cincinnati’s defensive ends and outside linebackers need to maintain edge responsibilities, and keep Griffin inside the hashes as much as possible. From there, it’ll be up to Rey Maualuga, Geno Atkins, and the safeties to make a play. RGIII is a much more average quarterback inside the pocket, and without his favorite target, Pierre Garcon, he could look even more so. Having Carlos Dunlap back should help in this regard, but newbie Wallace Gilberry will also have to step up in this one.
3. Stop the Run: Rookie Alfred Morris has looked very good so far, and judging by how well Zimmer’s charges have stopped Ray Rice and Trent Richardson, Skins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will no doubt want to establish Morris early. The best chance to get off the field on third down will be for the defense to put RGIII into long-yardage situations, and to do that, they’ll need to defend the edge and stop the run.
4. Unleash the passing game: The Redskins give up 314 yards per game in the air. Last week they made Sam Bradford and Danny Amendola look like Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. The Redskin secondary was confounded by the Ram receivers on short and intermediate routes, which also happen to be Dalton’s specialty. Add to that the fact that Washington will be missing their top two pass rushers, and this looks like a good match-up for the Bengals to throw it. I expect more bubble screens to Andrew Hawkins like in the Baltimore game, as well as slants and crossing patterns to A.J. Green, Armon Binns, and Jermaine Gresham. Dalton should have time to throw, and he should find open receivers.
5. Take advantage of Redskin Injuries: It’s a cruel fact of life in the NFL that injuries hurt you. The Bengals need no introduction to this concept. Travelle Wharton, Kyle Cook, Thomas Howard, Dre Kirkpatrick, Carlos Dunlap, and Pat Sims are all guys the team has sorely missed this year. With the Redskins going without WR Pierre Garcon, LB Adam Carriker, and DE Brian Orakpo, the Bengals need to take advantage, particularly on offense. They should run right at the replacements and test their discipline in Jim Haslet’s schemes.
This is a hard game to judge. The Bengals and Redskins seem very evenly matched and the Skins have the advantage of being at home. Cincinnati’s defense will need to perform better than they have the first two weeks, and force some turnovers. On offense, they need to score early and often and force Washington to abandon the run game and play catch-up.
Prediction: Cincinnati 30, Washington 27
The Bengals play better on defense with Dunlap and CB Jason Allen back in the line-up, and with Vontaze Burfict getting more practice at Will. RGIII comes down to earth a little bit. This is Washington’s first game in a non-domed stadium, and for some reason I suspect this may slow them down a bit as well.