Saturday, January 07, 2006

Redskins - Buccaneers Part II

Today is the day. The Buccaneers beat the Redskins 36-35 in a thrilling game earlier this season. It was one of the most frustrating losses of the year (the other being the inexcusable loss to the Oakland Raiders). But, they are back in Tampa.

The last game was a shootout and sports analysts seem to expect a continuation of the trend. Not necessarily. Defense comes to the fore in the playoffs and this game matches two of the best in the NFC. The Redskins closed the season by committing to the defense and the run. The defense got turnovers and running opened up the passing game for the offense. Basic Gibbs ball drove the Redskins' turnaround. Their secondary receivers are not talented enough to take pressure off Santana Moss. They must avoid relying on the passing game to win this game. And that means that the Skins cannot fall far behind. Best to play with a lead or a close score. They've got to run.

Tampa Bay is keenly aware of how Clinton Portis hurt them last game and will focus on stopping him. Tampa defense lineman Derrick Brooks missed the last game. He's a run stopper. The offensive line must dominate the Buccaneers front seven. That is a tall order. The Bucs are the number one defense in the league.

Let Brunell be Brunell. His forte is smart play and mobility in the pocket. We will see early if he his mobile or not. If he is, and if the running game is working, Brunell should be able to deliver the ball to Santana Moss and Chris Cooley for a big play or two. Mike Sellers is dangerous close to the goal line.

The Redskins defense have a three part mission. Bring more pressure on Chris Simms. The return of defensive lineman Cornelius Griffin helps. He missed the last contest and Skins missed his pass rushing abilities. The Skins also have more film on Simms and should be better prepared for him. The last game was Simms' second start of the season and the Redskins were not familiar with him. They were the first to learn that he is a decent quarterback.

Cadillac Williams did little in the last game. He impressed in his rookie season with Tampa and can do damage. Part two of the defense mission is to contain Williams and make Tampa throw.

The Redskins defense stepped up in the last five games by disruptive play. They forced something like fourteen turnovers in their last five games. That gave the offense good field position to score. Part three of their mission is to force turnovers.

Injuries are a factor. Cadillac Williams was nicked up in the last game and did not do well for Tampa while Cornelius Griffin and Shawn Taylor will play for the Redskins this time around. Williams' return to form restores the running game for Tampa. Griffin and Taylor helps the Redskins bring defense pressure. Shawn Springs, the Redskins' best cornerback, is out. The defense could give up a big pass play. If Ade Jimoh starts at cornerback for Washington, watch out. He's a hard hitter, but can't cover his bed with a blanket. Tampa will test the Washington secondary early.

Both teams have excellent coaches. John Gruden is one of the best young coaches in the league. His teams are always prepared. Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs added to his legend by guiding the Redskins to the playoffs when nobody expected. The Redskins and Buccaneers both have highly regarded defensive coordinators in Gregg Williams and Monte Kiffin. Look for sound game plans from each team. A post on The Warpath fan board asked what advice fans would give Joe Gibbs to prepare for the game. I wouldn't pretend to presume that I knew half as much as Gibbs has forgotten about game planning.

If I were handicapping this game as a fantasy game, where points are awarded for performance as well as scores, I would call it Redskins by three. Chris Cooley is the difference maker for the Redskins. Without him, my numbers say the game is a toss-up.

To see the preview of this game, go here.

1 comment: said...

Can't wait for the start of this game. 3 point favorites? Hope you are right.