Superbowl XLVII: A preview

Super Bowl 47

Image source: forbes.com

NEW ORLEANS – Sunday sees the Baltimore Ravens take on the San Francisco 49ers in a bid to become the 47th champions of the Super Bowl era.

There are a number of sub-plots to this one, not least the Harbaugh vs Harbaugh element and the last chance at glory for Ray Lewis, but lets not forget that after fifteen seasons in the NFL this is also likely to be Matt Birk’s last game at centre for Baltimore. There is also the small matter of Ray Lewis’ alleged usage of ‘deer antler spray’ and Ed Reed supposedly saying he’d be open to joining the Patriots. This game is, for a lot of the Ravens, a chance to silence some doubters, San Francisco are the bookmakers’ favourite, although we all know this means nothing. The team who plays well and plays hard will probably win.

This game involves two quarterbacks vying to add their name to a list of elite luminaries that includes the names Manning, Brady, Montana and many more.

Should the 49ers win, Colin Kaepernick, the second year, second round pick, quarterback drafted by Jim Harbaugh will have exceeded any pre-season expectations placed upon him. Joe Flacco, on the other hand will leave none of his doubters surprised if he loses, any more-so than his supporters will not be surprised should he lead the Ravens to the win.

Neither team has won this trophy for a few years, since the Ravens won it back in 2001 in Tampa. The 49ers have been waiting since 1995 when Steve Young was under centre for the Red and Gold and they beat the Chargers 49-26.

Anyone who thinks this game is just about the QB battle though, is deluded. It is likely to come down to defence. The 49ers have the second best defence in the league, with only 17.1 points allowed per game, the Ravens undeniably elite defence has suffered with injuries this season but still finished 10th in points allowed with 24.9.

The Ravens patched up defence is still suffering with injuries, but one of the bigger misses could be running back Bernard Pierce, whose inclusion helps Ray Rice. Pierce is, like Vonta Leach, questionable.
Rice should still be effective, and will likely play a part in the passing game, as he did in the dismantling of the New England Patriots.

The 49ers appear to have the healthier roster, though it is not always possible to tell with the NFL as every little stub or tweak has to be added to the injured report.

In the post season the 49ers have seven rushing touchdowns and only three receiving. The Ravens, meanwhile have three rushing and 10 passing touchdowns. This would imply that one team will be passing and one rushing, but don’t rule Michael Crabtree out of the receiving game, he has two receiving touchdowns and has looked revitalised of late.

Both teams will be looking to give away as few penalties as possible, but do not be surprised if this one comes down to the kicking game. Jacoby Jones is a formidable kick-returner for the Ravens and LaMichael James has the potential for the 49ers to make a special return, he certainly is no slouch.

Field goals could be key though, and that is not something Jim Harbaugh will be hoping for. David Akers, the 49ers’ kicker has been a shadow of his former self this season and seems to have lost accuracy, confidence or a mixture of both. Ravens kicker Justin Tucker is having a very good season, missing only three of his 33 attempts, giving him a 90.9% completion percentage. In contrast, Akers has made just under 70% of his kicks.

Whatever happens, this one should be compelling for the neutrals, with one Harbaugh picking up the Lombardi trophy alongside their chosen champion. Kaepernicking could be about to go global, I don’t see Flacco-ing taking off myself.

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Review: Texans @ Patriots divisional playoff game

The reigning AFC Champion Patriots took on the AFC South winning Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium last night in the AFC divisional playoff, with the winner moving on to the AFC Championship game next Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.

The Patriots overcame the Texans 41-28 in an exciting game to reach the AFC championship game for the seventh time in 12 years and now have the chance to retain the title they won last year. New England quarterback Tom Brady surpassed his idol Joe Montana with his 18th playoff win.

Offense was largely on top for both sides, though it wasn’t as straight forward as the score-line might suggest. The Houston Texans relied on the kick returns of Danieal Manning to gain huge yards. The Patriots simply had no answer to the cornerback’s running. The first drive of the game saw manning return to the Patriots 12 yard line, only for Schaub to go three-and-out and for Shayne Graham to kick the field goal.

New England started slowly, and had to adjust their offense when both Danny Woodhead and the talismanic Rob Gronkowski were injured early on. Gronkowski re-fractured his left forearm and will miss the remainder of the post season. Woodhead is likely to be fit to play against the Ravens, but could see his carries reduced due to the form of second year back Shane Vereen. After Woodhead’s injury Vereen was utilised in the running and passing game, making a diving catch on the sideline and scoring three touchdowns.

Wes Welker caught eight receptions for 130 yards as he remains Brady’s favourite receiver. This was the perfect time to remind his employers that he is out of contact in the summer, the number of dropped catches is something Welker and Brady must improve though, often the ball seemed to catch Welker in the fingertip area.

Stevan Ridley again looked like the Patriots best option when running the ball, but with Woodhead expected to be back this weekend and Vareen showing the versatility so beloved by Bill Belichick the New England running game looks good.

The tipping point of the game was arguably the third quarter interception of Texans quarterback Matt Scaub by Rob Ninkovich, the linebacker had dropped a bit deeper than usual and Schaub put the ball right into his hands. A few plays later, everyone but Brady and Brandon Lloyd played out a running play that left Brady to find Lloyd in single coverage, a mere jink away from diving in for the touchdown.

Much was made pre-game of the supposed battle between Tom Brady and J.J.Watt. The Texans defensive end had just half a sack and zero passes defensed. Brady and co. practiced with tennis racquets and brooms this week and it seemed to do the trick as Brady consistently found open receivers.

The Texans may have scored 28 points in this game but Matt Schaub didn’t look good for the first three quarters, though he did make a couple of key throws late in the game. Arian Foster was constantly able to find space. Foster finished with 90 yards rushing, the first time he has been sub 100 yards in four playoff games. He was the leading rusher in the game, and had a rushing touchdown. Foster was a viable threat in the passing game too as the New England defense consistently left him open.

The Patriots arial defense had some struggles against Houston, but it is not every week you play against Andre Johnson, the talented Texans wide receiver gave Aqib Taliban a tough afternoon. Rookie Texans receiver DeVier Posey showed he could be one for the future by scoring a touchdown in unlikely circumstances, it took three attempts to pull the ball in to his chest and he ended up on his back, bringing the ball under control just before he slide out of the end zone on his back.

The Patriots run defense may have done well overall but Arian Foster still made a lot of big gains in the rushing game, New England can’t allow Ray Rice to do the same on Sunday.

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Griffin and Shanahan, too proud for the Redskins good?

Mike Shanahan and Robert Griffin III scaled new heights Sunday night as the Redskins took on the Seahawks. Shanahan’s stupidity and RGIII’s stubbornness could have severely limited Griffin’s career as well as set back the franchise.

Griffin aggravated his knee in the first quarter and Shanahan kept him in the game. Washington were 14-0 up at that point. Griffin is alleged to have been in pain but ok to carry on, with many pundits claiming they would have left the former Baylor man in the game. Anyone watching could see that Griffin was ailing.

The Washington offense slowed after that first quarter as the Seattle D only had to worry about covering the receivers and stopping Alfred Morris on the ground. The fact that Griffin suffered a further set back in the fourth quarter is no surprise, the extent of this injury is not yet known but a suspected ACL tear and damage to his lateral collateral ligaments in his right knee, the same one injured in 2009 while the quarterback was at Baylor, could keep him out for up to a year.

While it is understandable that Griffin, as a proud and undeniably gutsy young man, didn’t want to leave the game, Shanahan keeping him in was a disastrous decision. As Sky Sports pundit Neil Reynolds said “He (Shanahan) let down the 52 other guys on the roster”.

Of course RGIII is the face of this franchise, and its future, but Kirk Cousins should have played the final three quarters. It has been suggested that as the Redskins chose to play Griffin in the must-win game against the Cowboys, he should have played against the Seahawks. This is in part true, but once it was clear he couldn’t perform to his high standards why was Cousins not given the chance? After all if Griffin had been subbed out in quarter two, he wouldn’t have been in the shotgun formation in the fourth quarter and subsequently on the receiving end of Center Will Montgomery’s terrible snap, which caused his knee to buckle after his foot caught in the turf.

Kirk Cousins has performed well enough in his very short stints under centre for the Redskins and could have perhaps given the offense an injection that is seemingly lacked. Cousins may have been able to open up the offense for Alfred Morris to do his work, instead it was the defense that had to carry the team, which they did to good effect until

Ultimately, we will never know whether Russell Wilson would still have driven the Seahawks to the win over a fully fit RGIII, but it is now Wilson who is pushing his way to the top of the rookie of the year award chart. If Wilson can take the Seahawks one step further and into the NFC championship game it would be hard to argue against him, despite the stellar play of Andrew Luck and Griffin this season.

The focus for Griffin now is to rehab that knee and to look back on a largely superb rookie year, with a mixture of pride and anguish at what might have been.

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Rookie Review: The class of 2012

At the start of the season, this new-to-the-Redskins writer said that the rookies could have a big role to play, little did I realise quite how big. Here I am going to look at the performances of the Redskins rookies through the 2012 regular season.

Robert Griffin III, the second overall pick in the 2012 draft, lived up to all the hype, and exceeded expectations to lead Washington to a 10-6 regular season record and their first NFC East title since ’99. The man they call RG3 broke the rookie quarterback rushing record previously set by Cam Newton and generally harassed defences all season, even when injured he performed to a level higher than most quarterbacks in the league.

The biggest surprise to some was the performance of sixth round pick, the 173rd overall pick of the NFL draft, Alfred Morris. Though it was clear during pre-season that Morris was a special talent. He rushed for over 1,600 yards and 13 touchdowns in his first season as an NFL running back. As the 173rd pick of the 2012 draft Morris can only be described as exceptional value, particularly if, as expected, he continues this level of production in 2013.

Third round pick, Guard, Josh LeRibeus played in five games, losing one and picking up four wins in the Redskins’ run of victories since the loss to the Panthers. LeRibeus looks to have a part to play in the Washington offense next season.

Backup quarterback, Kirk Cousins was the first player Washingon took in the fourth round and he has exceeded expectations. Not only did Cousins beat out veteran QB Rex Grossman to land the backup quarterback spot but he also ably stood in for Griffin when RG3 was injured against the Ravens. Cousins played the next game against the Browns, and lead the Redskins to a win, looking like a very good backup in the process. Don’t be surprised if some team liked what they saw enough to make a trade for Cousins, possibly for a second round draft pick, thus giving the Redskins even more value than they anticipated.

The second pick of the fourth round was linebacker Keenan Robinson. Robinson played in 11 games, registering 11 tackles. While at times his play was good, with two games featuring three tackles, this figure is lower than expected for a linebacker. Overall solid but not spectacular.

5th round pick, Guard, Adam Gettis is yet to see the field for the Redskins. Therefore regardless of future ability, this pick is deemed by this writer as fairly unsuccessful. If Gettis has a breakout seasoning 2013 then the grading for this pick will change but for now it is what it is.

The Redskins used the first of their three sixth round picks to select offensive tackle Tom Compton. The 193rd pick of the draft was cut before the season, cleared waivers, and then wound up on the practice squad. Compton recently made the active roster in place of the suspended Cedric Griffin. While he is not expected to play this season he has used his time watching film of his fellow offensive line, in a bid to see the field in 2013.

Cornerback, Richard Crawford was next to be selected in round six and has had an up and down season. Crawford got game time in the early weeks of the season, then had to sit out for sometime, before getting a chance to take over from Brandon Banks on punt returns. A scintillating return for 64 yards against the Baltimore Ravens showed Crawford has a place in the 53.

The final pick of the 2012 NFL draft for Washington was used on Iowa Safety, Jordan Bernstine. Jordan was injured against New Orleans in game one. A torn ACL, MCL and PCL in his right knee put Bernstine out for the season. Bernstine would have had a chance to get games at safety with Merriweather’s early season injury, he was also impressing on special teams. It remains to be seen if Jordan can return to full physical fitness next season but if he can, he could be challenging for a roster spot.

It is worth noting that Washington also retained two of the 12 undrafted rookies they signed. Chase Minnifield was projected by the Redskins as a third round draft pick, before suffering a knee injury in January. Minnifield broke down again at the end of mini-camp in June. If he can return from injury to full full fitness, Washington could get value and production from Minnifield in 2013. Darius Hanks will find himself at the back of a line of wide receivers, should he have recovered sufficiently from his shoulder injury by then.

Overall, the Redskins draft could not be called anything less than a success. Sure there are some players that have seen little-to-no playing time, but they also drafted Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris, and Kirk Cousins. Regardless of the other selections those three picks are enough to give the Redskins a B at least. Aren’t they?

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Preview: Seahawks @ Redskins

Playoff football returns to FedEx Field this week as the NFC East champion Redskins play host to Pete Carroll’s Seahawks in what should be one of the most exciting playoff games of the year.

Washington’s top rated rushing offense hasn’t seen many defenses like Seattle’, which although ranked tenth against the run, is ranked first In points allowed with a meagre 15.3 per game given up by Gus Bradley’s defensive unit.

Seattle’s third rated rushing offense has seen defenses like Washington’s, which has struggled at times, but has done really well against the run, with the fifth lowest yards per game allowed in the ground at 95.8 yards per game.

Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson will both look to find gaps in the bend-but-don’t-break Redskins run defense. Griffin and Morris will look to do the same for Washington, providing Griffin is fully mobile. Griffin and Wilson have a combined 11 touchdowns between them, with Griffin leading the way on seven. Both of these rookie quarterbacks ooze class and regardless of the result in this match, are the future of these two franchises.

Morris and Lynch’s numbers are not dramatically different for the year, with Morris having a slight edge by 23 yards and two rushing touchdowns. Between them Lynch and Morris have scored 24 rushing touchdowns for the season.

The Seahawks appear to have the edge in two key areas, firstly at wide receiver. Golden Tate and Sidney Rice each have seven touchdowns for the season, with an average of 15 yards per reception. In contrast Santana Moss has eight for the Redskins, while Garçon has four, though Garçon has suffered with injuries. Both Moss and Garçon have averaged 14 yards per reception.

The second area in which Seattle has the edge, on paper at least, is in the secondary. Washington’s secondary has had its struggles this season, with Cedric Griffin’s suspension and veteran free agent signing Brandon Meriweather’s long term injury. DeJon Gomes and DeAngelo Hall have done the rest to carry the defensive backs.

Richard Sherman and Brandon Bowner have been extremely good at cornerback for Seattle this year, although, like Cedric Griffin for the Redskins, Bowner was suspended for four games due to a ‘substance violation’. Sherman has eight interceptions so far this season, which is more than the seven put up by Washington cornerbacks, Hall, Josh Wilson and Richard Crawford put together.

It is hard to see a scenario where the Redskins come away with the win, but they have an intangible something about them this year. Washington have won games they were not supposed to, in places they were not meant to win in.

RGIII has that ‘Je ne sais quoi’. Yes, he is a total athlete. Yes, he can throw a deep ball, or an option slant, he can pitch the ball to Morris, or take off with it, but it’s more than that. He has made the players around him better. The Redskins offensive line has been much better this season than last and tonight it has to be at the very top of its game, Guard Kory Lichtensteiger is battling injury and Josh LeRibeus could be the man to step in to his shoes.

If the game comes down to the boot of the kickers, the Redskins have the in-form kicker in Kai Forbath, who hit 17 of 18 field goals for the regular season, while Steve Huschka has hardly been lax for the Seahawks, converting 24 of his 27 attempts. A kicker is only as good as his last field goal though, as 49ers kicker David Akers knows only too well.

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Preview: Cowboys @ Redskins

FedEx Field plays host to a real humdinger of a game this week, for the first time in over a decade the Redskins can claim the NFC East title with a win against their bitter rivals the Dallas Cowboys.

Washington will win the division if they win or tie and can still make the playoffs with a loss, providing Chicago and Minnesota both lose. The chance to go through automatically with a win, at the expense of the Cowboys, who must win to qualify for the playoffs, will surely be incentive enough though.

Robert Griffin III was one of three Washington players selected for the 2012 NFL pro bowl, alongside left tackle Trent Williams and special teams captain Lorenzo Alexander. RGIII practiced fully this week and is expected to run an offense more akin to the one the Redskins ran in the games before he was injured against the Ravens, and less like the one run against the Eagles last week, when he was visibly less mobile.

London Fletcher’s name appears on the list of injured players again, he did not practice, but the hard-as-nails linebacker is expected to suit up come game time as usual. DeJon Gomes and Tyler Polumbus may not be so lucky; both were limited in practice but are listed as questionable and could be game-time decisions.

Washington’s offense has maintained its play of late and is now the fourth best in the NFL for points scored per game, with 27.2. The Redskins still have the number one ranked rushing offense with 162.3 yards per game. Alfred Morris’ production may have slowed a little lately but he can still top 1,500 yards for the regular season against the Cowboys. Morris needs 87 yards; at his current average of 4.7 yards per carry he would need 19 carries to reach that goal.

This game won’t go all Washington’s way though, as both Tony Romo and Dez Bryant are starting to hit top form. Romo looks elite in December, showing the quality he has, whilst finding some of the consistency that was lacking in the early part of the season.

Dallas, inspired by Romo and Bryant went on a three game winning run after the 31-38 loss to the Redskins in week 12, only to be halted in their tracks by the Saints last week. Washington is on an astonishing run of six wins on the spin since the loss to Carolina in week nine and have won four against NFC East rivals in that time, two against Philadelphia, and one each over Dallas and New York.

The pressure is surely on “America’s team” in this game. Not many but the most hardy of Redskins fan would have predicted when Washington were 3-6 and missing key players like Brian Orapko and Adam Carriker that they’d be in this position come week 17.

Dallas meanwhile always expects to challenge for the division, and in recent years have been known to crumble under the strain.

Should Washington win or tie and clinch the division, their decision to invest so heavily in the trade to draft Griffin will surely no longer be called into question, and will be seen as the shrewd piece of business it was. Griffin has energised the organisation and the fan-base, and while the offense is not all RGIII, he has already become a huge part of it, he is their leader.

If the playoffs beckon for the Shanahans and their team there is no team they will fear. Having come out of one of the toughest divisions in the NFL they will happily take on anyone. Other teams, though, may look at the Redskins with more than a degree of trepidation, as on their day the offense is enough to give opposition defenses nightmares.

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Preview: Redskins @ Browns

Preview of Washington Redskins @ Cleveland Browns

The pistol formation may look more like the six-shooter formation at Browns Stadium this Sunday. RGIII, the Redskins first round drafted rookie quarterback has been struggling with the knee injury picked up against the Ravens last week and could have to sit out.

In the event Griffin fails to recover suitably enough to take the field, Kirk Cousins, the Redskins fourth round draftee QB will step in as custodian of the offense.

Cousins went two-for-two on passes against the Ravens, with one touchdown, and the offense didn’t appear to suffer despite Griffin being unable to complete the final drive.

If Cousins plays, expect to see more of a conventional offense from co-ordinator Kyle Shanahan, rather than the triple option read run by RGIII. Shanahan’s mum Peggy probably hasn’t designed any plays for Cousins yet.

Cleveland’s own rookie quarterback, Brandon Weeden, has looked more like the player the Browns drafted than he player they saw in the fist five weeks of the season, they went 0-5. Though he only has one touchdown pass in his last four games; of which the Browns have won three and lost just one.

Weeden has formed a decent partnership with supplemental draft pick, wide receiver Josh Gordon, who needs an unlikely 268 yards from the remaining three games to reach 1,000 yards for his debut season.

Weeden himself has thrown for over 3,000 yards but has 15 interceptions to his 13 touchdown passes, he will be aiming to add to his touchdown tally and to get into positive figures, by giving away no more INTs.

Trent Richardson though, has struggled. The third overall pick of the 2012 draft underwent pre-season knee surgery and has recently been struggling with injured ribs. One consolation is that Richardson can still finish the season with 1000 yards rushing. He needs 131 yards from the remaining three games to achieve that milestone.

The Redskins have London Fletcher and Trent Williams listed as questionable again this week, though both are likely to make the field, with Fletcher looking to extend his record of having played in 238 consecutive games, a record he shares with Buccaneer Ronde Barber.

Fletcher, known as “Iron Man”, is a key reason the Redskins defense has not been terrible this season in the wake of injuries to so many Washington defenders, the Cleveland native is 37 and playing with the enthusiasm of a 20 year old.

Alfred Morris, the sixth round pick continues to look a steal and could feasibly run for 1,500 yards. He currently has 1,235 off 253 carries, with an average of 4.9 yards per carry, he is coming off a career-high 129 yards against the Ravens and Cleveland will need to find a way to stop the former Florida Athletic man.

The Redskins have the 7th best offense when Griffin plays, averaging 26.4 points per game and the Browns have the 9th best defense in terms of points allowed, with 20.9 points per game allowed.

Washington should have enough to beat Cleveland in this one; regardless of which quarterback takes the field, providing Morris is on his game and the secondary keeps up the pressure on Wheedon, Gordon and Greg Little and the defensive line keeps Richardson in check.

The Redskins though, once more have to watch those fumbles and cannot afford to give away so many stupid penalties. Against the Ravens the Redskins gave away eight penalties for 70 yards, that’s a large portion of the field.

As a final note, there will be no fantasy voodoo this week, as, like the Chiefs, I didn’t make the playoffs. I’m going to predict the score instead. I think it will be 24-17 in favour of the Redskins.

Check out Fight for the Yard for more UK based NFL articles.

For more on Kyle Shanahan getting help from his mum read this post by The Onion:
Peggy helps Kyle

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Ravens @ Redskins: preview

Preview of Baltimore Ravens @ Washington Redskins

Hall of fame quarterback – RGIII, ok so he is not actually in Canton, just yet, but his cleats and shirt are, after he broke Cam Newton’s rushing yards record for a rookie quarterback: will be hoping to help the Redskins push for a playoff place this week.

It’s Joe Flacco’s turn on Sunday to try and do what Tony Romo and Eli Manning both failed to do recently, beat the Redskins.

Washington are on a three game winning streak, which has them back in the playoff hunt. A 6-6 record puts them just behind the New York Giants in the NFC East standings.

The Redskins have the number one rushing offense in terms of yardage this season and the Ravens defense has not been particularly great at stopping the run. Washington’s pass defence though, has been abysmal. The Redskins are 31st in the league with an average of 299 yards given up per game.

While the Ravens may only be 9th in terms of points scored and 19th in offensive yards per game Flacco still has enough ability to find holes in the Washington defense.

Despite the Redskins excellent run defence so far, Ray Rice will be looking to add to his eighth rushing touchdowns against Ryan Kerrigan and co.

Many people are talking about Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck as potential league MVP candidates, with Peyton Manning rightly viewed as the man to beat. If Griffin pulls off another offensive display to match some recent performances (the Giants game was not the best offensively, in fact the fumble to Josh Morgan was very lucky) and beats the Ravens, a playoff place and MVP will both be within reach.

Some have suggested that the Redskins offense with Griffin under centre is a gimmicky college offense. In fact the Redskins are running some twists on Shanahan’s offense, with Griffin controlling the opposition defenses with play action passes, option passes, bubble screens and out-and-out bombs. Oh and if they don’t work, he takes off on the run. Baltimore will have a job trying to contain RGIII.

The Ravens defense has suffered this season with the injuries to both Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs. Safety, Reed has a lingering shoulder problem and though he was limited in practice this week, CBSSports.com has him as a probable for the game, John Harbaugh may feel the form of Pierre Garçon warrants Reed’s inclusion.

Linebacker, Suggs is probably not going to play though yahoosports.com say he is questionable and will be a “game-time” decision. Suggs is the kind of player the Ravens miss in defense this season. He brings a real steel to the team.

Injuries are likely to affect the Redskins this week too, though for once not at the wide receiver position, although Garçon has appeared on the injured list since week two. Garçon made eight receptions for 106 yards against the Giants last week.

Trent Williams and London Fletcher are both still struggling with the injuries that saw them limited in practice prior to the win against the Giants. DeAngelo Hall is also struggling to make the field on Sunday night.

One player who is fighting fight is Alfred Morris. Rookie running back Morris will be looking to build on his already superb debut season; by adding to his 1,106 yards and six rushing touchdowns.

The New York Giants did themselves no favours last week by giving away silly penalties. The Redskins need to be careful themelves this week as the Ravens will push them, they have to stay alert. As for fumbling, Griffin is the one worry there, he needs to be more secure, last weeks fumble/touchdown pass could quite easily have been a pick-six.

Previously I had Eli Manning in my fantasy team against the Redskins, this time it is the Ravens D who potentially come under my fantasy voodoo.

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Week 13: Preview, Giants @ Redskins.

This week is hugely important for all four teams in the NFC East, as they are pitted against each other in two inter-divisional games tonight. The Eagles play the Cowboys and on Monday Night Football, the Redskins host the reigning champions, the New York Giants.

This week, Monday Night Football is available for UK fans on the BBC HD channel and on the BBC sport website. If you can stay up late enough (it starts at 01:25) or catch it on iPlayer or the BBC sport website, you should see a cracker.

The Redskins will be looking to avenge their week seven defeat to their ‘local’ rivals, when New York overcame Washington 27-23 at the MetLife.

Robert Griffin III has had two consecutive weeks of throwing four touchdown passes, a huge achievement for a rookie, a third consecutive week would seem impossible, but to the Redskins’ QB – impossible is nothing.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning looked good last week against the Packers and is approaching that time of year commonly known as ‘Eli-time’.

The two-time champion is starting to look like the player that has bested the Patriots in two out of two Superbowl appearances, but will he be the same player at FedEx field as the one who showed up last week against the Packers?

In previous weeks I have stated how important defensive play is to the overall result. This week, it will again be important but this game could become a shoot-out between two very good quarterbacks and their high powered offenses.

The Redskins, in the last two weeks, have had play-makers in the wide receiver position to back up the fantastic offensive play of both their franchise quarterback and their diamond-in-the-rough running back Alfred Morris.

Pierre Garçon is starting to look like the player he was in pre-season and the chemistry with Griffin is returning, Santana Moss and Aldrick Robinson are genuine threats and Josh Morgan is surely going to get a touchdown before too long. Morgan leads the team in receptions with 37.

Both sets of defensive backs will be keeping their eyes on the arial threats of their opponent’s quarterbacks. The Redskins will have to watch the long passes to Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, while the Giants will have to watch the screen passes, deep-ball threat and the ability to take off on-the-run of RGIII.

As with the last game between these two sides the pass rush of the Giants will likely play a key role. Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul will look to add to their combined nine and a half sacks, against the Redskins. Defensive tackle Linval Joseph will also hope to make his way to Griffin, to add to his tally of four sacks for the season. Griffin will hope to be sneaky-fast (that’s a Mike Carlson saying but I like it) to keep out of the clutches of the Giants athletic rushers.

Turnovers so often of late have played a big part in games, any fumbles or interceptions thrown in this one could prove to be just as vital. Both teams need to ensure ball security with their running backs and keep the ball out of the hands of those opposing defensive backs.

Neither the Redskins or the Giants can afford for their running backs or QBs to drop the ball. Morris could be set to break 1000 rushing yards this week and will hope to add to his six rushing TDs but can ill afford to add to his two fumbles so far. Giants running backs Ahmad Brooks and Andre Brown have 13 touchdowns between them and though Brooks has fumbled and lost the ball three times, Brown hasn’t fumbled once.

One last note, I had Aaron Rodgers in my fantasy NFL team against the Giants and he was poor, this week I have brought Eli from the bench (yes I have two stud quarterbacks in my fantasy league, for all the good it has done me) lets see if he is equally poor this week.

Do I have some kind of fantasy voodoo? Only time will tell.

Check out http://www.fightfortheyard.com for more UK based NFL articles.

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Thanksgiving day game – Redskins @ Cowboys: preview

Week 12: Thanksgiving Day Game: Redskins @ Cowboys

I’m pleased I don’t need to eat my hat (or buy one) as the Redskins came up with the goods last week in a 31-6 win over the Eagles. Washington are in Texas today to play the Dallas Cowboys, in what could be a key fixture for the division. No team is exactly dominating the NFC East, with the leaders, the New York Giants, having a record of 6-4. This is the lowest total of any division leader. Both the Cowboys or the Redskins would take a significant boost from a win today.

As has become ‘the norm’ for both these teams the key to their game plans will be the defence playing well and the quarterback performing. Neither team’s offensive line has exactly been stellar so far this year, with Dallas just getting the win over Cleveland late in their last game.

Tony Romo though, presents an entirely different prospect than last week’s opposing QB, Nick Foles. Romo has the ability to be top class, it is only consistency and good protection from his offensive line that stops him being in the upper echelon of quality quarterbacks.

Dallas have a genuine threat at wide receiver; both Des Bryant and Miles Austin have four touchdowns each thus far this season and Kevin Ogletree is having a breakout season. While all-time leading receiver, TE Jason Witten leads the reception charts with 73 for the seaon. The Redskins cornerbacks and safeties will need to be on their toes.

The Redskins offense had a good game against the Eagles, though no doubt helped by poor defensive play by Philly. Santana Moss will look to continue his good season and Pierre Garçon will hope to top last week’s three catches for five yards. Garçon is not fully fit yet following his return from a foot injury; but can still cause Dallas problems just by being involved, assuming he plays. He was limited in practice this week.

Robert Griffin III inspired the offence last week and, back home in Texas, he will be looking to do the same, becoming the first Redskins team to beat the Cowboys on thanksgiving day, the record currently stands at 6-0 Dallas. It is worth pointing out that Tony Romo is 14-0 in November.

Griffin had an exceptional game against the Eagles last week, and will cause the Cowboys defense all kinds of problems unless they can figure out when to rush and when to hold back. Defensive co-ordinator for the Cowboys, Rob Ryan had this to say about RGIII to the Dallas Morning Star:

I don’t like him, but I know he is very talented

Alfred Morris, the Redskins second contender for offensive rookie of the year, is being given plays on third down, particularly on option plays, giving him the opportunity to learn routes in the passing game. This can only help Morris as he progresses in his career.

On the other side of the ball it will be interesting to see how the Redskins defense copes this week with so many players missing. DeAngelo Hall, who had an interception against the Eagles, for a 23 yard return, will be expected to support rookie Richard Crawford at cornerback in Josh Wilson’s absence and DeJon Gomes is expected to get a second chance to start at safety because of Meriweather’s injury.

The Cowboys defense will rely heavily on defensive end DeMarcus Ware, who leads the team with ten sacks, half of the team total of twenty. The defensive backs though have not done so well. They have only four interceptions in ten games and much like the Redskins, they have not returned a punt or kickoff for a TD.

I doubt that will change tonight; but someone could end up being the Turkey this Thanksgiving.

Check out http://www.fightfortheyard.com for more UK based NFL articles.

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