Week 14 finds the 5-7 Redskins on the west coast to take on the 6-6 Los Angeles Chargers, two teams that are going in completely different directions despite their similar records. Kickoff is on Sunday at 4:05, at which time the triage unit that calls itself the Redskins will take the field against the surging (and remarkably healthy for this point in the season) Chargers. Los Angeles has everything to play for, with a trip to the post-season dance firmly in their sights. The Skins have only a minuscule chance at the playoffs and will likely be mathematically eliminated this weekend. Despite that grim reality, there is still a game to be played on Sunday and a number of interesting story lines to follow as the season winds down.
The most obvious mismatch is the ravaged Washington offensive line being pitted against the devastatingly efficient LA pass rush, which is currently sitting at 2nd in the league. Cousins has done the best he can behind a line of ever-rotating pieces, but it’s very unlikely they can hold off a concerted Chargers attack led by Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. Those two account for 20 sacks on the season already and will probably be adding to that number against a Skins offensive front that leaks like a sieve. Cousins is in for a long afternoon.
Conversely, the LA run defense is among the league’s worst, an ironic twist of fate considering that the Skins running game is mediocre on its best day. If the stout Chargers pass defense forces the Redskins to be one dimensional on offense, that weakness is going to be exposed. Samaje Perine will have to be at his best for the Burgandy and Gold to have any shot at a win and his best will probably not be enough. Chris Thompson’s absence is a dagger this team continues to feel every week.
Philip Rivers has been fantastic lately, not taking sacks, not turning the ball over, and not forcing plays if he can’t find a receiver. The Redskins defensive line (also devastated by injuries) was terrible against Dallas last week and if they play a similar game, they won’t get nearly enough pressure to force Rivers into any mistakes. Even more alarming for the Skins D is Keenan Allen, who has been cutting through secondaries like a hot knife through butter. Hopefully Jay Gruden won’t repeat last week’s mistake and will decide put his best corner on his opponent’s best receiver, so we should see Josh Norman shadowing Allen all afternoon. Norman will have his hands full. Allen just became the first player to ever record 10+ catches/100+ yards/ and at least 1 touchdown in three consecutive games.
Cousins has been somewhere between serviceable and very good all season long, but the injuries to his key weapons and his protection just seem like too much to overcome at this point. He’ll be without Jordan Reed, Chris Thompson, Maurice Harris, Terrelle Pryor, and Rob Kelley, the latter four of whom are all on the IR. Several of the receivers who are available, notably Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder, haven’t been able to hold on to the football even when it hits them in the chest. Coupling those woes with the injuries to linemen Trent Williams, Morgan Moses, Chase Roullier, Branden Scherff, and Ty Nsheke, it just becomes impossible to imagine how the Skins can come away with a win.
Prediction: Chargers 31 – Redskins 24