Arizona Cardinals at Washington Redskins
When: Today, 1 p.m., FedEx Field.
Line: Redskins by 6.
TV/Radio: WTTG-5, WBFF-45; WJFK-FM-106.7, WBQB-FM-101.5, WPLC-FM-94.3,WKIK-FM-102.9, WAGE-1200, WNAV-1430, WFMD-930.
THE REDSKINS' KEYS TO VICTORY
1. Limit penalties.
The Redskins' 14 infractions last week against the Lions not only cost them 122 yards, but also created a slew of low-percentage, third-down-and-long situations. That skewed the play-calling, resulting in fewer rushing opportunities for RB Stephen Davis, whose absence from the offense hurt.
2. Protect QB Brad Johnson.
The offensive line is coming off its worst game of the season, in which Johnson was sacked five times. Because of the heavy pass-rush pressure, Johnson couldn't get the ball to his deep receivers. The Cardinals have the NFL's seventh-ranked pass rush, led by DE Simeon Rice.
3. Contain QB Jake Plummer.
The Redskins knocked Plummer out of the teams' first meeting of the season Oct. 17, when he broke a finger. But he's back to familiar late-game heroics, rallying the Cardinals to a last-minute victory over Philadelphia last week. A gifted scrambler, he's also accurate on the run.
WHEN THE REDSKINS HAVE THE BALL
In the friendly confines of FedEx Field, the Redskins won't have much of an excuse for penalties today. The offensive line should be able to hear Brad Johnson's snap count, but it will be without starting G Keith Sims (knee). Brad Badger will replace Sims. If the line gives Johnson time to throw, he should be able to spread the ball around, getting more deep throws to WRs Albert Connell and Michael Westbrook. The Redskins need to regain their balanced offensive attack, and that means getting RB Stephen Davis 25 to 30 carries.
LT Andy Heck vs. DE Simeon Rice
Heck has done a good job at the line's toughest spot. But against the Lions, a team with two strong defensive ends, the line struggled because the offense couldn't give blocking help to both tackles at once. The task may be similar today. LDE Andre Wadsworth (knee) may play a limited number of snaps. Rice, with 13 sacks this season (twice as many as the Redskins' sack leader, Dan Wilkinson), is a big problem.
WHEN THE CARDINALS HAVE THE BALL
Jake Plummer has thrown more than twice as many interceptions as touchdown passes this season. But he is still a threat. The Redskins' defense has been flummoxed by his ilk: QBs who can scramble and throw on the run (remember Doug Flutie?). Plus, Plummer is best when things look most bleak. WR Frank Sanders is excellent. RB Michael Pittman, who is averaging 4.6 yards per carry, may be back from a toe injury.
WRs Frank Sanders and Rob Moore vs. CBs Darrell Green and Champ Bailey
Plummer has missed nearly as many throws as he's made this season. But his flair for timing that's dangerous. En route to a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns last week, he converted 5 of 5 third downs with completions on every throw. Sanders, at 6 feet 2, 204 pounds, will be a physical mismatch for either of the Redskins' cornerbacks.
After patiently waiting for his chance, James Thrash showed his explosiveness last week in running back a kickoff return 95 yards for a touchdown. He and Brian Mitchell will continue sharing the job. P Matt Turk has yet to find his Pro Bowl form of last season. K Brett Conway was booed for missing a 28-yard field goal attempt against the Eagles when last at FedEx Field.