Redskins tailback Clinton Portis vs. linebacker Ray Lewis, right, and Baltimore's run defense
It's not as if Portis doesn't have any motivation. Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis, right, essentially has challenged Portis to snap out of it by saying he's not as good as Chiefs running back Priest Holmes: "Portis ain't Priest. Don't fool yourself." Lewis has the power to stuff inside runs and the speed to chase Portis down on outside runs. The Redskins' best hope is that the passionate linebacker overpursues. Baltimore defensive coordinator Mike Nolan shifted to a 3-4 defense to exploit his deep corps of linebackers. But the Redskins will try to emulate the Chiefs by using a big body -- 6-foot-6, 332-pound Derrick Dockery or 6-5, 306-pound Randy Thomas -- to keep Lewis out of Portis's path. Washington's counter play will be difficult against Baltimore's quick run defense. Portis is still getting his timing down with Washington's offensive line. The line has created crevices instead of holes, and Portis has found himself surrounded near the line of scrimmage. It is important for Portis to start off well before frustration seeps in. Portis, who entered the season with a career average of 5.5 yards, is averaging only 3.3 yards since his first carry of the season produced a 64-yard touchdown.
Ravens tailback Jamal Lewis vs. the Redskins' run defense
The Redskins' run defense, perched atop the league allowing an average of only 59.5 yards, faces a monumental task. The Redskins' defenders will point out Baltimore's tendencies -- running on the left side behind tackle Jonathan Ogden and guard Edwin Mulitalo -- but it will still be a matter of stopping Lewis. Lewis will run between tackles, where Washington has been the most vulnerable. Baltimore lacks a play-making receiver -- and likely will be without starter Travis Taylor -- so Washington can add an extra defender, safety Sean Taylor, near the line of scrimmage. Washington can afford this approach because of the strong play of its cornerbacks, particularly Shawn Springs, who hasn't been tested much this season. Springs and Fred Smoot should be able to handle one-on-one matchups against wideouts Kevin Johnson and Randy Hymes.