Chicago Bears (4-2) at Washington Redskins (1-4)
Sunday - 1pm on Fox
The all-time series is tied at 23-23-1.
This week's opponent, the Chicago Bears, come to Fed Ex Field with quarterback Jay Cutler leading the way on offense and middle linebacker Lance Briggs on defense. In order for the Redskins to win on Sunday, they MUST do the following:
1) Capitalize on mistakes Jay Cutler will make - Cutler is a gunslinger in the mold of Brett Favre. He will make poor decisions and try to fire in a pass where there is no opening, and the Redskins must take advantage of those opportunities. The last time the Redskins played the Bears in 2010, DeAngelo Hall had four interceptions in the game. Afterwards, Cutler said he would throw those passes again if he had the chance, and indicated he did not have a lot of respect for Hall. It will be interesting to see if Cutler lives up to his word on Sunday. So far this year, while Cutler is on pace for an overall good season with 1,630 yards passing and 12 touchdowns, he is also tied for seventh worst in the NFL with six interceptions. Meanwhile, DeAngelo Hall has played some of his best football in 2013 with 26 tackles, one fumble recovery for a touchdown, one forced fumble and one interception that he returned for a touchdown. He also has three passes defended, including an impressive one in the end zone last week against Miles Austin. On the play, it appeared he was expecting safety help and did not get it, but was able to recover and knocked the ball away.
2) Don't give up the big return - After allowing two long game-changing returns in Dallas, it is clear the Redskins are struggling in this department. This week, Mike Shanahan stated sarcastically that Lorenzo Alexander, last year's special teams captain, is not coming back to help the team and indicated they will have to figure out the solution fast. The Bears' record breaking return man Devin Hester will not make this task any easier. While Hester is not as dangerously explosive as he has been in the past, he is still very effective as he leads the league in kick return yards with 575 yards and is third in the league with an average of 30.3 yards per kick return.
3) Line up in formations that will help the receivers get open - Against the Cowboys, the Redskins' receivers struggled to find open space. Dallas did a great job of jamming them and then sticking with them before they could make their breaks. The Bears have, without a doubt, watched the film by now and will probably incorporate a similar strategy using cornerbacks Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman. As was pointed out by the Cowboys' broadcasting team of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, when Washington ran passing plays out of trips formations (multiple receivers bunched on one side), that seemed to help keep the opposing corners back last week and open some lanes. The Redskins will need to go to that again if they start running into the same issues. The Bears are currently ranked 23rd in the league in overall pass defense, allowing an average of 271 yards per game through the air. However, they are tied for second in the NFL with seventeen takeaways and also rank second in the league with 62 points off of takeaways.
4) Contain the Bear's screen plays - Matt Forte has been targeted 38 times, catching 33 passes for 244 yards with 168 yards after the catch this year. The Bears have made the screen play a big part of their offense and the Redskins will have to do a better job defending it. On the outside, Chicago has tall receivers Brandon Marshall (6'4") and Alshon Jeffery(6'3"), who have a combined 69 receptions for 921 yards and seven touchdowns in 2013. Tight end Martellus Bennett, who has 31 catches for 349 yards and three touchdowns, will keep the linebackers busy.
5) Keep running Griffin - The most positive storyline that came out of last week's loss to the Cowboys was the fact that Robert Griffin III looked a lot like the RG3 of 2012 when he ran, with nine attempts for 77 yards. That added element has not been a part of the offense this year and it was good to see it again. If Griffin can continue to keep that option as a threat, it will continue to open up lanes for the Alfred Morris and keep the defense honest in the passing game as well.
If the Redskins have any interest in making the rest of the year interesting, they will have to get a victory in Week 7. After this game at home, Washington will go on the road to Denver to face Peyton Manning and the seemingly unstoppable Broncos. The last two weeks, the Redskins have appeared to make progress on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. None of that matters, however, if they don't start putting together victories.
It has to start now, or the only speculation left will be how high of a second round pick the team will get this coming May.