clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Going for Two

New, comments

The Redskins will try to win two straight for the first time this year - and beat the Bills for the first time since 1992 - as both Washington and Buffalo hope to solidify their playoff hopes on Sunday.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

With the "win a road game" box now checked, the Washington Redskins will set their sights on another simple-but-elusive goal: A second consecutive victory.

The Redskins haven't put together back-to-back wins since Weeks 7 and 8 of last year, when they beat the Titans and Cowboys in a pair of very close games.  The remarkable thing about the Skins winning two in a row during the 2014 season is that Washington only won four games all year.

While the Redskins will maintain their tenuous hold on first place with a win on Sunday, the Buffalo Bills, meanwhile, are clinging to faint postseason hopes after losing some of their mid-season momentum.

With a healthy Tyrod Taylor returning after the Bills' bye week, Buffalo knocked off the Dolphins by 16 and beat the Jets 22-17 at MetLife to improve to 5-4 and stay in the thick of the AFC playoff hunt.  The Bills then dropped two difficult road games, playing the Patriots tough in a 20-13 loss, then doing the same in a 30-22 defeat at Kansas City.  A nice home win over suddenly-hot Houston preceded last week's frustrating loss in Philadelphia.

Losers of three of four, the Bills are facing possible elimination if they lose to Washington.  Buffalo's hopes of staying alive will partially hinge on the play of the 26-year-old Taylor, who has been effective in nearly every game this year.  The Virginia native (Hampton High School, Virginia Tech) has only thrown more than a single interception once this year: Week 2 against the Patriots, when he was picked off three times---but threw for three touchdowns and scored another.

Taylor's accuracy has faded over the last month, but his production and quarterback rating have remained high.  He enters this week having thrown seven touchdowns against just one interception in the past three games, totaling 770 passing yards and adding another 127 on the ground during that span.  He has thrown 18 touchdown passes overall this year, which equals Kirk Cousins' total.  However, Taylor has only thrown five interceptions (Cousins has 11, although eight came during the first six weeks of the season).  Taylor's QB rating on the year is an impressive 100.9.

If the dynamic threat of "T-Mobile" weren't enough, the Bills also boast a multifaceted running attack led by LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams.  Williams has missed the last three games, but he may return against the Redskins.

As has been the case with most Rex-Ryan-coached teams, the Bills prefer to run the ball if at all possible, even with a capable passer like Taylor.  In fact, Taylor has averaged fewer than 21 pass attempts in the six wins in which he's played.  On the flipside, he has thrown at least 30 times in each of his five losses this year, and has thrown at least 36 passes in four of those five defeats.

Buffalo is currently third in the NFL with 141 rushing yards per game.  Washington---as we know all-too-well---€”struggles to stop the run.  The Redskins give up over 121 yards per game on the ground, good for only 24th in the NFL.  Washington's per-carry mark of 4.6 yards is 29th.  There's no question Buffalo is going to try to punish the Redskins' run defense.  If they can establish the run early and keep the game close (or play with a lead), expect a heavy dose of McCoy.

Put simply, if the Bills wind up throwing a lot, that's probably a good sign for the Redskins.

Believe it or not, Washington hasn't defeated the Bills since Super Bowl XXVI.  For those of you who aren't great at deciphering Roman numerals, that game took place in January of 1992.  Since Mark Rypien and company helped Joe Gibbs win his third Super Bowl, Washington and Buffalo have met in 1993, 1996, 1999, 2003, 2007, and 2011.

The Bills won every one of those games.

One sign that points to Washington breaking that streak is Buffalo's voluminous injury report.  The Redskins could be catching the Bills at a favorable time: In addition to Karlos Williams' questionable status, star defensive end Mario Williams has been suffering with illness all week and could miss the game or be limited.  Outstanding cornerback Stephon Gilmore was placed on season-ending injured reserve just a few days ago thanks to a shoulder injury.  Old friend Bacarri Rambo also may be missing from the secondary, as he's listed as questionable with a knee issue.

Buffalo's problems don't end there.  Tight end Charles Clay, who has over 50 catches and 500 receiving yards this year, is out with a back injury.  Starting linebacker Nigel Bradham will miss the game with an ankle problem, while right tackle Seantrel Henderson is out as well as he reportedly fights the effects of Crohn's Disease.

Healthy or not, the stakes for both teams are clear for Sunday.  If the Redskins can win their second game in a row (and their final home game of 2015), that sets up a huge clash in Philly the following week.  A Washington win against the Eagles under those circumstances would be enough to wrap up the division, assuming the Giants don't win out.  Speaking of winning out, Buffalo almost certainly needs to do that to have any shot at the postseason, and even three more wins may not be enough.

The Redskins might wind up not "needing" to win the Bills game, but claiming victory on Sunday would be a huge step toward a divisional title.  Without that win, all signs point to the Redskins having to take back-to-back road games against rival teams to close out the year.

And, in case you're just joining us, Washington hasn't exactly been terrific on the road this season.

The cleanest, easiest path to the playoffs would begin with a win against Buffalo.