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What to Watch: Ravens vs. Redskins

Both teams have a lot to play for

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Getty Images
    ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 16: Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins jokes with head coach Mike Shanahan also of the Washington Redskins during pre-game warm ups prior to playing against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on September 16, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

    Game time: Sunday, Dec. 9, 1:00 p.m. ET, FedEx Field
    TV:CBS
    Weather: mid-50s, rain
    Records: Ravens (9-3) at Redskins (6-6)

    1. Can the Redskins run the ball?
    In years past this would have been a legitimate concern, especially with the likes of Jason Campbell/Donovan McNabb/Rex Grossman/John Beck under center mitigating any real threat to throw the ball. But, as you may have heard, things have changed with Robert Griffin III's arrival. He's proficient with his arms and his legs (novel idea, we know). He's also a team captain, one of the most popular people in the District, and has plans to cure cancer in his free time this spring.

    But to answer the question: yes, Washington can run against Baltimore, for two reasons: 1) RGIII and Alfred Morris are very good at what they do and 2) the Ravens' defense has been uncharacteristically bad against the run this season. If the 'Skins can have success on the ground and control the clock, they win.

    2. Will there be chances for big plays downfield?
    Oh, they'll be there because of No. 1 above. Mike Shanahan's a big fan of the naked bootleg, which is most effective when the running game is clicking. Given RGIII's mobility and arm strength, along with the reemergence of Pierre Garcon (not to mention an injury-plagued Ravens secondary), plays should be there to be had.

    3. Should RGIII be worried more about Ed Reed or Terrell Suggs?
    Despite a banged-up Baltimore secondary, you always have to be worried about Ed Reed. Sunday will be no different. It'll be interesting to see how wise-beyond-his-years RGIII fares against one of the best safeties in the history of the game. Suggs, meanwhile, is the defending defensive player of the year and has the ability to change a game. But he suffered an Achilles injury last spring and a triceps injury last week. He won't be 100 percent, which means that Reed should concern RGIII more than Suggs.

    4. What's the key to slowing down Ray Rice?
    The two simplest answers: 1) Long 'Skins drives that keep Rice off the field; 2) Washington jumps to an early lead which, if history is any guide, will prompt Ravens' offensive coordinator Cam Cameron to abandon the run and turn to Air Flacco. It's a strategy that drives Ravens' fans insane. Which should tell you all you need to know about its effectiveness.

    5. How about Joe Flacco and Torrey Smith?
    Slow down Flacco and you slow down Smith. And while Baltimore's fifth-year quarterback is having the most consistent year of his career, he's struggled in recent weeks. For the Redskins, this means continuing to play good defense, both up front and in the secondary. Baltimore's pass protection has been mostly solid, and if Flacco has time in the pocket he'll move the ball up and down the field with little problem.