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Game time: Sunday, Dec. 16, 1:00 p.m. ET, Browns Stadium
Weather: mid-50s, cloudy
Records: Redskins (7-6) at Browns (5-8)
1. Will Robert Griffin III play?
This is the question of the week, obviously. On Thursday, coach Mike Shanahan said RGIII "was more comfortable at practice," but his status for Sunday's must-win game (they're all "must win" at this point) won't be decided until, well, Sunday. If Griffin can't protect himself (which is one of the biggest concerns at this point, "then there's no chance of him going out there," offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. Which brings us to our next questions...
2. Can Kirk Cousins handle the job if RGIII can't go?
Yep, he sure can. We've written about it at length but Cousins has shown the ability to run this offense, and he even admits that he's become a better player by watching Griffin in both practice and games. Still, Shanahan admits that Cousins has forced him to be "a little more open-minded" in game-planning but acknowledges that "I put myself in check when I start to get a little frustrated with it because I know it’s probably a little more frustrating for [the Browns] than it is for me."
3. Can Alfred Morris hold onto the ball?
Morris has had a fantastic season made even better by the fact that he's a sixth-round pick. But he's also had trouble holding onto the ball, something that becomes more important as the season winds down. We also bring it up because the Browns forced eight (!) turnovers two weeks ago in their 20-16 win over the Steelers, so they're an opportunistic bunch. Shanahan, who knows something about 1,000-yard rushers, sounded unconcerned earlier this week.
“To be honest with you, fumbles are going to occur,” the coach said via the Washington Post. “You have to practice it every day with the defense, trying to strip the ball from you. We haven’t had as much contact [in recent practices] with the Monday night game and obviously playing on Sunday, some short weeks. We’ll get back to trying to strip the ball, putting him in those situations where he gets those good habits back.”
4. Will the Redskins' defense be able to slow down Trent Richardson?
Seeing that Ray Rice ran for 121 yards on 20 carries last week, the easy answer is "uh, no way." But here's one of the biggest differences between the Ravens and Browns offense: Baltimore has some semblance of a passing game, the Browns do not. Baltimore has Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin; the Browns have Greg Little and Josh Morgan. And most importantly, Baltimore has Joe Flacco while the Browns have rookie Brandon Weeden. We're guessing Jim Haslett will focus on stopping Richardson and making Weeden beat them with his arm.
5. Can the 'Skins win on the road when it counts?
The season got off to a rollicking start when RGIII stuck it to the Saints -- in New Orleans -- in his NFL debut. They're they're 1-4 on the road since that game, but 5-2 at home. Despite the two-game winning streak, the Browns aren't world beaters by any stretch, but if the 'Skins sneak into the playoffs, they'll be a road team for as long as they're playing. Put another way: If they're going to make anything of this, they'll have to do it away from FedEx Field.