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NFL Preview - San Diego (4-3) at Washington (2-5)
By Shawn Clarke, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - Washington Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather may be back from his league-mandated one-game suspension for hard hits, but he remains in the news for some inartful comments.
Meriweather and the Redskins will try to regroup when they host the San Diego Chargers Sunday from FedEx Field, where Meriweather plans on going low against opposing ball carriers. Meriweather, who was slapped with a two-game suspension that was lowered to one game after an appeal, is agitated how the league's rules have changed to promote players' safety.
"To be honest, you've just got to go low now," Meriweather said. "You've got to end people's career. You've got to tear people's ACLs and mess up people's knees now. You can't hit them (that) way, you can't hit them high anymore. You've just got to go low."
Meriweather had two big hits in a win over the Chicago Bears on Oct. 20 and one of them was against wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Marshall suggested Meriweather be banned from the league, setting a fire under the Washington safety.
"He feels like I need to be kicked out of the league? I feel like people who beat their girlfriends should be kicked out, too," Meriweather told the Washington Post on Monday.
Marshall has been in trouble with the law on several accounts in the past in regards to domestic disturbance and has been diagnosed with a personality disorder. The Redskins and Bears won't meet again this season, unless it's in the playoffs, but the Chargers are on the docket next for Washington, which blew a 21-7 lead in Sunday's 45-21 road loss to the Denver Broncos. The Broncos scored 31 points in the fourth quarter alone and scorched the Redskins for 446 total yards.
It was also the homecoming of Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan, who won a pair of Super Bowls with Denver and spent 21 seasons with the organization.
"Great memories, hopefully we can bring back some of those memories back to the fans in Washington like we did in Denver," Shanahan said of his return to the Mile High City. "That's what we're working for and hopefully we can do that."
The Redskins have lost two of three games and have a slight edge over the New York Giants for third place in the NFC East. They're also concerned with the health of second-year quarterback Robert Griffin III, who was taken out of Sunday's game as a precaution because of a left knee injury. Griffin passed for 132 yards and was intercepted twice in the loss, and said the knee "feels fine." Backup Kirk Cousins was picked off twice, too.
Shanahan was asked if RG3 would miss any practice time in preparation for the visiting Chargers.
"No. According to the doctors, it's a little bit sore right now," Shanahan said. "He's going to have a little more rehab this week which is typical of a quarterback or any other player having something hurt. But they feel he's fine and he'll be ready to go on Wednesday."
Redskins running back Alfred Morris continued to shine in his second year and recorded 93 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. He has posted more than 90 yards rushing in back-to-back games and is sixth in the NFL with 565. Tight end Jordan Reed has played well in consecutive games and finished with 90 yards on eight receptions at Denver, one week after posting 134 yards and a touchdown on nine catches versus the Bears.
The Chargers enter D.C. after their bye week and have won two straight and three of their last four games. They have the unfortunate luck to be playing in an AFC West Division that is led by the 8-0 Kansas City Chiefs and 7-1 Broncos, but are still alive for a playoff berth at 4-3.
San Diego was able to rest and recuperate during the bye and entered the break following an easy 24-6 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars aren't much of a team to gauge from and San Diego posted 434 total yards thanks to the duo of quarterback Philip Rivers and running back Ryan Mathews. Rivers threw for 285 yards with a touchdown pass and Mathews ran for 110 yards with a score on 21 carries less than a week after beating Indianapolis.
"It was an outstanding team effort today. On a short week and traveling across the country, the players had an outstanding week of practice. If we play that way during practice it carries into our games," Chargers head coach Mike McCoy said after the win at Jacksonville.
The defense played well and registered six sacks and an interception. Linebacker Thomas Keiser and defensive tackle Corey Liuget had two sacks apiece for the Chargers, who will try to apply the same pressure up front against what could be a hobbling Griffin. Liuget and outside linebacker Jarret Johnson lead the defense with three sacks, while the Chargers only have three interceptions. They'll have to force turnovers this week.
San Diego's 20 sacks are tied for eighth most in the league.
The Chargers are 23rd in total defense (378.6), 26th in passing (273.1), 17th in rushing (105.4) and ninth in points allowed (20.6). They'll visit the Broncos after this matchup in the nation's capital.
San Diego has won the last three meetings with Washington after losing the first six matchups between the teams. The Chargers won the last meeting, 23-20, on Jan. 3, 2010 in southern California, but are 1-4 in D.C. The Bolts were 23-17 overtime winners when they visited FedEx Field in 2005.
The Redskins' most recent win in the series came in 1998 at home, by a 24-20 count.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Redskins had three interceptions of Peyton Manning last week, but the future Hall of Famer also had four touchdown passes and 354 yards on 30-of-44 passing. Manning rallied the Broncos from 14 points down by picking apart Washington's secondary, which was highlighted by DeAngelo Hall's interception return for a score.
Despite the lopsided margin, the Redskins' defense played tough and posted a season-best four takeaways. Washington has to play tough with a Chargers offense coming to town looking to light up the scoreboard through the air. Rivers is having a Pro Bowl season and will face a defense that has forced a turnover in 11 straight regular season games. The 'Skins have scored 55 points off turnovers this season.
While most eyes will be on Griffin and the health of his knee, Rivers hopes to lay low much like he did in Week 2 at Philadelphia, where he shredded the Eagles for 419 yards and three TD passes with no interceptions. He hasn't reached the 300-yard passing mark in each of the last two games, but has two TD strikes and no picks in back-to-back wins.
Rivers' top targets in Antonio Gates, Keenan Allen, Danny Woodhead and Eddie Royal will have to watch their knees if Meriweather is targeting down low. All four have combined for 13 touchdowns this season.
Washington played tough run defense on Sunday and held Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno to 44 yards on 14 carries. Could the Redskins, who have stud Morris in the backfield, stop Mathews? Mathews has rushed for more than 100 yards in each of the last two weeks and had the bye week to rest. He has scored only one rushing touchdown this season (2 total) and will need another 20-plus carry effort. He has 43 touches the last two games.
"We know that if we get 24 rolling, he's hard to stop," Chargers back Le'Ron McClain said of Mathews after the Jags game. "He's strong. He did a great job of getting his head on a hat. Ryan got over 100 yards for the second straight game, but we're not satisfied. We want this to become a regular thing. That's the goal."
The Chargers rank fifth in total offense (402.9), sixth in passing (294.1), 15th in rushing (108.7) and 15th in points (24.0). The Redskins are 30th against the run, allowing 123.4 ypg, 27th in pass defense (273.7) and 29th in total yards allowed (397.1).
If the Chargers can keep Mathews rolling, they'll be in good shape for another win Sunday. Mathews, who registered a rushing touchdown for the first time since Week 5 of 2012 at Jacksonville, has the advantage against a weak Washington defense.
Stopping Rivers is priority No. 1 for the Redskins. Whether they can take him out of the game is unknown. Plus, the San Diego receivers may be a bit apprehensive with Meriweather planning on taking out some knees. What won't be low on Sunday is the point total and the Chargers will sneak home with a close win to remain in playoff contention.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Chargers 27, Redskins 23
10/31 11:52:29 ET
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