NFL Preview - Washington (0-3) at Oakland (1-2)
By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - Into every slumping team's life, a get-well game must fall.
And for the winless Washington Redskins, it couldn't come soon enough.
The defending NFC East champions will get a fourth crack at their first
victory of the season on Sunday, when they head to the Bay Area to meet the
Oakland Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
The Redskins fell to 0-3 last week -- the franchise's worst beginning in 12
years -- with a 27-20 loss to the Detroit Lions in which prized second-year
quarterback Robert Griffin III put up gaudy numbers, but nonetheless again
failed to display the magic that characterized his spectacular rookie season.
Griffin ran for 37 yards on six carries, his busiest running workload of the
year thus far, and threw a career-high 50 passes. The throws got him past 300
yards for the third straight week, but the increased yardage totals have been
largely due to successive first-half deficits.
Washington has been outscored by 46 points in the first halves of its three
Matters weren't helped last when Griffin fumbled at the end of a 21-yard run
in the fourth quarter, his fifth turnover in three games. Still, the assurance
gained by last year's successes hasn't waned.
"I don't think this team has lost its sense of confidence," he said. "We know
how close we are. We know we can turn it around and we're built to get out of
this hole, just like we were last year."
The Redskins lost six of their first nine games last season before a 7-1
stretch to close the schedule. Still, some wonder if Griffin is yet the same
player as he was in 2012, after his quick return from a serious knee injury
sustained in a playoff loss to Seattle.
He's completed more than 60 percent of his passes for five TDs and is already
a 25-yard completion from reaching 1,000 yards, but he's nearly three yards
per carry down from last year's average (6.8 to 4.1) and has thrown four INTs
in three weeks.
"He's not fully healthy," said wide receiver Pierre Garcon. "Last year's RG3
was a lot different than this year's RG because of his knee. It's not
surprising -- we've been talking about it the whole offseason. I don't think
he's 100 percent, but he's definitely giving 100 percent effort to get 100
The 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year's next attempt at fortune reversal comes
against a Raiders team that was battered for 536 total yards in a 16-point
Monday night loss at Denver.
That defense will be without safety Tyvon Branch thanks to an ankle injury,
though it could get cornerback Tracy Porter back after he sustained a
Porter is listed as doubtful even though he returned to practice on Wednesday.
On the offensive side, starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor is tabbed as
questionable after a concussion of his own in the fourth quarter of the loss
to the Broncos. If he's unable to go, Oakland will turn to Matt Flynn, who'd
make his third career NFL start and first since he backed up Aaron Rodgers in
Green Bay in 2011.
He was 1-1 in two games with Green Bay in 2010 and 2011, then spent 2012 on
the sidelines in Seattle behind rookie sensation, Russell Wilson.
"We'll see whether (Pryor) is able to go," Raiders coach Dennis Allen said.
"We'll see as the week goes on and make a determination."
Pryor outdueled Flynn for the starting job in August and is 53-of-81 for 624
yards. He's also rushed for 198 yards -- which puts him fourth in the AFC.
Flynn is a more traditional stay-at-home QB and has run for just 19 yards in
34 appearances in his NFL career.
He's completed 88-of-143 passes for 1,102 yards, nine touchdowns and five
"We've got to have a game plan if Terrelle's able to go that he can go in and
execute and give us a chance to win," Allen said. "If not, we've got to have
something in there that gives Matt Flynn a chance to have success."
The Redskins haven't exactly been stingy on defense while allowing a per-week
clip of 488 yards per game, worst in the league through three weeks.
"Too many mistakes," linebacker Bryan Kehl said. "Poor tackling, blown
assignments on defense."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Raiders' battered defense might be just what's needed to restore the mojo
of RG3. Combined with running back Alfred Morris, look for an increasingly
more mobile Griffin to utilize play-action fakes and read-option schemes to
exploit a ball-stopping unit that's 18th in the league against the run.
The success of Oakland's offense -- and how it looks while achieving said
success -- will be determined in large part by who's calling the signals. If
Pryor moves from questionable to starter, he'll be much more involved with his
legs and would continue to take at least some of the load from Darren
McFadden. If it's Flynn under center, expect McFadden to boost his workload
beyond the 16 carries a game he's averaged through three weeks.
The Redskins have been intermittently prolific, but nowhere near consistent,
while digging themselves a three-game hole to start the season. And a trip to
the West Coast doesn't particularly help matters.
Still, they're a better team on paper than Oakland, which comes into the game
off of a short preparation week and will start either a dinged-up QB or a
rusty one. Those issues should be enough to get Washington its first win.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Redskins 24, Raiders 20.
09/26 12:05:57 ET
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