On Sunday, two division leaders will take the field in Washington, D.C. It'll be the first time that the Texans have faced a division leader this late in the season since the trip to Mexico City to play the Raiders in 2016. Before that? 2012 in New England. The point is that it's been a while since the Texans have played a game of this magnitude and they don't often face an NFC team of this caliber this late in the season.
The Redskins seem to be channeling their inner 2016 Texans. They're 6-3, but the three losses have been, uh, significant. The Redskins lost by an average of 20 points a game. Their point differential is +1 (while the 6-3 Texans point differential is +32). Similar to the Texans of a couple of years ago, the Redskins formula for winning is distinct and overt. They allowed no more than 17 points in any win this season. The defense gave up 13 and three in the last two wins against the Giants and the Buccaneers and give up only a little over 12 points per game in their six wins. They play defense. They don't light up the scoreboard. They turn teams over. They don't give the ball away. It's not sexy football, but it's effective.
Without further ado, let's get to know the 2018 Washington Redskins.
Schedule - Record (6 - 3)
W, 24-6 @ Arizona Cardinals
L, 21-9 v. Indianapolis Colts
W, 31-17 v. Green Bay Packers
L, 43-19 @ New Orleans Saints
W, 23-17 v. Carolina Panthers
W, 20-17 v. Dallas Cowboys
W, 20-13 @ New York Giants
L, 38-14 v. Atlanta Falcons
W, 16-3 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Rushing yards per game - 121.1 ypg (10th in the NFL)
Passing yards per game - 216.2 ypg (25th)
Total offense per game - 337.4 ypg (26th)
Turnovers lost - 7 (3 INT, 4 fumbles lost) - Redskins are +11 in TO margin, 3rd best in NFL
Redskins starting offense last Sunday vs. Tampa Bay
QB - ALEX SMITH
RB - ADRIAN PETERSON
WR - Brian Quick
TE - Vernon Davis
TE - Jordan Reed
TE - Jordan Sprinkle
LT - Ty Nsekhe
LG - JONATHAN COOPER
C - Chase Roullier
RG - TONY BERGSTROM
RT - Morgan Moses
Other key offensive pieces
WR - Maurice Harris
RB - Kapri Bibbs
WR - Josh Doctson
WR - MICHAEL FLOYD
**All caps indicates a 2018 offseason addition
Key to the Redskins Offense
Back to the Future
Future Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson was a man without a team after his stint with Arizona in 2017. After a disastrous knee injury for second-round pick Derrius Guice, the Redskins sent out the bat signal for Peterson who was primed and ready for his re-arrival on the NFL scene. The first week out of the gate, he piled up 96 yards on 26 carries against his former team Arizona. He's had five games of 96 yards or more rushing and has already surpassed his total of 448 yards in 2017.
When watching him on tape, he doesn't appear to be any different than he was early in his career. All it takes is watching his 64-yard run against the Giants to see that he hasn't lost much juice in his 33-year old legs. But, there's a theme. Against the Colts, he had 20 yards on 11 carries and the Redskins lost. Against the Saints, he had six yards on four carries and the Redskins lost. Against the Falcons, he had 17 yards on nine yards and the Redskins lost. Not only did the Redskins lose those games, they were thumped badly. He totaled 24 carries in those three games. On the flip side, he has carried it 24 times in a game three times this year and no fewer than 17 times in any win.
So, if the Texans get an early lead and make the Redskins chase, they're going to have to go away from their star back. But, if the Redskins stay close or lead, Peterson is going to pound behind his rebuilt offensive line. The Texans have had issues with quarterback Alex Smith in the past, but it's clear that the Redskins will ride or die with Peterson. The evidence is clear. Crystal clear.
Rushing yards allowed per game - 90.9 ypg (5th in the NFL)
Passing yards allowed per game - 270.1 ypg (25th)
Total offense allowed per game - 361.0 ypg (17th)
Turnovers generated - 18 (9 INT, 9 fumbles recovered)
Redskins starting defense last Sunday vs. Tampa Bay
DE - Jonathan Allen
NT - Da'RON PAYNE (rookie)
SLB - Preston Smith
ILB - Zach Brown
ILB - Mason Foster
WLB - Ryan Kerrigan
CB - Fabian Moreau
S - HA HA CLINTON-DIX (traded to Washington two weeks ago)
S - D.J. Swearinger
Nickel - DANNY JOHNSON
CB - Josh Norman
Other key defensive pieces
DT/DE - Matt Ioannidis
CB - GREG STROMAN (Rookie)
DT - TIM SETTLE (Rookie)
**All caps indicates a 2018 off-season addition
Key to the Redskins Defense
At the end of the 2015 and 2016 seasons, Clemson played Alabama for college football's national championship. In 2015, Alabama took home the championship after a scintillating 45-40 win over the Tigers, while Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson ended Alabama's dream of going back-to-back with a last second touchdown throw to win in 2016.
Why does that matter? Well, Watson carved up Alabama's defense both nights. In the loss, he was 30-47 for 405 yards, four interceptions and one interception. In the Tigers' win, he was just as prolific, completing 36-56 for 420 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He took every last hit from the Alabama defense in both games and destroyed them. So, who will Watson see this week in Washington? Three key members of those Alabama teams - Jonathan Allen, Da'Ron Payne and Ryan Anderson.
Those three have not only bolstered an already talented defensive front, but they provide a number of different issues for offensive lines. Allen can line up all over the front and win with power, strength and speed, no matter where he is. He's not Jadeveon Clowney, but from a versatility standpoint, Washington will use him in a similar manner. Payne is a handful. There were times at Alabama where he seemed to get bored against lower level SEC teams week in and week out. This year, though, he's showed why he was a first round pick. His power and athleticism have given centers and guards so many issues this year. Those two will rush together, if you will, working games and stunts together to get free, but they'll also just go toe-to-toe with interior linemen and win. Easily. Anderson is a jack of all trades who can rush from the outside opposite Ryan Kerrigan or Preston Smith.
I'd rather not see those guys introducing, uh re-introducing, themselves to Deshaun in this meeting on Sunday. In fact, it's imperative that it doesn't happen. Trade jerseys at the end of the day and hopefully it's a clean one to swap with the former Alabama stars.