- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 20, 2015

LANDOVER — The Washington Redskins have played fine at FedEx Field and hope to continue that trent on Sunday when they host the Buffalo Bills in the regular-season home finale.

The Redskins are 5-2 at home this season and Sunday’s game against the Bills is undoubtedly the most important of them. Washington will finish this season with two road games against division rivals Philadelphia and Dallas. Currently in a three-way tie atop the NFC East with the Eagles and the New York Giants, the Redskins must win on Sunday if they want to maintain the advantage over the Eagles heading into Philadelphia next Sunday.

Like last week, when the Redskins were seeking their first road win of the season, the focus was on playing their best football, not winning on the road. That message remains the same this week as the Redskins attempt to win consecutive games for the first time this year after beating the Chicago Bears.

“I think the message is pretty clear,”coach Jay Gruden said. “We’re 6-7 in a three-way tie for first place. That’s really the motivation. We don’t care about how many wins in a row it is. I think, really, it’s all about playing Buffalo and maintaining that advantage — that small advantage — that we have in the NFC East. In order to do that, we have to win. The back-to-back thing is obviously something that we’re going to eventually do to get to the division championship. I think everybody knows what’s at stake and knows we’ve had trouble putting back-to-back wins together. Hopefully, they’ll be ready and understand that.”

With that, here’s a look at the logistics and three things to watch on Sunday:


Kickoff: 1:00 p.m.

Records: Redskins 6-7, Bills 6-7

Television: FOX (Kenny Albert, play-by-play; Daryl Johnston, color; Laura Okmin, sidelines)

Radio: ESPN 980 (Larry Michael, Sonny Jurgensen, Chris Cooley, Doc Walker)

Weather: 45 and sunny

Lines: Bills -3, over/under 44 per Bovada

Projected Starters:

Redskins offense: QB Kirk Cousins, RB Alfred Morris, WR Pierre Garcon, WR DeSean Jackson, WR Jamison Crowder TE Jordan Reed, LT Trent Williams, LG Spencer Long, C Josh LeRibeus, RG Brandon Scherff, RT Morgan Moses.

Redskins defense: DE Chris Baker, NT Terrance Knighton, DE Ricky Jean Francois, OLB Trent Murphy, ILB Will Compton, ILB Mason Foster, OLB Ryan Kerrigan, CB Will Blackmon, CB Bashaud Breeland, SS DeAngelo Hall, FS Dashon Goldson.

Bills offense: QB Tyrod Taylor, RB LeSean McCoy, FB Jerome Felton, WR Sammy Watkins, WR Robert Woods, TE Chris Gragg, LT Cordy Glenn, LG Richie Incognito, C Eric Wood, RG John Miller, RT Jordan Mills.

Bills defense: DE Mario Williams, DT Corbin Bryant, DT Marcell Dareus, DE Jerry Hughs, SLB Manny Lawson, MLB Preston Brown, CB Ronald Darby, CB Leodis McKelvin, CB Nickell Roby, S Corey Graham, S Bacarri Rambo.

Injury report:

Redskins: Out: ILB Perry Riley (foot), WR Andre Roberts (knee); Questionable — DE Jason Hatcher (neck/knee), ILB Keenan Robinson (shoulder), RB Chris Thompson (shoulder), SS Jeron Johnson (hamstring); Probable — LT Trent Williams (foot), WR DeSean Jackson (knee), ILB Will Compton (shoulder), CB DeAngelo Hall (toe), FS Dashon Goldson (wrist/knee), WR Ryan Grant (abdomen).

Bills: Out — TE Charles Clay (back), RT Seantrel Henderson, LB Nigel Bradham, CB Ron Brooks (concussion/neck); Questionable — DE Mario Williams (illness), S Bacarri Rambo (knee), RB Karlos Williams (shoulder); Probable — LB Preston Brown (hamstring), FB Jerome Felton (back), RG John Miller (ankle), WR Robert Woods (hip).


All-time record: The Redskins are 5-8 against the Bills.

Last regular-season meeting: Oct. 30, 2011: 23-0 loss in Toronto.

Three things to watch:

** Tight end Jordan Reed is making a strong case as the team’s most valuable player on the Redskins and he’s certainly been the most dependable target for quarterback Kirk Cousins. He caught nine passes for 120 yards and a touchdown last week against the Bears, his best game in his breakout season. The biggest difference for Reed is that he’s been able to stay healthy. Finally, the Redskins are reaping the benefits of having him around full-time. While Reed’s stat line was impressive last week, it was also his most complete performance of the season. He showed improvement in his run-blocking and did not commit any penalties — a rare feat for the young tight end who has struggled with his blocking technique this season.

“Very impressed,” Gruden said of Reed. “Not so much with his hands and his route running and all that stuff — that’s the fantasy football side of Jordan Reed that obviously is very impressive — but I’ve been more impressed with him as far as learning all the positions and blocking, becoming a pure tight end. That’s the hardest part for somebody coming out of college who likes to just catch balls and score touchdowns.”

Another performance like that from Reed on Sunday and the Redskins should be in good shape.

** How will the Redskins defend Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor? The fifth-year quarterback from Virginia Tech is leading the Bills offense after four seasons as a backup in Baltimore and has thrown just two interceptions since Week 2. Not only has Taylor been sharp with his decision-making, but the speedy quarterback is always a threat to make a play with his feet. Taylor has rushed 71 times for 371 yards and three touchdowns, an average of 5.2 yards per carry. For the Redskins‘ defense, it will be important to be contain Taylor inside the pocket or he’ll make them pay for it once he’s on the move.

“He’s a very good player,” Gruden said. “He’s a much better passer than I think people would have given him credit for but he’s very good with his legs — can run the ball extremely well out of the pocket and throw on the run. I’ve been impressed with him.”

** The Bills‘ defense ranks in the middle of the pack in many defensive categories, but the stats can be deceiving. Buffalo’s defense is not always as bad as the numbers indicate. The biggest challenge, according to Gruden and others on the Redskins is coach Rex Ryan’s complex looks. Ryan’s defensive fronts are always switching up and stalking around the line of scrimmage to present exotics looks. The result? A lot of blitzing.

“They have very good players all the way through their defense and all the way through their team,” Cousins said. “So from a defensive standpoint, great pass rushers and also very good stopping the run. Talented secondary, very athletic, a lot of guys who are fast. Obviously the scheme itself can be very complex and throw a lot at you. It’ll be a great challenge for us, but certainly will be something that we need to be well prepared for and be ready to adapt as the game goes on.”

Perhaps the biggest issue the Bills have had on defense, and the entire team for that mater, this season is the rate at which they’re committing penalties. Buffalo has been penalized 124 times for a league-worst 1,086 yards.

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