One of week eight’s most watched match ups will without question be the one between the Washington Redskins (3-4) and Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3) at Heinz Field. How will one of the NFL’s most potent offenses attack one of the league’s most dominant defenses? How will a defense that can’t stop anyone attempt to stop a quarterback who may just be the hardest one to tackle? Well maybe second hardest now thank s to his opponent, but that’s for two total different reasons. Both of these questions will be answered on Sunday afternoon at the conclusion of what should be a fantastic contest.
The Redskins offense is one of the finest units in the NFL ranking first in rushing yards gained per game (177.7 yards), fifth in both totals yards gained per game (406.3 yards) as well as points scored per game (28.7 points) and 20th in passing yards gained per game (228.6 yards). The problem with this team is their defense that has sitting with a sub .500 record and is ranked 29th in offensive yards allowed per game (413.7 yards), 32nd in passing yards allowed per game (328.4 yards), seventh in rushing yards allowed per game (85.3 yards) and 28th in points allowed per game (28.6 points).
The Redskins offensive unit all starts with their sensational rookie backfield of Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris who are both tearing the NFL so far this season. RG3 has passed for 1,601 yards, seven touchdowns, three interceptions and leads the league with 70.4% of his attempts being completed along with rushing for 468 yards and six touchdowns on just 64 carries. Morris is second in the league in rushing with his 658 yards (just one yard behind Arian Foster for a first place tie) and also has five touchdowns on 138 carries this season. These two will need to produce in a major way versus a Steelers defense that is known for stop the run and big time offensive plays. Griffin must also find a way to complete passes down field to keep the Pittsburgh defenders honest and with Fred Davis (out for season with ACL tear) and Pierre Garcon (out indefinitely with tear in foot ligament) both missing in action for this one Santana Moss and the rest of the Redskins receivers must step up. The Washington defense must step up as unit more than anyone, last week the Skins had a win in the bag thanks to RG3′s late heroics only to lose it due to the defense laying down and allowing their opponent to just take the game away from them.
The Steelers defense is a solid as it always has been ranking second in both total offensive yards allowed per game (277.3 yards) as well as passing yards allowed per game (184.4 yards), ninth in rushing yards allowed per game (92.5 yards) and 12th in points allowed per game (22 points). This week they will be put to the test which means it will be up to their offense to make the necessary plays to keep pace with Washington who can produce points in bunches. The Steelers offense is ranked 11th in offensive yards gained per game (372.3 yards), sixth in passing yards gained per game (282.2 yards), 26th in rushing yards gained per game (90.2 yards) and 17th in points scored per game (23.3 points).
The Pittsburgh offense has relied heavily on Big Ben Roethlisberger (1,765 yards, 11 TD, 3 INT and 66% completion rate) this season and will do so in this contest as well. Roethlisberger will need some type of assistance from his rushing game as he has all season long and with Rashard Mendenhall questionable again and Issac Redman unproductive the load is going to fall on Jonathan Dwyer‘s shoulders. If Dwyer can put together a similar performance to the one which he had last week (17 carries for 122 yards) then that will go a long way for the Steelers. Roethlisberger will look to expose the league’s worst defense against the pass with his three favorite targets Antonio Brown (36 receptions for 442 yards and TD), Mike Wallace (29 receptions 29 receptions for 397 yards and 4 TD) and Heath Miller (31 receptions for 290 yards and 5 TD). Troy Polamalu will again miss another game while attempting to heal his ailing calf which has been bothering him all season.
This is a tough one to call because conventional wisdom says that the Steelers win this one easily due to the fact that the Redskins defense is terrible but I just can’t see RG3 losing a second week in a row (even though it has happened already this season) with his brain operating like a computer remembering all the mistakes that he makes and then improving on them week after week. I’ll take Washington 31-27.