Week 15: Redskins vs. Browns preview

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Photo - Rick Osentoski/AP
Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden has thrown for 3,037 yards, 13 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
Rick Osentoski/AP Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden has thrown for 3,037 yards, 13 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
Sports,NFL,Redskins,John Keim

Keys to victory

1 RGIII's health » The Redskins can win if Kirk Cousins starts for the injured Robert Griffin III (questionable with a knee sprain). He's smart and prepared and makes quick decisions. But he's not afraid to be aggressive, either, and that could get him in trouble. With Griffin, it's not just the threat of his arm and legs; it's the way he opens up the rest of the offense with his presence. The zone-read option fools defenders' eyes routinely, creating opportunities for all. It helps the offense be more explosive.

2 Be ready deep » The Browns don't have a dynamic quarterback in rookie Brandon Weeden. He will make mistakes, evidenced by 15 interceptions, and he gets away with plenty of others. Weeden has a strong arm and confidence. But that also leads to throws that can hurt a defense. Rookie receiver Josh Gordon averages 17.4 yards per catch and has caught a team-best five touchdown passes. He has caught 25 passes in the past five weeks.

3 Handle the front » Cleveland has a big defensive line, something that has often given the Redskins fits. Defensive tackles Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor both weigh more than 330 pounds. If they're able to generate a push, it will make life difficult for the running game (they've combined for three sacks). In rush situations, the Browns don't have anyone with more than five sacks, but they do have 34 as a team.

Key matchups

LB London Fletcher

He ran well last week but is still bothered by an ankle injury.

vs.

RB Trent Richardson

He's not healthy and it's showing, but he is a threat running or receiving.

WR Pierre Garcon

In only seven games, he trails Santana Moss by 31 yards for the team lead.

vs.

CB Joe Haden

The D.C. native makes a huge difference for Cleveland. The Browns went 0-4 without him.

ST Lorenzo Alexander

He's playing at a Pro Bowl level in coverage. The Redskins must fare well in that area.

vs.

KR/PR Josh Cribbs

He averages 27.7 yards per kick return and 12.8 on punt returns. Another D.C. native.

State of the teams

Cleveland Browns

Cleveland is a young team on a winning streak and with growing confidence. The Browns have beaten two bad teams the past two weeks -- Oakland and Kansas City -- but in previous years they had lost to those teams. They've also lost three games by four points or less. Like the Redskins, the Browns have done well in turnover differential at plus-8.

Washington Redskins

The Redskins, as you might imagine, are feeling confident. But there are no signs of anything other than a team that realizes it still has work remaining. They know one more loss could prevent a postseason berth. The Redskins not only have won four straight, but they have beaten three straight teams that currently have a winning record.

Examiner predicts

Everything depends on Griffin's health. If Cousins plays, his inexperience will show over four quarters. Let's assume Griffin plays -- a big assumption at this point.

Redskins 20, Browns 17

jkeim@washingtonexaminer.com

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