Arizona Cardinals vs. Washington Redskins: Prediction, preview, pick to win

By The Sports Xchange  |  Dec. 17, 2017 at 12:07 AM
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ARIZONA CARDINALS (6-7) AT WASHINGTON REDSKINS (5-8)

GAME SNAPSHOT

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, FedEx Field. TV: FOX, Kenny Albert, Ronde Barber, Kristina Pink (field reporter).

SERIES HISTORY: 123rd regular-season meeting. Redskins lead series, 74-46-2. This matchup dates back to 1932, when the Cardinals were based in Chicago and the Redskins were known as the Washington Braves. The Cardinals have played the Redskins more times than any other team besides the New York Giants (126) -- Arizona's opponent next week. The Cardinals and Redskins played in the NFC East together from 1970 to 2001. This week's meeting will be the eighth since the Cardinals moved to the NFC West in 2002. Arizona won the last two meetings, both at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals haven't won at Washington since 1998 and are winless in their last seven trips there.

KEYS TO THE GAME: With Adrian Peterson on injured reserve with a neck injury and David Johnson not to be activated off injured reserve, the Cardinals figure to feature the diminutive Kerwynn Williams as their primary running back for a third week in a row. He hasn't disappointed the past two games, despite playing with two cracked ribs. He ran for 97 yards in a tough loss to the Rams and 73 yards in a win over the Titans.

The Cardinals' offensive line, however, is reshuffling again. Rookie Will Holden will play left tackle for the first time, and second-year pro Evan Boehm is moving back to right guard. That could make things difficult for Williams, but he's still managed to grind out some impressive yards nonetheless.

Blaine Gabbert has to be better at finding his targets a tick sooner and getting his passes there without floating them or underthrowing them. That will also help him avoid sacks -- last week he was dumped eight times by the Titans. The reconfigured offensive line also has to get much better because they allowed much of the disruption to happen with poor pass blocking.

Defensively, the Cardinals have to exhaust all of their resources into bringing a healthy pass rush on Washington's Kirk Cousins in order to disrupt his timing and quicken his read progressions. The Cardinals can get there, too, because of outside linebacker Chandler Jones, who leads the league with 14 sacks, 24 tackles for loss and 27 quarterback hits. He will need more help up the middle, however, from players such as Olsen Pierre, Robert Nkemdiche and two veterans expected to return from ankle injuries, Corey Peters and Josh Mauro.

If All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson is able to shut down wide receiver Jamison Crowder, someone else will have to make sure Josh Doctson doesn't kill the Cardinals in the red zone.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

--Cardinals LT Will Holden vs. Redskins OLB Preston Smith. Ryan Kerrigan is Washington's primary main edge disruptor, but the 6-foot-6 Smith, who has five sacks, could have a field day against the fifth-round rookie who has never started an NFL game at tackle.

--Redskins RB Samaje Perine vs. Cardinals ILB Karlos Dansby. Dansby hasn't really been fully healthy for most of the season, but he will have to be a tackling machine or get help from Deone Bucannon, rookie Haason Reddick and Josh Bynes to keep tabs on Perine, who can go off in any week. Since rushing for 117 and 100 yards against the Saints and Giants, though, Perine has gained just 38 and 45 yards in his last two games, against the Cowboys and Chargers.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT

ARIZONA CARDINALS

--Out: WR John Brown (toe), LB Gabe Martin (hamstring), RB Adrian Peterson (neck/injured reserve), G Earl Watford (ankle)

--Questionable: TE Jermaine Gresham (illness), DT Josh Mauro (ankle), DT Corey Peters (ankle)

WASHINGTON REDSKINS

--Out: LB Zach Brown (illness, toe, Achilles, hip), S Montae Nicholson (concussion)

--Questionable: LB Ryan Anderson (ankle), WR Ryan Grant (ankle), WR Maurice Harris (concussion), DE Terrell McClain (toe), T Morgan Moses (ankle), C Chase Roullier (hand), T Trent Williams (knee)

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Cardinals QB Blaine Gabbert. The journeyman is on the hot seat and, fair or not, how he plays in the final three games will be pivotal as to what the Cardinals do at the position moving forward. If he plays well and keeps showing improvement, Arizona could sign him to a contract extension and use him as their quarterback of the future or, more likely, a bridge until they draft and develop a QB. After four starts, they can't be sure they can count on him yet, and this game could do a lot to determine whether they can.

FAST FACTS: Arizona QB Blaine Gabbert has 2+ TD passes in 3 of his past 4 road starts. ... WR Larry Fitzgerald has 15,311 receiving yards, third in NFL history. He ranks fourth in the NFL with 87 receptions. In his past five games against Washington, he has 515 yards and three TDs. ... LB Chandler Jones' 14 sacks are the most through 13 games in franchise history. He has a sack in three straight games and has six sacks in his past six road games. ... LB Karlos Dansby leads Arizona with 77 tackles. In four games vs. Washington, he has 33 tackles, two sacks and an interception. ... Ten of Washington's 13 games have come against teams above .500, seven against teams leading their divisions and five against teams with nine wins or more. ... In his past five home games, Washington QB Kirk Cousins has 1,527 passing yards (305.4 per game), nine TD passes and four interceptions. In two career games vs. Arizona, he has averaged 312.5 passing yards per game, with three TD throws. ... RB Samaje Perine has 190 scrimmage yards in his past two home games. He ranks fifth among NFL rookies with 510 rushing yards. ... WR Jamison Crowder has 340 yards (113.3 per game) and a TD catch in his past three home games. ... LB Zach Brown leads the NFL with 127 tackles. He has 62 tackles in past six home games. He tallied 12 tackles last time he played Arizona (2016 with Buffalo). ... LB Ryan Kerrigan has 6.5 sacks in his past six home games. He has 2.5 sacks in three career games vs. Arizona. Since entering the NFL in 2011, he ranks fifth with 67.5 sacks.

PREDICTION: Washington hasn't done much since beating Seattle in Week 9, and Arizona has a couple of big wins against Jacksonville and Tennessee the last three weeks.

OUR PICK: Cardinals, 24-20.

--Chris Cluff

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