This week is a possible test on the road for the 49ers. I say “possible” because I’m not really sure what team the Redskins are going to field tomorrow. It’s unclear who Mike Shanahan has faith in anymore. Washington started high atop the NFC East but they now sit in the middle and they are falling fast as the Eagles seem to be catching fire and the Giants are returning to stable form at 5-2.
Looking at the 49ers this week, a confidence building win against Cleveland bolstered their record to 6-1, second best in the NFL. And I know the analyst aren’t sure whether or not they are a contending team but a win against the Redskins gives them a possible 5 game division lead. They are a physical team that isn’t going to blow you out and this makes them the favorite among other NFC teams to knock off the Packers in the playoffs.
So let’s see how the 49ers will win each of 3 phases as they try to bring home a victory against the struggling Skins.
Defense: Let’s start here. The Redskins have had awful offensive production the last couple weeks. Choice is out, Hightower will most likely sit the rest of the season (ACL). Santana Moss broke his hand on a catch against the Bills so the Redskins are banged up to say the least. Not to mention the coaching staff losing faith in Rex Grossman, the guy who led them to a 3-1 start. It seems all San Fran has to do is not fall asleep on the field and they’ll win. Last time I checked no one in the secondary suffers from narcolepsy. The 49ers just have to play aggressive on the corners. Force throws over the middle into zone defenses. The Redskins turn the ball over a lot through the air. Against a 6-1 team they might be more apt to take high-risk chances because of their disadvantages due to injury.
Offense: DON’T TURN THE BALL OVER!!! You are +10 in the turnover department. Don’t force throws until you have to. Play the run game and use that to set up the play fake. Alex Smith has thrown only 2 interceptions on the season, the Redskins defense would love to change that and it’s what they are aiming to do. Offensively they can’t compete in this game so they’re going to need to get defensive stops and turnovers. Stretch the field when you get one-on-one opportunities but otherwise use Davis and throw underneath the coverage. Washington will bring a lot of blitzes to force throws but patience is the key.
Special Teams: Execution on special teams is critical in this game. If the 49ers can keep the Redskins in their own territory via long punts and solid coverage they will dominate this game. The 49ers aren’t going to run up the score with their 31st ranked pass offense so it will look closer than it is. But that doesn’t mean that Washington can’t get back into it on a special teams miscue.
Prediction: 49ers win 27-13.