Which matchups will determine tomorrow's winner? Will the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat out an injury-riddled Washington squad, or will the Redskins walk away with the win under the guidance of Robert Griffin III? Let's see the key matchups, and who has the upper hand in each of them.
DeAngelo Hall vs Josh Freeman
This is going to be an interesting matchup. Josh Freeman struggled last game, not seeing things clearly and refusing to pull the trigger on some open receivers. That wasn't all his fault - there were a few drops, and a few occasions where receivers didn't get open. He needs to bounce back if the Bucs are to stand a chance of winning, though.
The one player in the Redskins secondary who can make life hell for Freeman is cornerback DeAngelo Hall. He has a penchant for interceptions, and if a ball is thrown late into his zone coverage he'll come up with it more often than not. That doesn't mean Freeman needs to shy away from Hall. In fact, he needs to pick on him because Hall is very undisciplined in coverage. He'll give up tons of yards and catches looking for that interception.
The key to beating the Redskins through the air is picking on Hall, who can be beaten easily, while avoiding the interceptions. That means Freeman needs to see things clearly and throw the ball early, when Hall can't react to it in time. That's a tough task for a struggling young quarterback.
Ryan Kerrigan vs Demar Dotson
The Washington Redskins have lost most of their pass rushers to injury, but one of them remains: Ryan Kerrigan. Last year's first-round pick has turned out to be a surprisingly good outside linebacker, and he's made a living off beating poor right tackles. In this game he'll face Demar Dotson, who did a good job on Anthony Spencer last week. He'll have to hold off Kerrigan this time, and he certainly has the talent to do so.
If Kerrigan can get to Freeman and hold his ground in the running game, the Bucs will have a tough day on offense. If he can't, the Bucs will be that much closer to success.
Roy Miller vs Will Montgomery
Gerald McCoy and Michael Bennett have gotten most of the praise, and rightly so, but Roy Miller has been pretty important to the defensive performance as well. His ability to hold his ground as a tilted nose tackle frees up McCoy and Bennett, while he consistently eats up double teams preventing any running room down the middle.
Miller's stellar performance so far has been limited to run-stuffing, as he simply isn't a good pass-rusher, but he's essential to this team's amazing run defense. On Sunday, he'll face Will Montgomery at center, and that's a decent challenge. The Redskins' zone running game depends on lateral movement, and he has to make sure to push Montgomery into the backfield, disrupting the lateral movement and taking away running lanes for Alfred Morris. If he can do that, and the rest of the defensive line can follow suit, they should have few problems with a pretty good running game.
Erik Lorig vs London Fletcher
The Bucs, of course, want to run the ball, but they haven't been very successful at it so far. One culprit has been Doug Martin, who appears to have lost some of the patience he had in college and earlier this year. He's rushing towards the line at full speed, but needs to slow down and let his blocking develop a little more. More importantly, though, is the fact that Erik Lorig has been inconsistent. He's whiffed on a few blocks, while clearly choosing the wrong option at other times - and that hurts Martin.
Lorig won't have an easy opponent this time, either, as he'll mostly be asked to get old veteran London Fletcher out of the way. Fletcher has been in the league almost as long as Ronde Barber has, and he's seen every trick in the book. Somehow, Lorig needs to win this matchup - or the Tampa Bay running game will go nowhere once again.
Ronde Barber vs Robert Griffin III
Through three games, Ronde Barber has been responsible for at least three touchdowns on defense. Two of those came through the air, while the third was a missed tackle on a run play, although he did kind of get blocked in the back on that play. Regardless, Barber's performance has mostly been solid - but he still has a few lapses in coverage because of his gambling nature. That could be disastrous against the Redskins, who will put a lot of pressure on the safeties to be assignment sound.
The Redskins will try to run a lot of deception plays. By that I mean zone-reads and other plays where the quarterback has multiple options, and there will be a lot of play-action. They're trying to get the safeties to creep up, to have them bite on the run - and then to throw it over their heads. If the safeties are sound in their assignments this won't be a problem. But if Barber and Barron start jumping down, Griffin will unleash the deep ball - and then the Bucs are toast.