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Redskins take aim at rejuvenated Browns

9:37 AM, Dec 14, 2012   |    comments
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(Sports Network) - Robert Griffin III gets people to move their feet and lose their seat more often than the legendary rock band Kiss.

But Gene Simmons or Paul Stanley rarely have their knee bent in an awkward position on stage.

Griffin's stage is a 100-yard playing surface and he may not be ready to perform in Sunday's road contest against the Cleveland Browns. The rookie sensation suffered a sprained lateral collateral ligament in last weekend's 31-28 overtime win versus the Baltimore Ravens at FedEx Field.

That RG3 is an elusive and athletic quarterback might not surprise those who say his career won't last long because of the style with which he plays. The read option worked for him at Baylor and has carried over to the professional level, but his status against the Browns is uncertain.

When Griffin departed the game against the Ravens he was replaced by fellow rookie Kirk Cousins, who led the Redskins to victory. Head coach Mike Shanahan didn't tip his hand too much on who would start in the Forest City.

"You never know," Shanahan said of Griffin. "That is why you go day-by-day and we will see at the end of the week if he is full speed, ready to go. If he is, he will play."

Griffin practiced Wednesday in sweat pants. Cousins didn't say much when asked about the starting position and was advised not to. The former Michigan State star completed both of his passes for 26 yards and a touchdown in Washington's fourth straight and kept his team in contention for the playoffs. The Redskins are tied with Dallas at 7-6, one game behind the New York Giants for the NFC East lead.

While it's still unknown who will start for Washington on Sunday, wide receiver Pierre Garcon may have spilled the beans during an interview in which he said the Redskins have a "tougher task" with Cousins starting. But, of course, the final word will come from Shanahan, who's known for remaining tight-lipped when it comes to injured players.

The Redskins have Cleveland, Philadelphia and Dallas on the schedule and will need smart play from either quarterback to snap a four-year playoff drought.

Cleveland is riding a season-high three-game winning streak, beating Pittsburgh, Oakland and Kansas City, and hasn't won four in a row since closing the 2009 campaign with a four-game run.

The Browns are a fairly young team and are starting to click, but haven't reached the postseason since 2002. Quarterback Brandon Weeden and running back Trent Richardson are the cornerstones to this franchise and will try to play spoiler on Sunday whether or not RG3 is on the field.

Weeden was asked if he preferred to go head-to-head with Griffin on Sunday.

"Yeah, absolutely. I've played against him for the last couple of years and we became pretty good buddies as we were training for the whole draft process," Weeden said. "You don't want anybody to have to stay out for injury. Hopefully, he's able to bounce back and play."

Cleveland's defense could be in for a long one if Griffin plays, but it has stepped up the last few games against competitive quarterbacks in Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer and Brady Quinn.

Head coach Pat Shurmur said his team will be ready no matter who's under center.

"As we prepare to play the Redskins, who plays quarterback will not affect our preparation as we move forward," Shurmur said. "We have to prepare for their offense, and it's extremely important that we try not to look at things being said."

The Browns have lost five of the past seven meetings with Washington, including a 14-11 defeat the last time these teams met on Oct. 19, 2008.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

The Browns are allowing 120.5 rushing yards per game and will face Redskins rookie running Alfred Morris, who has rushed for more than 100 yards in each of his last three games. Morris is second among rookies with 1,228 yards and ran for a career-high 126 yards and a touchdown last week against Baltimore.

Morris has carried the ball more than 20 times in each of the last four games and has six 100-yard efforts this season. Shanahan's system is known for having productive running backs and Morris' success come as no surprise.

Richardson is quite familiar with Morris, having known him growing up.

"I've been playing football since the age of six and that's when I started to know Alfred," Richardson said. "We were always little league rivals, we always played against each other and we became good friends in between all of that. We played in a basketball league and everything. We've not only been arch rivals, but good friends, too. Our friends got to meet each other and got to know each other over the years and we've always just been good friends."

All that will go to the wayside come Sunday.

Richardson needs 73 yards to pass Hall of Famer Jim Brown for most rushing yards by a Browns rookie. He will face a Washington defense rated 26th against the rush, allowing 98.8 ypg.

Washington's pass rush will play a key role on Sunday and will try to give Weeden more nightmares under center. Weeden was sacked three times in a 30-7 win over Kansas City last week and has been taken down eight times in the previous three contests.

Look for Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan to take charge. Kerrigan leads the Redskins with 6 1/2 sacks but hasn't posted one since a Thanksgiving win at Dallas.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Redskins and Browns will put their winning streaks on the line Sunday, but one will come to an end. Washington has more on the line than the Browns, who have been relegated to spoiler duty and will make it tough for the 'Skins to keep pace in the NFC playoff hunt. However, the Redskins have a strong defense and a rookie running back carrying the load at an opportune time. Expect a lot of carries for Morris, who's been a savior at the position ever since Clinton Portis decided to hang up the cleats. In a close game at Cleveland Browns Stadium, the Redskins will keep the heat on Dallas and New York.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Redskins 17, Browns 10

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