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Broncos, Redskins To See Familiar Faces


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http://www.thenewmexicochannel.com/sports/5068455/detail.html

Broncos, Redskins To See Familiar Faces

The Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos were once two teams linked by a Super Bowl, but now enjoy greater association with a blockbuster trade.

On March 4th, 2004, the Skins dealt four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey to the Broncos for running back Clinton Portis and a second-round draft choice.

On Sunday afternoon, Bailey's Denver team will play host to Portis and the Redskins at Invesco Field at Mile High, in a battle of first-place clubs. Bailey may not be in action due to a severe hamstring injury suffered against Kansas City in Week 3, but Portis will return to the scene where he piled up back-to-back 1,500-yard seasons in 2002-03.

Washington travels to Denver atop the NFC East at 3-0, a half-game ahead of the Giants and Eagles. The Redskins were 20-17 overtime winners against Seattle last Sunday, moving to 3-0 for the first time since the 1991 team started with 11 straight wins en route to a 14-2 finish and win in Super Bowl XXVI over the Bills.

Denver, meanwhile, won its third straight last Sunday by traveling to Jacksonville and taking down the Jaguars, 20-7. Mike Shanahan and company are 3-1 and lead the AFC West by a game over Kansas City and San Diego.

SERIES HISTORY

Denver holds a 5-4 lead in the all-time regular season series with Washington, but was a 17-10 home loser when the clubs last met, in 2001. The Broncos' most recent win in the series came in 1998 in the nation's capital, and they last beat Washington at home during the 1995 campaign. The Skins are 2-3 all-time in Denver.

In addition to the regular season series, the clubs met once in the postseason, a 42-10 Redskins win in Super Bowl XXII in San Diego.

Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs is 2-2 all-time against the Broncos, including the Super Bowl win, and will be facing Shanahan head-to-head for the first time. Shanahan is 2-1 in his career against Washington.

REDSKINS OFFENSE VS. BRONCOS DEFENSE

Portis (263 rushing yards, 6 receptions on the year) will return to Invesco Field, where he has scored 19 of his 34 career touchdowns, in search of a little inspiration. Portis rushed for 90 yards on 25 carries against Seattle last week, but failed to score his first touchdown of 2005. Backup Ladell Betts (93 rushing yards on the year) spelled Portis with 35 yards on 12 totes. Washington currently ranks sixth in the league in rushing offense (136.3 yards per game), but is one of five NFL teams without a touchdown on the ground in '05.

Portis will operate against a Denver defense that ranks fourth in the league against the run (79 yards per game) and held the Jaguars to a scant 12 ground yards in Week 4. Linebackers Al Wilson (22 tackles, 1 sack on the year), Ian Gold (18 tackles, 1 sack), and D.J. Williams (10 tackles), who combined for nine tackles against Jacksonville, have been a big part of the run-stuffing unit. Wilson also forced two fumbles last week. A brand new defensive line group consisting of Gerard Warren (5 tackles, 2 sacks) and Michael Myers (7 tackles) on the interior has received high marks thus far in 2005.

Redskins QB Mark Brunell (587 passing yards, 4 TD, 2 INT, 49 rushing yards) comes into Week 5 with a healthy 84.8 passer rating, and is 2-0 as a starter in 2005. Brunell completed 20-of-36 passes for 226 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception against Seattle, also rushing for 16 yards in the win. Brunell's TD strikes both came in the red zone, with fullback Mike Sellers and tight end Robert Royal (6 receptions on the year) both tallying their first touchdown passes of '05. Wideout Santana Moss (15 receptions, 2 TD), who has been Brunell's top target this season, had six catches for 87 yards against the Hawks, and h-back Chris Cooley (9 receptions) was also active with four receptions and 61 yards in the win. Starting WR David Patten (7 receptions) has been quiet in his first three games as a Redskin, and third receiver James Thrash (8 receptions) has made a bit more noise. Thrash had two receptions for 30 yards against Seattle. The Washington line has given up 10 sacks on the year, including two of Brunell last week.

Denver was just fine without Bailey (12 tackles, 2 INT) in the lineup last week, picking off Jacksonville's Byron Leftwich twice and giving up just one big play, that a 45-yard TD pass to Jimmy Smith. Rookie corner Domonique Foxworth (9 tackles, 1 INT on the year) had a team-high six tackles, his first NFL interception, and a fumble recovery while starting opposite Lenny Walls (10 tackles). Walls, who was starting for the injured Darrent Williams (sprained left ankle) forced a fumble in the win. Williams (12 tackles) is considered questionable for this week, as is Bailey. Strong safety Nick Ferguson (23 tackles on the year) and free safety John Lynch (16 tackles, 1 sack) combined for four stops against the Jags. Denver posted two sacks of Leftwich last week, and now has eight on the year. Warren had his team- leading second sack of the year, but starting ends Courtney Brown (4 tackles, 1 sack) and Trevor Pryce (6 tackles) could not break through. Denver is 18th in the league against the pass (212.2 yards per game).

BRONCOS OFFENSE VS. REDSKINS DEFENSE

Any lingering concerns about the ability of 32-year-old Mike Anderson (267 yards, 1 TD) to be effective as Denver's starter at running back were basically eliminated last week, when Anderson rushed for 115 yards on 23 carries and caught three passes against a tough Jacksonville run-stopping unit. The 100-yard game was Anderson's first since the 2001 season. Tatum Bell (154 yards on the year) spelled Anderson with 60 yards on 15 carries, and Ron Dayne (13 carries, 53 yards) carried twice for three yards. Fullback Kyle Johnson has just six touches this year, but two have gone for touchdowns. Johnson had one catch against the Jags. Denver's 188-yard ground onslaught last week moved them to third in the league in rushing offense (144.2 yards per game).

Anderson will work against a Washington defense that comes into Week 5 ranked fifth in the league against the run (83.3 yards per game). The Redskins held Seattle's Shaun Alexander to 98 yards on 20 carries last week, with linebackers Marcus Washington (23 tackles) and Lemar Marshall (19 tackles, 1 sack) at the heart of that effort. The duo combined for 11 tackles, including a team-high seven solo stops for Marshall. Former Pro Bowl linebacker Lavar Arrington (2 tackles on the year) played sparingly against Seattle, and Warrick Holdman (5 tackles) saw more significant time as the third linebacker. Up front, Cornelius Griffin (13 tackles, 1 sack) has been the Skins' best run- stuffer at the point of attack, and fellow tackle Cedric Killings (6 tackles) posted four stops off the bench against Seattle.

With Anderson not likely to run wild against the Washington "D", Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer (787 passing yards, 4 TD, 3 INT) will be expected to make some plays on Sunday. Plummer was 19-of-26 for a modest 136 yards and a pair of touchdown passes near the goal line to tackle-eligible Dwayne Carswell in the Jacksonville win. Plummer carries a 77.9 passer rating into Week 5. Rod Smith (26 receptions, 1 TD), who had a team-high four catches for 33 yards last week, has been Plummer's favorite target in '05. Fellow wideout Ashley Lelie (10 receptions), who had only one catch last week, has been quiet, and third receiver Charlie Adams (8 receptions) was also held to one reception last Sunday. Tight ends Jeb Putzier (10 receptions) and Stephen Alexander (6 receptions) combined for five catches in the Jacksonville win, and were two of the 10 different Broncos to catch passes in the game. Plummer has been sacked eight times this year, including three times against Jacksonville. Denver is 25th in the league in passing offense (182.5 yards per game) entering the Washington game.

The Redskin secondary was battling injuries last week, and allowed Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to throw for 242 yards and a touchdown in the game. Free safety Pierson Prioleau (hamstring) and cornerback Walt Harris (calf) did not appear, and safety Sean Taylor (bruised shoulder) did not play down the stretch. Without that trio, rookie and first-round draft choice Carlos Rogers posted seven tackles and a forced fumble in his first career start, fellow corner Shawn Springs (12 tackles on the year) had four stops, and safeties Matt Bowen (3 tackles on the year) and Ryan Clark (3 tackles) combined for five stops. Taylor (14 tackles), who had five tackles before leaving, is expected to play this week. Prioleau (5 tackles) and Harris (9 tackles) are considered questionable. Washington has just four sacks through three games, including one by Marshall last week. The Redskins are a distant 29th in the league against the pass (207 yards per game).

OVERALL ANALYSIS

That these two clubs have combined to go 6-1 is amazing to some, as both the Broncos and Redskins were candidates for the basements of their respective divisions. But both have used efficient offense and strong defense to positive effect in the early-going, and will try to continue with that formula on Sunday. Look for this game to be close and low-scoring down the stretch, and for Denver, which has a few more weapons than does Washington, to pull it out at home in the fourth quarter.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Broncos 17, Redskins 13

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