Washington Redskins, Tennessee Titans square off with playoffs within reach
The Washington Redskins and Tennessee Titans will try to put pressure on their fellow playoff pursuers when they kick off Week 16 on Saturday in Nashville. The Titans (8-6) are one of three teams tied for the second AFC wild-card along with the Baltimore Ravens and the Indianapolis Colts, with the Ravens holding the tiebreaker.
Washington (7-7) is tied with the Philadelphia Eagles, one game behind the Dallas Cowboys (8-6) in the NFC East and one-half game behind the Minnesota Vikings (7-6-1) for the second NFC wild card.
Tennessee has won three straight, including a 17-0 shutout of the New York Giants last Sunday. Running back Derrick Henry has rushed for 408 yards and scored six touchdowns in his past two games after producing 474 yards and five scores in the first 12 contests.
"It helps the offence tremendously," quarterback Marcus Mariota told the team's website regarding Henry. "When you are able to do that and get in third-and-manageable, you have an opportunity to throw the ball down the field. So, we definitely have to continue to do that."
While quarterback injuries got most of the attention during Washington's four-game losing streak that ended last week, a leaky defence was as much to blame. After being near the top of the total-defence rankings early in the season, the Redskins are 18th in the NFL, allowing 357.4 yards per game, including 116.6 on the ground (also 18th).
However, with their playoff chances on the verge of extinction, the Redskins held the Jacksonville Jaguars to 192 total yards in a 16-13 win last Sunday.
"I think they've done a great job on defence," Mariota said of the Redskins. "They've got some veteran guys throughout, and they've done a good job getting after the passer. And from what I have seen, they've done a good job of attacking the football."
Josh Johnson, Washington's fourth starting quarterback of the season, was successful in his first start since 2011 and will benefit from another week of practice before facing the Titans.
Against the Jaguars, Johnson completed 16 of 25 passes for 151 yards, one touchdown pass and no interceptions. His mobility, behind a battered offensive line, was vital as he rushed nine times for 49 yards.
"He's got a lot of poise for a guy who just got here. A lot of confidence," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. "We blew protection, he got hit a few times pretty hard, but he didn't let that affect his next drop. He continued to read the field, scan the field, stand tall, and made some big-time throws. So, I was impressed with him."
Washington running back Adrian Peterson has topped 70 yards in a game just once in the past seven weeks, but on Sunday, 24 of his 51 yards came on the game-winning drive.
"Adrian has been great all year. I was a little nervous when we first got him. I was like, man, if I don't give it to this guy 20 times a game, he's going to kick my butt," Gruden joked. "He's been very good, man, he's been very patient, very understanding about the rotations, about what we try to do."
Tennessee linebacker Brian Orakpo, a former Redskin, missed last week's game with an elbow injury, and his status for Saturday is uncertain.
Redskins tackle Ty Nsekhe (knee) is day-to-day for Washington. Defensive back Montae Nicholson was arrested and charged with misdemeanour assault early Tuesday after a fight in a Northern Virginia shopping complex, according to multiple media reports.
(With inputs from agencies.)