Redskins at Browns
Robert Griffin III and his sprained lateral collateral ligament received all of the attention this week as the Washington Redskins prepared to visit the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, but fellow rookie Kirk Cousins will be in the spotlight as he makes his first career start. The Redskins waited until Saturday night to announce that Griffin will sit out due to his injury suffered late in the fourth quarter last week. Cousins came on in that game and finished off a touchdown drive before the Redskins knocked off the Baltimore Ravens in overtime. The Browns are riding their longest winning streak since 2009.
Griffin had his knee snap back awkwardly after taking a hit in the open field and was limping on the sidelines during and after that game. But he has practiced on a limited basis this week and participated in throwing and displayed improved mobility while wearing a knee brace on Thursday. Cleveland has held its last three opponents to an average of 12.7 points while forcing 11 turnovers. The Browns, who start their own rookie quarterback in Brandon Weeden, are still mathematically alive in the AFC playoff race.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Redskins -2.5, O/U 43.5
ABOUT THE REDSKINS (7-6): Cousins has appeared in only two games. He finished 5-of-9 for 111 yards with a TD and two interceptions in a loss to Atlanta on Oct. 7. The Redskins remain one game out of first place in the NFC East and one out in the wild card race with three weeks left. Washington is leading the NFL in rushing at 167.5 yards, in part because defenses have to account for the possibility that Griffin will break to the edge on every play, leaving space in the middle for rookie running back Alfred Morris. Cousins does not provide that same threat, though his game-tying touchdown pass last week did come from outside the pocket. Washington is also strong at stopping the run but can be vulnerable in the secondary.
ABOUT THE BROWNS (5-8): Weeden and Co. still have to win out while traveling to Pittsburgh and Denver in the last two weeks, and they need some other teams to lose in order to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. But those hopes only exist because of the way the team has played over the last three weeks. Cleveland forced eight turnovers in the 20-14 Week 12 win over the Steelers and pulled out a 20-17 win at Oakland before thoroughly dominating the Kansas City Chiefs last week. The Chiefs own the worst record in the NFL, but the Browns did not allow them to get anything going offensively after an 80-yard run to start the game. Weeden will be going up against a Washington secondary that has allowed seven passing touchdowns in the last three weeks. The 29-year-old rookie has not exactly been winning games by himself for the Browns but he has completed better than 54 percent of his passes in five straight games.
1. Shanahan is 4-0 in his career against the Browns.
2. Cleveland RB Trent Richardson needs one TD to move past Jim Brown (nine) for most by a rookie in club history.
3. Griffin has 10 TDs and 1 INT in his last four starts - all wins.