Five things to watch for in the Cardinals-Redskins game Sunday at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland:
The offensive line will be Holden on
No more Jared Veldheer, and no Earl Watford for now, and the offensive line is in flux again. The Cardinals will start their seventh different combination Sunday in the 14th game, not an ideal situation for any team (Washington has also started seven offensive lines) but for one on its third quarterback and fourth running back, maybe less so. At the heart of the change, with Jared Veldheer going to IR, is rookie Will Holden at left tackle. The Redskins have been poor defensively the past two games so there is a way to get to them. But the Cards have to be able to continue to run the ball and protect, and frankly that gets a little harder with more shuffling up front.
Fitz vs. Norman. Sort of
The Redskins pay Josh Norman a lot of money, and he is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. But he will not cover Larry Fitzgerald – by far the Cardinals' best receiver – all the time because that is not how Washington plays defense, and perhaps that gives an edge to Fitz. The Redskins will play a chunk of zone, and it doesn't mean Fitzgerald is necessarily going to be running around free in the secondary. But the Cards need big games from Fitz to function the way they'd want to offensively, and not having Norman on him all the time will help.
Chandler Sack Watch, 2017
Linebacker Chandler Jones has 14 sacks in 13 games, trending toward breaking the franchise's single-season mark of 16½ by Simeon Rice. Now he faces a team with a load of injury issues, including a knee problem that kept start left tackle Trent Williams out of practice a couple of days this week. Jones, meanwhile, is at the top of his game, a load to deal with even when an offensive lineman is at his healthiest. Jones has three games of multiple sacks this season. It wouldn't be surprising if he made that four on Sunday.
Hit 'em when they're down
Washington came into the season with potential division winning hopes. Those went down in flames weeks ago. This week, former Cardinal D.J. Swearinger, now starting at safety for the Redskins, called out the team for just going through the motions at practice. Washington is last in the league in scoring defense. Offensively, they are middle of the pack in scoring, but as injuries undercut their entire running backs corps, it's getting more difficult for Cousins to make things work. They have been blown out in two straight games by a total score of 68-27 and have lost four of five. The Redskins are reeling, and the Cards have to take advantage.
Good morning – now hold on to your tiny playoff hopes
The Cardinals' path to the postseason remains cracked although all the details aren't even worth noting quite yet (if the Cards remain alive after this weekend, that's a time to look at the what-must-happen scenarios.) In all scenarios, winning out is No. 1, and that starts Sunday. One hitch – the Cards start early, with an 11 a.m. Arizona kickoff, and that hasn't gone well this season. There were sluggish starts in Detroit, Indy, Philly and Houston with the early kickoff. It simply can't happen again.