The Redskins.com crew breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday's Redskins-Broncos 2017 Week 16 showdown at FedExField in Landover, Md.
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FINISH STRONG AT HOME
Following last week's 20-15 victory over the Arizona Cardinals, the Redskins are still in position to potentially finish the season with a .500 record depending on the outcome of Washington's final two games against the Broncos and New York Giants.
On Sunday, Washington will host Denver in the final game at FedExField this season. With a victory, the Redskins would finish the season with a 5-3 record at home.
"I just want to make sure that in and of this season that we leave FedExField on a high note and give our home fans something to feel good about as they leave FedExField for the last time this season," said Redskins quarterback Trent Williams. "That's really where the focus is –trying to have a finish here that causes the tenor of the season to feel much better as we walk away from it."
If the Redskins are able to defeat the Broncos, it will also mark the team's first winning streak since Washington defeated the Los Angeles Rams and Oakland Raiders in Weeks 2-3. While the Redskins did not hit their goal of making the playoffs, going into the offseason on a positive note would have the team feeling better about what happened for a roster depleted by injuries.
"It's important for us to finish strong and play our best football," said Redskins head coach Jay Gruden. "It's a big game for us. A lot of these guys are taking this very seriously in their preparation and working hard in practice and it's our last home game, so it's important to us. You can't get to 8-8 without going to 7-8, so the most important thing for us right now is to get this win against Denver and play our best football and get a lot of good reps for some of these young guys and see what they can do."
PREPARE FOR THE STRENGTHS OF DIFFERENT QUARTERBACKS
As of Friday, Denver had yet to name a starting quarterback for Sunday's game as Denver is still trying to determine whether Paxton Lynch or Brock Osweiler should be the one under center.
In Denver's Week 15 victory over the Indianapolis Colts, Trevor Siemian was removed from the game with a shoulder injury that would land him on Injured Reserve the next day. In his place, Osweiler entered the game and led the Broncos to a comeback win as he connected on 12-of-17 passes for 194 yards with two touchdowns to zero interceptions. He also tallied his first rushing touchdown since Week 17 of the 2016 season.
While Osweiler has received his reps over the years, Denver has desired to get Lynch more action to evaluate his potential as the long-term solution at quarterback. But the 2016 second-round pick has been limited in practices with a high ankle sprain.
That leaves Washington in an interesting spot having to prepare for the possibility of both quarterbacks being in Sunday's matchup.
"Well, it changes a lot," said Gruden of how different quarterbacks can change play calling and subsequently impacting the defense's approach. "Depending on the player, it could have a different type of effect on what you call as far as… Some guys get out of the pocket a little bit easier than others, so it just changes your game plan considerably.
"Paxton is probably more of a better athlete. They might do more things on the move with him. The other two guys, Osweiler is an entirely different athlete than Paxton, but we'll see how it works out."
Redskins cornerback Josh Norman, who was named a Pro Bowl alternate this week, said the defense will try to duplicate last week's success regardless of who is playing quarterback on any given play.
"We're just playing them and trying to make them make mistakes that we can capitalize on," Norman said. "That's the main thing when you go up against quarterbacks, try and make them make mistakes, try to have them think too much so they deliver the ball early or late. You being in the vicinity when the ball is being released and capitalize on the play."
KEEP THE FAITH, KIRK
With two games left in the regular season, Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins will face his toughest defensive challenge yet in the top ranked Broncos unit.
The Broncos lead the league in fewest yards allowed per game and rank second in passing yards allowed per contest.
Cousins, who has thrown at least two touchdowns in four of Washington's last five games, has played against four other top ten passing defenses in New Orleans, Minnesota and the Los Angeles Chargers and Rams. In those four matchups, the Redskins went 1-3 and Cousins threw an interception in each except against the Saints.
Yardage-wise, however, Cousins has thrived against stingy pass defenses, with his third and fourth best games of the season coming against the Vikings and Saints respectively.
Gruden said Cousins' options on every down will be limited, so patience will be key while the quarterback waits for a big play to develop. The Broncos have allowed just four plays of 40 yards or more this season.
"Against these guys, field position will be key, but we do need to try to hit some big plays against them," Gruden said. "I think the thought of going 90 yards or 80 yards on 15 plays is going to be hard to do, so we're going to have to try figure out ways to get some big plays and shots down the field. So, he will have to be a little bit more aggressive this week."
Cousins has also thrown at least one touchdown in 13 out of his 14 games this year and has a pass of 20 yards or more in every contest.
DON'T LET VON MILLER GET LOOSE
The conversation of best defensive player in the league can't be had without Von Miller's name being mentioned.
Ever since being drafted second overall in the 2011 NFL Draft, Miller has done nothing but live up to the lofty expectations. The six-time Pro Bowler has averaged nearly 12 sacks per season over the course of his career and has been a model of consistency as well, starting every Broncos game since 2013.
While he has a wide assortment of skills, Miller's most impressive attribute might simply be his versatility. With a balance of speed, strength and wit, the former Texas A&M Aggie perfectly encapsulates what it means to be an edge defender in today's NFL.
"He can do it all," Gruden said this week. "He's good against the run. He's a nightmare to block for tight ends in the running game and tackles, and then when you get him in the pass rush situations, he's got every move known to man. He can beat you with speed. He can beat with power. He can beat you with inside moves... There's really nothing that he can't do effectively."
Miller going against a banged up Redskins offensive line is certainly something to be wary about, but another key matchup to watch for will be how Miller deals with Cousins, who is known for his quick release in the pocket.
"I mean, he's getting the ball off pretty quick," Miller said. "Whenever you go against elite quarterbacks, they always are aware of sacks and where they are in the pocket. He's going to be aware of that."
Miller is riding another solid season into the Week 16 matchup, boasting 10 sacks and a forced fumble to go along with 48 total tackles on the year.