Setting the scene: Patriots-Redskins
|12.11.11 at 7:41 am ET|
LANDOVER, Md. — Abundant sunshine and temperatures in the mid 40s are expected for today’s kickoff between the Patriots and Redskins at FedExField.
Today could be a landmark day for the 2011 Patriots. They can clinch their third straight AFC East title and ninth in 11 seasons with a win and a Jets loss at home to the Chiefs. The division title would also give the Patriots a home playoff game.
The 9-3 Patriots are also looking for their 10th win, which would mark the ninth straight season of double-figure wins. They have already clinched a winning record for the 11th straight season, becoming the first team to accomplish that feat since free agency began in 1993.
The Patriots are also trying to make history here, just minutes outside the nation’s capital. They have never won in Washington, the only NFL city in which the Patriots have never won, going 0-1 in RFK Stadium and losing their only previous regular season tilt at FedExField in 2003.
Of course, the last time these two teams met, the Patriots annihilated the Redskins and Joe Gibbs at Gillette, 52-7, in a game the Patriots were accused of running up the score.
The Patriots enter the game having ruled out several players, including safety Patrick Chung in somewhat of a surprise. The safety hasn’t played since injuring his right ankle in the loss to the Giants on Nov. 6 at Gillette Stadium. He has been limited in practice for the last three weeks but has not been cleared to play.
Last week, he told reporters he felt “awesome” but was scratched for the game against the Colts. There was some speculation that he would finally return this week against the Redskins. But, with Tim Tebow on the docket next Sunday in Denver, Bill Belichick and the coaching staff might be holding off until he’s closer to 100 percent so he can be more of a weapon in containing Tebow and the Denver running game.
Also out today for the Patriots is Sebastian Vollmer, missing his second straight game with an injured right foot. Center Dan Connolly is missing his third straight game with a groin injury. Linebacker Brandon Spikes is out for the fifth straight game with a right knee injury and rookie running back Shane Vereen is out with a hamstring injury.
The team also announced Saturday that they had cut defensive back Sterling Moore and placed linebacker Jermaine Cunningham on season-ending injured reserve with a hamstring injury. The two moves allowed the Patriots to signed 30-year-old veteran defensive end Eric Moore and promote defensive back Malcolm Williams from the practice squad to the active roster.
All of these moves announced Saturday night by the Patriots leaves the team with just two inactives left to announce for today’s game.
As for the 4-8 Redskins, they will be without two starters but for different reasons, altogether.
Keep a close eye on Roy Helu. The rookie running back out of Nebraska can accomplish something today that no other Redskins rookie has accomplished in the 79-year history of the franchise. Helu will be looking for his third consecutive 100-yard rushing game. He is the first rookie with two straight games of 100 yards since Reggie Brooks in 1993.