Patriots-Redskins matchup of the day: Thursday

Posted Dec. 08, 2011 @ 3:04 p.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

Here's a key matchup to watch in the Week 14 game between the Patriots and Redskins:

Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski vs. Redskins defense

No one has figured out how to stop "Gronk" this season. He tied the NFL record for most receiving touchdowns by a tight end in a single season last week when he caught his 13th touchdown. In 12 games this season, Gronkowski is averaging 5.4 catches for 77.3 receiving yards and 1.1 touchdowns.

The Redskins are likely to be without SS LaRon Landry this week, and the hard-hitting safety might have been able to match up better against Gronkowski than other safeties around the league. Reed Doughty and rookie DeJon Gomes are smart, instinctive safeties, but Gronkowski should have an advantage over both of them.

Look for the Redskins to double-team Gronkowski, and we haven't seen as many teams do that as one would expect considering what a weapon he has been, especially near the goal line. If Washington is able to double-cover Gronkowski effectively, the Redskins could gain an advantage. Gronk is often Tom Brady's first read in the red zone, and if he is doubled and the Redskins' pass rush can get penetration, the Patriots might have to switch off their reliable game plan of targeting Gronkowski.

A successful double-team by the Redskins would open things up for TE Aaron Hernandez, who has 523 receiving yards and five TDs despite playing second fiddle to Gronkowski.

We have yet to see a team really eliminate Gronkowski from the Patriots' game plan, and the Redskins don't have the personnel to do so. This is an area the Patriots should be able to exploit.