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INJURIES LEAVE REDSKINS' DEFENSE VULNERABLE

The series

Redskins lead, 3-2. Their last victory was 27-7 at Rich Stadium Nov. 1, 1987, with Jay Schroeder at quarterback. Last Buffalo victory was also at Rich in 1981, 21-14, when Chuck Knox was Buffalo coach. You have to go back to 1972 for last (and only) Bills victory at RFK, when Buffalo upset George Allen's Super Bowl-bound team, 24-17, in regular season finale.

Bills on offense

QB Frank Reich directs the show for the second week in a row after a masterful performance against Dolphins last week. . . . No reason for Bills to abandon their no-huddle tactics. They stayed with it last week and moved the ball with it on first three possessions of game. . . . Bills have not had impressive rushing totals every week but they usually get enough to establish an effective mix of pass and run. . . . Thurman Thomas, who had perhaps his strongest game as a Bill against Miami, leads former Oklahoma State teammate Barry Sanders by 16 yards in race for NFL rushing crown. He's expected to play about half the game, then give way to Kenneth Davis. . . . WR Andre Reed leads AFC with 71 receptions and needs 55 yards to go over 1,000 for second year in a row. Rookie speedster Al Edwards will be tested as No. 3 receiver with Don Beebe (broken leg) out for season. . . . Redskins are a disappointing 14th in NFL in total defense, mainly because of unsettled secondary and injuries in front four. LE Charles Mann has sore knee and two other defensive line starters may miss game with injuries. Redskin defense has allowed 27 TDs, one fewer than Bills, but 19 have been through the air. Opponents are averaging healthy 4.1 yards per rush.

Redskins on offense

Washington will use its patented one-back attack, which has featured ex-Cleveland Brown Earnest Byner in recent weeks. He has rushed for 736 yards the last six weeks and has a career-high 1,185 yards for the season. Skins mix old-fashioned power running with one of league's best passing attacks. . . . Challenge for Bills is to keep Byner from going over 100-yard mark for fifth straight game. He needs 163 yards to break team mark of 1,347 set by John Riggins in 1983. Hard-running Gerald Riggs will be active after missing six games with foot injury, and will be used on early downs. . . . Skins will open with one RB and an H-back (Ron Middleton or Jimmie Johnson) or one RB and three WRs (Gary Clark, Art Monk and Ricky Sanders). The three wideouts, the so-called "Posse", have 189 catches among them, led by Clark's 73 for 1,106 yards. Clark has seven of the Skins' eight longest pass plays this season, ranging from 40 to 53 yards. Ex-Syracuse star Monk, now 32, is still potent weapon. He caught career-high 13 passes in comeback victory at Detroit Nov. 4. . . . QB Mark Rypien missed six weeks in middle of season, including both games against division rivals Giants and Eagles, with sprained knee. He has been intercepted 10 times in last five weeks, including one that was returned for game-winning TD by Colts rookie Alan Grant.

Bills update

Expect all healthy Bills to play some in addition to special teams duties, especially if game has no playoff bearing for Redskins. . . . Bruce Smith still 3 1/2 sacks shy of breaking Mark Gastineau's NFL record of 22. . . . Buffalo has climbed to eighth in NFL defensive rankings and now is 15th against run. . . . Free safety Mark Kelso will get first taste of game action since suffering fracture-dislocation of his ankle Sept. 30. . . . Only the New York Giants (13) have turned ball over fewer times than Bills (17). Since Denver game Sept. 30, a Buffalo running back or receiver has lost only one fumble. . . . Bills are tied for second in NFL with 20.8 kickoff return average despite fact a penalty wiped out good portion of a 44-yard return by Al Edwards against Dolphins last week. And Bills are second to New Orleans, allowing opponents only 15.6-yards per kickoff return. . . . Bills lead the NFL with 62.6 pass completion percentage.

Redskins update

Skins have allowed only 22 sacks. Pro Bowler Jim Lachey will have job of keeping Bruce Smith off Rypien most of the day. . . . Mark Adickes and Russ Grimm will probably start at guard spots in place of injured Mark Schlereth and Raleigh McKenzie. . . . Offense rolled up 467 yards, yet Skins lost to Colts last week. That's identical output Washington had in rout of Dolphins. . . . Redskins rolled up whopping 674 yards against Detroit, 482 of it through the air. . . . Two former Bills on Washington roster are CB Martin Mayhew, who leads team with six interceptions, and return man Joe Howard. Actually, Howard and Mayhew never appeared in a regular season game for Buffalo.

Outlook

Bills may lack fiery emotion of last week but they should be loose and excited. Redskins are banged up and may have nothing to play for by game time if Eagles win their game Saturday at Phoenix. . . . Teams will trade some points but healthier Buffalo defense will prevail in end. PREDICTION: Bills 24-20.
-- MILT NORTHROP

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