New England changes the emphasis of its offense from week to week, and its next matchup might point toward a ground-heavy game plan given Washington's recent inability to stop the run.
But the Redskins aren't exactly sure of the makeup of their secondary heading into Sunday's meeting in Foxborough as the Patriots try to complete a perfect first half of the season for the first time since running the table in 2007.
What's certain is the New England offensive line has been able to keep up admirably despite plenty of personnel changes, so Bill Belichick and Tom Brady might have their choice of how to move the ball.
The Patriots (7-0) have won the last two meetings, including a 52-7 home win over Washington on Oct. 28, 2007 to get to 8-0. Setting themselves up for the same storyline against the same team this year came about as easily in their 36-7 win over Miami on Oct. 29.
Brady was 26 of 38 for 356 yards and four touchdowns to match Carson Palmer with a league-leading 20 in one less game. Rob Gronkowski surpassed 100 yards for the fourth time this season and kept up his pace of a TD per game, and Julian Edelman and Dion Lewis continued to play key roles in the passing game.
The Patriots, however, didn't abandon the run as they did the previous week against the New York Jets, nearly tripling their rushing attempts from nine to 26. New England hasn't been explosive running, with bruiser LeGarrette Blount doing the most work toward the team's 23rd-ranked 3.88 yards per carry, but it has won 28 straight games when surpassing 25 rushing attempts since last losing such a game Oct. 14, 2012, at Seattle.
The versatility has amounted to the Patriots leading the NFL with 35.7 points per game and ranking fifth with 414.6 yards of total offense despite injury concerns up front. Center Bryan Stork has yet to play a game because of a concussion and neck injuries, and left tackle Nate Solder has been lost for the season with a torn biceps.
"I think our offensive line and coach Gug (offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo) and coach (offensive coordinator Josh) McDaniels have done a good job of again building our depth in preseason, where we had guys play multiple positions so that we can take seven linemen to a game and support all five positions, and be able to do different things offensively," Belichick said. "And the guys have worked very hard with each other and individually on their own fundamentals and techniques to be prepared and execute all the different plays and assignments, and block all the different types of players that we face."
The pleasing offensive line play has probably helped contribute to an impressive turnover record, paced by Brady's one interception and league-best 0.3 INT percentage. They've turned the ball over an NFL-low three times with a plus-seven differential, which is tied with Green Bay for second overall behind the New York Giants (11).
Washington (3-4) has a minus-2 mark and hasn't been particularly adept at taking the ball away, tied with New England and Indianapolis for 19th with 10. That, as well as stopping the pass, figures to be complicated by injuries to cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall (right toe), Bashaud Breeland (hamstring) and Chris Culliver (left knee). All three were listed as questionable on Friday.
"Whoever is back there, they're going to have to play their butt off," coach Jay Gruden said.
To make matters worse, nose tackle Terrance Knighton won't play due to a migraine.
The injury concerns remain with the Redskins coming off a bye and finding themselves a half game behind the Giants for the division lead in the up-for-grabs NFC East. Still, their run defense might be the greater concern with their last three opponents rushing at least 30 times and averaging 5.70 yards per carry.
Washington was still able to emerge with a 31-30 home win over Tampa Bay on Oct. 25 after falling behind 24-0 midway through the second quarter.
Kirk Cousins was 33 of 40 for 317 yards and three TDs while going without an interception after throwing four in the previous two games. Now, he figures to have deep threat DeSean Jackson back for the first time since Week 1 as the speedy receiver says he plans to return from a strained hamstring.
"I mean, they led the league in big play passes last year, and he had a lot of them," said Belichick, whose team has limited its last five opponents to an average of 16.0 points per game. "He's a very explosive player. Just tremendous at all three levels. He can catch-and-run. He can get over the top of the defense."
That might be the only way for Washington to move the ball, though they're 31st in the league with 17 plays of 20-plus yards through the air thus far. The Redskins are averaging 2.25 yards per carry over the last three games with Alfred Morris essentially disappearing with 41 yards on 25 carries. Fellow back Matt Jones hasn't been much better with 60 on 27.
New England limited the Jets and Dolphins to 2.48 per rush.