The Washington Redskins (3-5) will take on the Minnesota Vikings (1-7) Thursday night at 8:25 p.m. ET (NFL Network), in search of their second win in a row and a chance to climb only 1 game out of first place in the NFC East.
Look, guys, by now everyone knows how the Redskins have to play to win. The team must run the ball often, way more often than they look to throw it; Robert Griffin III must be accurate with his mid-range passes and not force too many balls into tight coverage; the defense has to be somewhat competent.
Let’s examine each of those points individually.
Running v. Minnesota
Alfred Morris is a beast and a half, if you haven’t noticed. He, along with RGIII, Roy Helu Jr., Darrell Young, and whoever else the Redskins decide to hand the ball off to tomorrow, need to wear down the Vikings’ defense. Even if the running game isn’t particularly effective early (and it might not be: Minnesota only allows 104 yards/game on the ground, good for 11th best in the league), it’s important to stick with it. It will both make the Vikings more susceptible to deep play-action passes and tire out their defensive line as the game winds down, giving the RBs a chance to completely gash them in the second half. Of course, the earlier it starts working, the better.
I would also like to see the team implement more triple-option plays into this week’s game plan. They ran it three times against San Diego, and all three plays created gigantic holes for the runners to hit. It keeps the defense on their toes and makes them hesitant on normal stretch plays and RB keepers on zone reads.
Throwing v. Minnesota
There are two big reasons why Minnesota is 1-7: the first I’ll get to in a minute; the second is, appropriately, their secondary. It is not good. At all.
Harrison Smith, their talented sophomore S from Notre Dame, is out until at least December 15th with an injury, and the rest of the defensive backfield has failed to pick up the slack. They rank 29th in pass defense, giving up just over 291 yards a game. RGIII should be able to pick this team apart, as long as he has the same accuracy on his throws that he did Sunday, when he completed over 71% of his passes.
Pierre Garçon can take any of Minnesota’s corners 1 on 1, and Jordan Reed is a problem for anyone trying to cover him. If Griffin III and Co. have a big day through the skies, they could jump out to a big lead and force the Vikings to throw in order to catch up. Speaking of which . . .
Defending the Vikings’ offense
Remember when I said I’d get to the Vikings’ biggest problem later? Well, it’s time.
The Vikings don’t have a capable QB on their roster. Christian Ponder will get the start on Thursday, despite being a huge disappointment since the Vikings took him 12th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Josh Freeman, Ponder’s backup, was snatched off of waivers from Tampa Bay earlier this season. He disappointed there, as well as in his first start in Minnesota, finishing 20 of 53 for only 190 yards and an interception. He was benched immediately after.
Joe Webb is also on the roster, but has failed to produce when given the opportunity, as evidenced by his paltry play in the Vikings’ 24-10 playoff loss to Green Bay last season.
And it’s not like these QBs have much to work with, either. Greg Jennings is their biggest outside threat, and he seems to care more about his Hollywood image than playing football these days.
Minnesota has no chance to win if they fall behind by more than 10 points or so. Yes, the Vikings do have arguably the best football player in the Universe in Adrian Peterson. But football is the ultimate team sport, and Peterson cannot beat Washington by himself. If Ponder is forced to throw more than 20 or so times, the Redskins’ defensive line will have a field day chasing him down. The D-backs will benefit from this as well, since it will let them play aggressively, something that suits corners DeAngelo Hall and David Amerson just fine.
Last week, K Kai Forbath had two field goals blocked and . . . you know what? I can’t write about this anymore. Washington’s special teams are quite possibly the worst I’ve ever seen, at any level of football. So there. I just hope they don’t cost the Redskins the game. Otherwise, I’m just not going to think about them for a while. I suggest you do the same.
On paper, this should be a win for Washington. Unfortunately for the Redskins, they still have to actually play the game. Minnesota has kept their losses uncomfortably close lately, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they hang around for a little bit on Thursday. However, if Griffin and Morris are on a roll, I could also see Washington running away with it. It really just depends on how sharp the ‘Skins are early.
Also, when these two teams locked horns last season, this happened. That really doesn’t have anything to do with this game, but I could watch it all day. A healthy, top-of-his-game RGIII is a beautiful sight to behold. Redskins fans all across the nation hope he shows up on Thursday.