The Washington Redskins are alone in last place in the NFC East, and yet they're also just one game out of first. With the Cowboys, Giants and Eagles in tough matches against 2011 playoff teams this weekend, the Redskins could have a big opportunity to make a leap with a home affair against the Minnesota Vikings.
Here's my final preview, along with a prediction that I'd advise you to avoid using at Vegas sportsbooks.
What Washington must do to win, offensive edition
Protect Robert Griffin III by establishing balance on offense and not allowing Jared Allen and the Vikings to pin their ears back.
What Washington must do to win, defensive edition
Limit Adrian Peterson and get enough pressure to prevent Christian Ponder from playing catch with Percy Harvin.
How Washington can lose
By losing Griffin again or by failing to slow down Peterson and/or Harvin.
Five most important non-quarterbacks
Jarvis Jenkins, Stephen Bowen, Ryan Kerrigan, Trent Williams, Alfred Morris
Jenkins and Bowen will be essential in the plan to slow down Peterson, while Kerrigan has to lead an effective pass rush. Williams is one of many who will have to protect Griffin, but he's responsible for his blind side. Morris has to find holes against one of the league's strongest run defenses.
Injury analysis, Redskins edition
Out: Brandon Meriweather (knee), Doug Worthington (calf)
They're used to not having Meriweather by now.
Questionable: Pierre Garcon (foot), Cedric Griffin (hamstring), Robert Griffin (head)
All three are integral starters, but they can survive without Garcon (and have thus far) and even Cedric Griffin (who has struggled). But, Robert Griffin simply has to play if the 'Skins want to win this game. He's expected to do so, but concussions are tricky.
Probable: Barry Cofield (shoulder), DeAngelo Hall (knee), Evan Royster (knee)
Hopefully Hall won't be affected by that because Griffin certainly isn't 100 percent. The defensive backfield is already weak.
Injury analysis, Vikings edition
Out: Mistral Raymond (ankle)
Doubtful: Marvin Mitchell (calf)
Questionable: Jerome Simpson (lower back, foot)
Who will win Sunday?
Probable: Percy Harvin (hamstring), Charlie Johnson (back), Adrian Peterson (ankle),
Christian Ponder (knee), Andrew Sendejo (ankle), Antoine Winfield (knee)
Nothing new or shocking here, and all the guys that matter should be good to go. Minnesota's in great shape.
B/R NFC East Blog prediction
Ultimately, Washington's the more talented team. I know being at home hasn't mattered much in recent seasons, but now that they have Griffin and a much stronger offense, I think playing at FedEx Field will start becoming a factor again.
If Griffin doesn't go, they lose. But I think RG3 is going to play.
Redskins 23, Vikings 17