The Minnesota Vikings aren't as good as the Washington Redskins, but that doesn't mean the 'Skins won't have problems Thursday night in Minnesota. Turning it around for a Thursday night road game is never easy, and Washington has yet to win back-to-back games this season.
Robert Griffin III has been particularly inconsistent this year, not once posting a passer rating of 80 or above in two consecutive weeks. He's lacked that trademark mobility in six of his eight starts but was explosive in the other two, and he has only been the accurate, commanding passer we saw in 2012 on a few specific occasions.
Which version of RGIII and the Redskins will show up for what is essentially another do-or-die game on Thursday night? Nobody knows, and that's scary. Here's a final preview of the matchup from Washington's standpoint, along with a prediction...
What Washington must do to win, offensive edition
Stay balanced. Griffin needs it, and that Minnesota run defense isn't as good as the numbers would appear to indicate. From ESPN.com's John Keim:
The Vikings' numbers against the run look solid: 3.8 yards per carry allowed. However, they've faced only two teams that currently rank in the top 18 in terms of rushing in Chicago and Green Bay. They allowed 4.7 and 4.3 yards per carry, respectively, in those losses (and a combined 309 yards).
This Vikings D has still recorded 14 takeaways this season, so RGIII and Co. have to keep them guessing.
The 'Skins also have to make an effort to run a lot of screens and quick passes. The Vikings haven't given up an overwhelming amount of yards per pass this season, but that's a defense you can chip away at.
What Washington must do to win, defensive edition
Don't let Adrian Peterson take over. The Redskins' pass defense takes the lion's share of the heat, but it's not as though that front seven has been killing it against the run. This is a D that is missing 10.3 tackles per game and has surrendered 4.4 yards per carry against the run.
Peterson hasn't been himself this year, but he had his second-best game of the season last week in Dallas.
The good news is that Washington limited Peterson to just 38 yards on 12 carries before he was injured in Week 16 of the 2011 season, and they held him to just 79 yards on 17 carries last October.
Five most important non-quarterbacks
Trent Williams: The fourth-year left tackle has been stellar this year, and Minnesota's pass rush has been MIA, but Jared Allen is still Jared Allen.
Alfred Morris: RGIII's top sidekick has to help provide that much-needed balance.
|NFL yards-per-carry leaders, 2013|
|1. Alfred Morris||Redskins||5.2|
|2. DeMarco Murray||Cowboys||4.8|
|3. Lamar Miller||Dolphins||4.8|
Barry Cofield: The nose tackle will be the first man responsible for slowing down Peterson.
Jordan Reed: Griffin might look for him quite often on short-to-intermediate routes.
DeAngelo Hall: One of the best playmaking defenders in the league could be relied upon to make another big play if this game stays close.
Injury analysis, Redskins edition
The Redskins are remarkably healthy. London Fletcher, Stephen Bowen and Leonard Hankerson are all probable, and that's about it.
Injury analysis, Vikings edition
The Vikings are a mess. Cornerback Chris Cook (hip) and safety Jamarca Sanford (groin) have already been ruled out for a defense that ranks 29th against the pass. The 'Skins should still come out running, but they'll eventually have chances to exploit that secondary in a big way.
On offense, Christian Ponder will be down yet another weapon after tight end Kyle Rudolph broke his foot last week. Throw in that right tackle Phil Loadholt is out with a concussion and that left guard Charlie Johnson is doubtful with an elbow injury, and the Redskins' defense should have a field day.
B/R NFC East blog prediction: Redskins 30, Vikings 20
I don't love giving the Redskins a double-digit road victory on three days' rest, but this is a perfect matchup for them. Unless Peterson goes wild, I can't see them losing this game.