The Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings get three whole days to pop extra-strength Tylenol and prepare for Thursday Night Football.
Both teams have stumbled through the first half of the 2013 season, but in the NFL you're only as bad as the division you play in. That's why the 'Skins still have a shot at the playoffs while the Vikes are four games behind every team in their division at 1-7.
But despite their postseason dreams being all but dashed, the Vikings aren't showing any quit. They will host a Washington team that will be travel-weary after getting roughed up in Denver in Week 8 and barely surviving at home in Week 9.
The short week always favors the home team, and this game in no different. Minnesota will run its way to victory on Thursday and show why it was a playoff team last season.
Missed It by That Much
Both teams stared into the gaping maw of defeat in Week 9, and the end result encapsulated their seasons so far.
The Vikings were slain by Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys on a last-minute touchdown pass. The Redskins would have lost if the San Diego Chargers could score from the 1-yard line, but instead won in overtime on their fullback's third touchdown of the game. Washington moved to 3-5, only 1.5 games behind Dallas for first place in the NFC East.
Though Washington has much more to play for, Minnesota will take a tremendous amount of confidence from their narrow loss in Texas.
Christian Ponder turned in an efficient 25-of-37 passing performance after a tumultuous year. Adrian Peterson looked like vintage AP with 140 yards on 25 carries, and he dragged four Cowboys defenders into the end zone on a sensational fourth-quarter run that nearly won the game.
Picking on the D
Ponder will be happy to see the Redskins on Thursday, as they have the 28th-ranked passing defense and allow an average of 282 yards per game through the air. Washington's run defense is markedly better, ranking 11th in the league behind versatile linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. The only problem is that they will face Peterson, the most talented running back on the planet.
While Minnesota's D has been nothing to write home about, it looked stout last week. The Vikings limited the Cowboys to a pathetic 39 net rushing yards, and Romo had only one TD pass in the first 59 minutes. This is the guy who threw five against the Denver Broncos.
Of course, the Redskins have an electric playmaker in Robert Griffin III who can vex defenses with his arm and his legs. But the X-factor for Minnesota will be defensive end and pass-rusher extraordinaire Jared Allen. All this guy does is get upfield, and RGIII will be having nightmares about him on Wednesday night.
After learning he would remain in Minneapolis through the trade deadline, look for him to be refocused. If the pass rush can get after Griffin, who will be playing behind a tired offensive line on the short week, the Redskins offense will sputter and stall.
Slings and Arrows
Minnesota will be without tight end Kyle Rudolph and his nose for the end zone for the next few weeks as he recovers from a broken foot. This is a damning injury for the Vikes, as Rudolph scored nine times last season and hauled in the only receiving TD last week.
Don't expect too much from backup John Carlson, but the dynamic receiving trio of Greg Jennings, Jerome Simpson and rookie Cordarrelle Patterson will be eager to step up against a low-end passing defense. Look for fullback Toby Gerhart to catch a couple of sneaky passes as well.
Though the Redskins are the better team in this matchup, the Vikings are rising with Ponder back under center. They frustrated one NFC East opponent on the road last week, and they will do so again on Thursday from the comforts of home.