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When the Vikings roll into Fed Ex Field on Sunday afternoon, they're facing a dangerous 2-3 Washington Redskins team that for a couple breaks could be 5-0. They've lost one game by a field goal, and two games by a touchdown.
Everyone is talking about rookie phenom Robert Griffin III, and it looks like he'll be on track to play Sunday despite suffering a mild concussion against Atlanta last week. But this team isn't just Griffin--they can employ a couple weapons, and the Vikings better be prepared for it.
Hey, This Griffin Kid, He Can Run: Over the last couple of seasons, the Vikings have had a fair amount of success against mobile quarterbacks. They beat Michael Vick on a
Monday Tuesday night game during the disaster that was the last half of the 2010 season, and Christian Ponder outdueled Cam Newton last year. In those games, the Vikings run defense was well disciplined and fundamentally sound...much like they've been so far this year, and they largely contained Vick and Newton between the tackles. Minnesota will need to do that Sunday as well, and will need to bring a lot of heat from the edge. Gerald (copyright Brian Billick) Allen, Everson Griffen (who will miss the game), and Brian Robison have done a good job so far this year, but I half expect he Vikings to bring Antoine Winfield several times from the nickel slot, and look for a linebacker to shadow Griffin most of the day.
Who The Heck Is Alfred Morris?: One of the best running backs in the NFL that you've probably never heard of. He's on pace for 1,600 yards and 12 TD's. Other than Frank Gore, the Vikings haven't faced a real serious running threat yet, (unless you consider Chris Johnson, which I don't. And seriously, what's with that nervous tic of his? I hope he sees a doctor about it, that seems worrisome). This is the biggest dual threat the Vikings have faced in awhile, and will be a big test for a rebuilt and aggressive defense.
Well, At Least Washington's Defense Is Awful: The Redskins are near the bottom of almost every major statistical defensive passing category, and are 28th in points allowed. The fewest amount of points they have given up is 22, but they are stout against the run and are a +7 in tornover margin. You could make the argument that Washington's run defense is so good because teams can pass at will. In their first five games, they have given up 339, 310, 401, 299, and 345 yards passing, and two of their starting defensive backs are Viking castoffs Cedric Griffin and Madieu WIlliams, although Ced is limited by a hamstring injury. I would expect the Vikings to stick with their gameplan of establishing Adrian Peterson, and then do damage through the air, and they should be able to.
Don't Give The Game Away: As I mentioned earlier, the Redskins, for all their defensive woes, are +7 in turnover margin, and turnovers keep teams in games. So far, the Vikings have done a superb job of holding on to the football, but Christian Ponder threw his first two picks last week, and they were both in the Tennessee red zone. I actually feel pretty confident that both Minnesota's offense and defense match up very well with Washington, and if they can limit mistakes and play disciplined football on defense, they'll win. But cough up the ball, it's anyone's game.
Adrian Peterson Will Be A Boss: Don't think for a second that AP doesn't remember what happened here last year. As if The Terminator needs any more incentive, this is the place where his career was put in jeopardy. Part of me feels sorry for the Washington defense, but most of me wants to see Adrian direct his fury between the tackles and go for about 250 and three scores. And then when he gets into the end zone for the third time, walk over and donkey punch DeJeon Gomes, the guy that put the hit on his knee last December.
Prediction: I really like Robert Griffin III. His dad was career Army, he's a very nice, respectful kid, and he has a burning desire to win. He's going to be the face of the NFL if he can stay healthy, but at this point in his career, I think this version of the Vikings defense is for real and will provide a very tough matchup for him. On offense, I think the Vikings running game will be a challenge that their defense hasn't seen yet this year, and it will open up a lot of passing lanes for Christian Ponder. They'll methodically control the ball, eat the clock, and put points on the board.
Vikings 27, Redskins 14