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Matchup Index: Vikings vs Redskins

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The Daily Norseman dives deep into statistical trends and player grades to find possible matchups to exploit.

Chase Ford might have the best matchup advantage of any Vikings receiver against Washington.
Chase Ford might have the best matchup advantage of any Vikings receiver against Washington.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

This coming Sunday afternoon the Washington Redskins travel to Minnesota to take on the Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium.  Once again this Matchup Index will provide you, the reader, with statistical trends and player grades from nearly every angle of the game in an attempt to find areas where the Vikings have some advantages and disadvantages.  As has become tradition, we'll start with the opposing offense against our defense.

The Washington Redskins have a potent offense on par with several of the other high flying offenses the Vikings have faced so far this season (like New England, Atlanta and New Orleans).  The Redskins average 391.9 yards of total offense per game, ranked 7th best in the NFL.  Despite all the yardage though, they seem to have a tough time getting to the endzone, as they only average 21.4 points per game (ranked 23rd).  This is likely due to either their struggles on third down where they are actually worse than the Vikings converting only 33% of their 3rd down attempts (ranked 29th overall) or their propensity to turn the ball over with a -8 turnover margin on the year.  With Robert Griffen III returning to the lineup this week perhaps they can cut-down on the interceptions and improve their 3rd down conversion rate.  They certainly have the ability to move the ball.

Despite all the turnover at quarterback for the Redskins (like the Vikings, they've started three different quarterbacks this season too), they average 289.5 passing yards per game (ranked 5th best in the league).  The Redskins apparently have some depth at QB with no quarterback having less than an 86.4 QB Rating on the year.  While they are likely happy to get RGIII back in the mix where they can utilize his dual-threat running ability (although he only had five attempts in the two games he played), he is maybe the least efficient quarterback on the roster, sporting the lowest Adjusted Net Yards per attempt (6.14) of the bunch.  Believe it or not, but Colt McCoy ran more times in the two games he started than RGIII.  And if RGIII is running less often in Steve McVay's new offense, that bodes well for the Vikings, because in the two games RGIII has played against Minnesota he has rushed the ball a combined 20 times for 182 yards and two touchdowns (9.1 yards per carry).

As potent as their passing attack has become this season, their rushing attack, surprisingly, has not been as effective.  The Redskins average 102.4 yards per game, ranked 19th overall.  This average production is likely due to their average number of attempts (ranked 17th) and their average yards per carry: 4.1 (also ranked 17th).  Their running game is not bad, don't get me wrong, but it's certainly not an advantage.  Alfred Morris had a breakout 2012 running for 1,613 yards and followed that up with a strong year last year gaining 1,275 yards with a 4.8 and 4.6 yard per carry average both years.  But this year his production has taken a nose dive as he is averaging only 3.9 yards per carry and is only pace for only 1,026 yards on the year.  Not only that, but his average carries per game have been dropping each year from 20.9, to 17.3 and now 16.6.  It would appear that the smashmouth style of football that the Redskins have been known for the past couple of years has been tossed aside for a high-flying passing offense featuring DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and the athletic pass catching tight end Jordan Reed.  The Matchup Index below will start, as it always does, in the trenches by looking at the Redskins pass blocking, followed by their run blocking.

Matchup Index: Redskins Pass Blocking vs Vikings Pass Rushing

Redskins Player

RT Tom Compton

RG Chris Chester

C Kory Lichtensteiger

LG Shawn Lauvao

LT Trent Williams

PFF Grade

+1.6

+4.7

+3.8

+0.3

+8.1

Vikings Player

DE Brian Robison

DT Shariff Floyd

DT Linval Joseph

DE Everson Griffen

PFF Grade

-5.2

+3.3

-1.5

+2.4

Well, this might be the highest graded pass blocking line the Vikings have faced all year with four out of five players graded in the green, and none in the red.  And with grades like this, it's easy to see why their quarterbacks are doing so well: even Colt McCoy.  Not only do they have individually good grades in pass blocking, but Pro Football Focus ranks them 6th best in Pass Blocking Efficiency along with the 7th least amount of total pressures allowed.  That said, Football Outsiders ranks them only 18th in adjusted sack rating and they have allowed the 11th most sacks of any offensive line.  In other words, it would appear that their lineman must be the most interesting in the world, because they don't always get beat very often, but when they do they allow a sack.  I do not see a single advantage for our defensive line in pass rushing, which means we will probably have to rely on the 2nd highest graded pass rusher on the team: linebacker Anthony Barr, to generate pressure.

While on paper it looks like we might have a tough time pressuring the quarterback, the Vikings have the 4th best passing defense in the league, allowing an average of only 212.1 passing yards per game.  So, something is going to have to give as one of the more potent passing games clashes against one of the best passing defenses.  We need Brian Robison to step up his game as he has seemed to disappear as of late.

Matchup Index: Redskins Run Blocking vs Vikings Run Defense

Redskins Player

RT Tom Compton

RG Chris Chester

C Kory Lichtensteiger

LG Shawn Lauvao

LT Trent Williams

PFF Grade

-3.8

-2.1

+1.0

+0.0

+3.1

Vikings Player

DE Brian Robison

DT Shariff Floyd

DT Linval Joseph

DE Everson Griffen

PFF Grade

+1.9

+3.4

-1.5

+4.2

While the Redskins look like elite pass blockers, and this is evidenced by how successful their passing game has been, they look subpar in run blocking with only one green grade and two red ones.  Our defensive line appears to have some pretty significant advantages against their struggling running game.  Although, we haven't really faced a potentially mobile quarterback like RGIII yet this year.  Not only do their PFF grades reflect an average or worse run blocking unit, but Football Outsiders ranks them 19th overall in adjusted line yards.

The Vikings defensive line grades out very well against the run on an individual standpoint, and has been improving from a statistical perspective.  As a team the Vikings defense allows 111.1 rushing yards per game (ranked 16th) and 4.2 yards per carry (ranked tied for 17th).  Their run defense is still not as strong as their pass defense, but Shariff Floyd is getting better and better each week.  Still, for some reason Football Outsiders ranks the Vikings defensive line poorly, 30th overall (although with a slight increase in ranking compared to last week) in adjusted line yards allowed.  This is a case where the Redskins have an average running game, and will be facing an average running defense.  I would expect average results from both sides.

Matchup Index: Redskins Receivers vs Vikings Defensive Backs

Redskins Player

WR Pierre Garcon

WR Andre Roberts

TE Jordan Reed

WR DeSean Jackson

PFF Grade

+1.9

-5.2

+2.5

+1.7

Vikings Player

Xavier Rhodes

Robert Blanton

Harrison Smith

Captain Munnerlyn

PFF Grade

-1.6

-0.2

+7.4

+0.3

It would appear that the Redskins receivers have some pretty good advantages.  Harrison Smith and Captain Munnerlyn remain good options in coverage and Robert Blanton is improving.  Xavier Rhodes has several highlight reel plays each game, but on the whole does not appear to be doing as well in coverage as those highlight plays suggest.  And it was Rhodes who got beat in the endzone against Sammy Watkins for that game-winning TD two weeks ago.  Jordan Reed could be a matchup nightmare for our linebackers as none of them grade positively in coverage (still).

At the end of the day the Vikings defense allows an average of 21.6 points per game, ranked 12th in the NFL and allows 323.8 total yards per game, ranked 8th.  Based on the matchups above, I expect the Redskins passing game to be able to move the ball well against our defense, but their run game to be about average.  If our defense can force some turnovers and stifle them on 3rd down, then perhaps we can keep them out of the end-zone and setup our offense with a short field to keep the game within reach.

Next we'll need to consider the Vikings offense against the Redskins defense.  The Vikings offense as a whole is struggling, generating only 312 yards of offense per game (still ranked 29th).  Bridgewater showed some improvement last week against a weak Bucs defense, with one touchdown pass and zero interceptions.  That improved our turnover margin to -1 on the year.  The Vikings offense still struggles on 3rd down, completing only 34% of their attempts, ranked 28th overall.  Our anemic offense still has only averaged 17.4 points per game (ranked 29th).

The woes in the passing game have continued as we have the 2nd worst passing yards per game average in the league (190.2).  While Bridgewater did look improved last week, he's still got a lot of catching up to do, and he'll need a lot of help from the offensive line and receivers to get there.

Jerick Mckinnon continues to shine in the Vikings running game, one that averages 121.8 yards per game (11th best) for 4.6 yards per carry (6th best).  Mckinnon still has some work to do in pass blocking, and his 15% drop rate (ranked 32nd out of 35) continues to be alarming.  But his 12th best "Elusive Rating" from PFF that attempts to boil down a player's running success beyond their blocking is very encouraging.  As Mckinnon continues to develop and grow as a rookie I think we can expect bigger and better things to come.  Just like the above indices, we'll start in the trenches with a look at the Vikings passing game first and then the running game.

Matchup Index: Vikings Pass Blocking vs Redskins Pass Rushing

Vikings Player

RT Phil Loadholt

RG Joe Berger

C John Sullivan

LG Charlie Johnson

LT Matt Kalil

PFF Grade

-2.2

-3.9

-0.2

-4.0

-16.2

Redskins Player

LOLB Ryan Kerrigan

LE Jarvis Jenkins

NT Chris Baker

RE Jason Hatcher

ROLB Trent Murphy

PFF Grade

+7.7

-2.4

+2.0

+12.8

-2.2

Well, despite the good matchup last week, our offensive line still does not have a single member graded positively, in fact only John Sullivan improved his grade from last week.  Things continue to look bad for the offensive line when it comes to pass blocking and PFF has them ranked 3rd worst in Pass Blocking Efficiency, and they are 2nd worst in Football Outsiders adjusted sack rating allowed (both minor improvements from last week though!).   Also, it would appear that Joe Berger has indeed surpassed Vlad Ducasse on the depth chart for the starting right guard position.  In the pass blocking department, this appears to be a downgrade, at least as far as PFF's grades are concerned.

On the other side, the Redskins 3-4 front has some talented pass rushers in Jason Hatcher and Ryan Kerrigan.  Kerrigan will give Phil Loadholt a run for his money this week, and Jason Hatcher should be able to handle Charlie Johnson just fine.  But thankfully for us, Brian Orakpo went on IR two weeks ago with another torn pectoral muscle and his replacement Trent Murphy is an obvious downgrade as a pass rushert.  Hopefully Matt Kalil can hold his own against a backup.  In a nutshell, this Redskins defense is strong against the pass. Football Outsider's ranks the Redskins defensive line as 7th best in adjusted sack rating, and as a team they rank 7th overall in passing yards allowed per game (only 219.2).  Based on these pass rushing advantages and their strong mark in yards allowed, I would expect the Viking passing game to struggle (despite some advantages I'll point out a little later).

Matchup Index: Vikings Run Blocking vs Redskins Run Defense

Vikings Player

RT Phil Loadholt

RG Joe Berger

C John Sullivan

LG Charlie Johnson

LT Matt Kalil

PFF Grade

+2.6

+2.1

+2.5

-2.6

-6.9

Redskins Player

LOLB Ryan Kerrigan

LE Jarvis Jenkins

NT Chris Baker

RE Jason Hatcher

ROLB Trent Murphy

PFF Grade

-2.4

-0.8

-0.7

-0.1

+1.9

While new right guard Joe Berger may be a downgrade from Vlad Ducasse in the passing game, he's an obvious upgrade in the run game, as he's always been something of a downhill mauler.  Three out of the five Vikings offensive lineman grade "in the green" by PFF, although Football Outsiders only ranks them 23rd in adjusted line yards allowed.  Still, this has become a pretty effective running team, even without Adrian Peterson.

But, lucky for the Vikings the Redskins have an average run defense (at best), as they allow an average of 111.8 rushing yards per game (ranked 17th) as well as 4.2 yards per carry (also tied for 17th).  This appears to be a team that can be run on, and even Football Outsiders ranks their defensive line 17th overall in adjusted line yards allowed.  While the Vikings may find it tough to get much going through the air, I think the Vikings should be able to find success on the ground against Washington.

Matchup Index: Vikings Receivers vs Redskins Defensive Backs

Vikings Player

WR Greg Jennings

WR Jarius Wright

TE Chase Ford

WR Cordarrelle Patterson

PFF Grade

-3.3

-3.4

+0.1

-1.5

Redskins Player

CB Bashaud Breeland

SS Brandon Merriweather

FS Ryan Clark

CB David Amerson

PFF Grade

-3.5

-4.7

-4.8

-2.3

I don't know what is wrong with the Vikings receivers this year, but Greg Jennings body  language each and every week seems to communicate a poor attitude at various points in the game.  Patterson still looks raw, and Jarius Wright looks out-matched frequently.  Chase Ford has great hands and is our highest graded pass catcher on the offense.

It would appear that the Redskins secondary might be even worse than the Bucs last week.  But their defensive line and linebackers are able to apply enough pressure to make it easier on these young corners.  I would expect our receivers to find it easy to get open against the Redskins, but if Teddy doesn't have any time to throw the ball it might not matter.  I would give the advantage to our receivers in the secondary, but again, this small advantage will probably be nullified by the big advantage the Redskins get in the trenches.

So, at the end of the day I expect the Redskins offense to be able to move the ball pretty well against our defense especially through the air, and I expect our offense to struggle in the passing game, but maybe find some running room against their defense.  Perhaps our running game can open up some play-action passing for Bridgewater and create a little more time in the pocket for Teddy to find our receivers, but I'll believe it when I see it.  I have to admit that before I even started crunching the numbers I had this game notched as a win for the Vikings, but now I'm not so sure.  While the Redskins are far from a complete team, and have plenty of weaknesses, we really don't matchup very well against them.

My prediction last week of a Vikings win against the Bucs, 23-17, was off by 4 points for both teams as they actually won by a score of 19-13.  That gives my latest two predictions some pretty good accuracy as I correctly called the winner, and my score was off by a TD or less for both teams.  So, what do I think this week?  Well, I think it's going to be another close game, and potentially another low scoring affair.  If the game were in Washington, I'd have to pick the Redskins as I feel that their offense can do more against our defense, than our offense can do against their defense.  But since it's in Minnesota I'm going to give us a slight home field advantage and predict a Vikings narrow win with a score of 20-17, but I don't feel nearly as confident about that prediction as I have the last two weeks.