Washington comes in with a 3-5 record but somehow finds itself in the thick of the NFC East race, only 1.5 games behind the Dallas Cowboys. The Redskins got a crucial win over the San Diego Chargers last weekend, taking a 30-24 decision in overtime after having a goal line stand at the end of regulation.
At 1-7, the Vikings have completely fallen apart after making the playoffs as a wild card last year. It has been a quarterback carousel for Leslie Frazier's team, seeing Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman all start. Ponder will get the start this week.
Meet the Redskins
Washington has had a potent offense, despite Robert Griffin III have some rough outings while still recovering from his torn ACL in January. Griffin has thrown nine touchdowns and as many interceptions while completing 60.3 percent of his passes for 2,169 yards.
The engine of the offense has been the running game. Second-year running back Alfred Morris has averaged 5.2 yards per carry and has gained 686 yards overall. Morris set the franchise record last year for rushing yards with 1,613, passing Clinton Portis' previous mark. Morris has four games this season of 90+ rushing yards.
The major problem for the Redskins has been the defense. Washington ranks 30th in yards allowed per game, giving up 398.8 yards. Only the Philadelphia Eagles and Cowboys are worse, perhaps explaining why the NFC East is such a tight race. The Redskins also rank next to last in points allowed per game at 31.6, only topping the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Meet the Vikings
Minnesota has also had a deplorable defense, giving up 31.5 points per game, good for 30th in the NFL. The Vikings' biggest issue has been trying to defend the pass. Minnesota's secondary has been absolutely torched, surrendering 291.1 yards through the air each week. Part of the problem is the lack of a pass rush, totaling only 17 sacks.
Offensively, things have not been much better. Between the trio of Ponder, Cassel and Freeman, the Vikings might have the worst quarterback situation in the league sans Jacksonville. Combined, Minnesota has tossed six touchdowns and nine interceptions while completing 59.3 percent of their passes.
The lone bright spot has been Adrian Peterson, who continues to pad a Hall of Fame resume. Peterson is fourth in the NFL with 711 rushing yards on 4.6 yards per carry. Last week against Dallas, Peterson carried 25 times for 140 yards and a touchdown, almost winning the game by himself.
Local take: Washington
Mark Tyler of Hogs Haven believes there should be a change at left guard:
If Mike Shanahan continues to start Kory Lichtensteiger, then I will start believing there is some type of conspiracy theory going own with this team. Licht was absolutely horrible in the first half. He gave up two batted passes at the line of scrimmage, and was horrible against the run. On the run that Morris was caught in the backfield, and a facemask penalty was called, Licht was just BLOWN UP by Liuget. It is getting pretty embarrassing that the coaches keep trotting him back out there as a starting left guard.
Local take: Minnesota
With Rudolph out, Vikings fans should prepare themselves for a lot more of John Carlson. Hopefully Carlson will be able to embrace his expanded role and catch a few passes more than two yards downfield. Rhett Ellison is still questionable to play on Thursday with an injured ankle which means Chase Ford (best known for assisting Adrian Peterson's touchdown yesterday) could see more work in multiple tight end sets. Carlson played 47 snaps yesterday while Ford played only three.
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Washington has no defense, but as long as it can keep Peterson from completely dominating, it should pull out a victory. The Redskins have to win this game to maintain the idea they can make the playoffs, and at 4-5 it would certainly be a possibility. Against Minnesota, Griffin should have a big game, making it consecutive weeks where he looks like a fully healthy signal-caller.
Pick: Washington 30, Minnesota 17
Washington is favored by one point on the road against Minnesota, according to Oddsshark.com.
The Redskins visit the Philadelphia Eagles while the Vikings travel to the Seattle Seahawks.