One man’s prediction: The Vikings have not won on American soil this season. Their lone victory came in London. Their offense showed more balance against Dallas and the defense did nice things until giving up a 90-yard game-winning drive. But the Vikings’ injury situation is a major issue and Robert Griffin III is starting to get back to normal, so Washington gets the slight edge.
The Dallas Cowboys ran the ball nine times on Sunday. That’s not a misprint. The Redskins average 29 rushes per game. The Vikings defense will see a dramatically different approach with RGIII and the read option. In their past four games, the Redskins have rushed for an NFL-best 746 yards and nine touchdowns. They’re averaging 5.2 yards per carry in that span. The Vikings struggled to contain Green Bay’s running game two weeks ago and Washington presents another tough test.
The Vikings offensive line hasn’t been as physically dominant as it looked last season, but that group at least had continuity. But for the first time in 25 games, the line will have a new look. Right tackle Phil Loadholt suffered a concussion against Dallas and won’t play. He will be replaced by J’Marcus Webb, who gave up a sack-strip in the end zone on his second play in relief against the Cowboys. Left guard Charlie Johnson is doubtful because of an elbow injury.
The Vikings secondary will be without their two starting safeties, Harrison Smith (turf toe) and Jamarca Sanford (groin). Cornerback Chris Cook also won’t play because of a hip injury, leaving the secondary even more depleted. RGIII likes to spread the ball around to his receivers, but Pierre Garcon has become his favorite target. Garcon ranks fourth in the NFL in catches with 54. He has caught at least five passes in every game.
MANO-A-MANO: A MATCHUP TO WATCH
Today: Vikings QB Christian Ponder vs. Redskins CB DeAngelo Hall
He’s making his third consecutive start after being benched. He looked most comfortable when the Vikings ran the no-huddle on Sunday but he still accounted for two turnovers, including a fumble that was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown.
He’s one of five active players with at least 40 interceptions. The 10-year veteran already has set a team record this season with three defensive touchdowns – two interception returns and a fumble return.
Who has the edge?
Ponder described Hall this week as a “ball hawk” who loves to jump routes. Ponder committed three turnovers in a loss to Washington last season and he’s accounted for nine turnovers (six interceptions, three fumbles) in five starts this season. Hall has a chance to make another game-changing play.
THE BIG NUMBER
2709 Yards rushing by Washington last season, which led the NFL. The Vikings finished second with 2,634 yards.
Brian Robison, Vikings: On Sunday, the defensive end became the first Vikings defender since 2003 to register sacks on back-to-back plays. Robison leads the team in quarterback hurries (19) and has done a good job creating pressure opposite Jared Allen.