Kirk Cousins, even without injured receiver Adam Thielen, should be able to make plenty of plays against a Washington secondary dealing with its own injuries. A strong defensive performance, and opportunities for Dalvin Cook to run, should help the Vikings build a comfortable lead.
THREE BIG STORY LINES
Cousins faces his old team
He said all the right things about facing the Redskins for the first time, expressing gratitude to former coaches and teammates and downplaying the significance of playing his old team. It’s reasonable to assume, though, that Cousins will be looking for a big night.
Keenum, Peterson back in town
In a game replete with reunions, Cousins-vs.-the-Redskins isn’t the only subplot. Former Vikings QB Case Keenum will throw his first pass in U.S. Bank Stadium since the Minneapolis Miracle, while Adrian Peterson gets his second chance at a big night against his old team after a disappointing return in 2017 with the Saints.
Will Vikings’ passing game be hamstrung?
Thielen will sit out for the first time in 88 games, because of a hamstring injury. Cousins connected with Stefon Diggs for 142 yards Sunday, but Thielen’s absence means Diggs will get even more attention. Bisi Johnson figures to start, while the Vikings could look to incorporate their tight ends in a similar fashion to what they did Sunday.
TWO KEY MATCHUPS
Vikings’ defensive line vs. Redskins RB Adrian Peterson
With Bill Callahan replacing Jay Gruden as head coach, Washington has committed to the run game in a way that could give Peterson plenty of opportunities Thursday night. He’s listed as questionable but has said he plans to play through an ankle injury, and the Vikings defense knows plenty about how motivated Peterson will be to have a big game in his return to Minnesota.
Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes vs. Redskins WR Terry McLaurin
Rhodes gave up a pair of touchdowns to Marvin Jones on Sunday and was flagged for pass interference against the Lions. He’ll likely see plenty of McLaurin, the 6-foot, 210-pound rookie receiver out of Ohio State who’s become the Redskins’ best big-play threat. The third-round pick is averaging 17.5 yards per catch on 24 receptions this season, with five touchdowns in seven games.
ONE STAT THAT MATTERS
10 Points the Redskins have scored in their past three losses. They managed just three against the Giants on Sept. 29, seven against the Patriots on Oct. 6 and were shut out Sunday by the 49ers after beating the Dolphins 17-16 on Oct. 13.
THE VIKINGS WILL WIN IF…
They can build an early lead and let their pass rush go to work in a way that doesn’t allow Keenum to remind fans at U.S. Bank Stadium of how effective he can be on broken plays outside the pocket. Cousins, meanwhile, need to keeps his emotions in check and deliver a solid performance against Washington’s defense.
THE REDSKINS WILL WIN IF…
They can coax Cousins into an early turnover that allows them to take the lead, let Peterson go to work and keep the Vikings’ pass rush at bay. The Redskins’ offense hasn’t been effective enough to suggest they’ll be able to win without stealing a few possessions, and that might be their only chance Thursday night.
Prediction: Vikings, 30-14
Win Probability: 80 percent