Prediction: Vikings 24, Washington 21 Call it a hunch. But if Christian Ponder takes care of the ball and Adrian Peterson gets a healthy workload, the Vikings can catch a mediocre Washington team off guard. As Jared Allen said last week: "We've lost every possible way this year you could possibly lose. So heck, it's got to break sometime. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut."
Allen has a favorable foe There was an awful lot of talk at Winter Park this week about Allen's pursuit of the NFL's single-season sack record. But don't look now, Philadelphia's Jason Babin has eight sacks in December and is now the NFL leader with 18. Said Allen: "That dude came out of nowhere." Allen is 3 1/2 sacks short of tying Chris Doleman's team record and five shy of Michael Strahan's league mark, and he should have an opportunity to shine going head-to-head against Washington left tackle Willie Smith, an undrafted rookie out of East Carolina who made his first NFL start last weekend.
Attention, ground control The Redskins have clearly grown comfortable making rookie running back Roy Helu their workhorse. Over his past four games, Helu is averaging 25 carries and 97 rushing yards per game. He also has 47 receptions, sixth most among NFL running backs. Helu, listed as questionable for Saturday's game (knee, toe), is a power runner with good burst who has an ability to wear down an opposing defense. Said Vikings defensive coordinator Fred Pagac, whose unit ranks 10th against the run: "He can run. He's fast. He's predominantly a tackle-to-outside runner, but that is their offense."
Looking for something From the seasonlong coverage issues with Cedric Griffin to the recent struggles of rookie Christian Ponder to the ordinary play of the linebacking corps, the Vikings have had their share of confidence issues. But Saturday they will face a Washington squad with an identical 2-8 record over its past 10 games. Vikings coach Leslie Frazier knows a third victory won't signify much but can help his team "finish on a positive note." "That's important," Frazier said. "You want to go into the offseason feeling good about something."
MANO-A-MANO: MATCHUP TO WATCH
Today: Vikings safety Jamarca Sanford vs. Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman
About Sanford Third-year safety has started 13 games this year, leading the team in interceptions (two).
About Grossman Has 13 touchdown passes, 18 interceptions and a 71.4 quarterback rating in 11 starts this season.
Who has the edge? As turnover-prone as Grossman can be, the depleted Vikings secondary isn't exactly a ball-hawking unit. Opposing quarterbacks have a 110.8 rating this season. And since last making an interception in Week 5, the Vikings have surrendered 2,447 passing yards and 25 touchdowns.