It feels like forever since the Vikings took the field for a normal game. Well they finally get to return to action Sunday when they travel to Washington for the first of five road games in the second half of the season.
From listening to the pundits it appears the Vikings have become somewhat forgotten in the NFC race, despite being second in the conference. To be fair, the Vikings do have some questions coming out of the bye. Here are just a few for the battle with the Redskins.
Is Case Keenum on a leash with the activation of Teddy Bridewater?
This is not so much a question for this week alone but for the remainder of the season. It seems that the Vikings coaching staff is satisfied with giving Keenum the reigns to the offense until he falters and if he does, they are ready to start Bridgewater. They have not been clear with the situation, to be sure, expressing full confidence in both quarterbacks.
Keenum has not had anyone looming in all of his time as Vikings starter due to Sam Bradford’s knee injury. Now Bridewater is there, anxious to play after missing a year and a half, and apparently ready to go mentally and physically. We will see what kind of hook the Vikings have with Keenum. He has played well, but Bridgewater is, theoretically, the franchise.
Can Stefon Diggs and Case Keenum reignite their connection from earlier in the season?
Diggs and Adam Thielen were both putting up big numbers with Keenum feeding them the ball through the first four games. Then Diggs tweaked his groin against Chicago and missed two weeks. When he returned against Cleveland, he looked like the Diggs fans know, getting wide open downfield on more than one occasion. But for whatever reason, Keenum just missed him every time.
In his last two games, Diggs has just five catches for 31 yards. Keenum has clearly started to gravitate towards Thielen lately but Diggs appears to be fully healthy and and had the bye week to re-establish their chemistry. Hopefully the Vikings can get the full effect of their top flight receiving duo back.
What effect does the bye have on the Vikings?
A year ago, lest fans forget, Minnesota went into the bye 5-0 and then proceeded to lose their next four coming out of it. That team finished 8-8 and missed the postseason.
The Vikings have a tough road schedule coming up in the second half, no question about it. On the one hand, the bye may have come at just the right time, giving them the extra energy for their five road games in the next eight weeks. On the other hand, this team was rolling at 6-2 with four straight wins so maybe the bye came at the exact wrong time.
What we know is this: The Vikings have some key players nursing injuries, namely Everson Griffen, and the bye brought the opportunity to heal up. Both sides of the ball appear to be more prepared for the long haul than they were last year, so that should mean the bye was only a positive. If the Vikings come out sluggish in Washington, however, expect some fans to harken immediately back to 2016.
Will there be a battle of superstars on the left side of the line?
Everson Griffen vs. Trent Williams. The dominant pass rusher against one of the game’s premier pass protectors. The story of the game writes itself.
But both are wounded right now. Griffen did not participate yesterday in practice due to a foot injury and Williams has missed the last two games with knee problems. Former Viking T.J. Clemmings was a liability in Williams’ stead those two games so if Griffen plays and Williams does not, it could get ugly.
Fortunately for Washington, their swing tackle Ty Nsekhe’s core muscle injury is improving so he could get the call if Williams cannot. Williams did not participate in practice on Wednesday and his readiness for Sunday is in doubt.
Washington receivers versus the Vikings secondary
The Redskins have a dearth of skill position players on their offense, to the point where it is almost shocking they are still a productive unit. A lot of that credit goes to their quarterback Kirk Cousins, who is working with, besides a bad receiving corps, also a depleted offensive line and zero running game.
Given the Vikings strong secondary, this appears to be a mismatch in Minnesota’s favor. However, a week ago the Redskins went into Seattle and, against their vaunted secondary, made just enough plays downfield to pull out the win. That included a 38-yard reception by Josh Doctson in the final two minutes that set up the game-winning touchdown.
The point is, as unspectacular as they may seem, the Vikings defensive backfield cannot sleep on these receivers. They have already proven that they can be stagnant through three quarters and then make the big plays when they need to.