This is a big game for both of these teams; Washington because the Eagles are putting some distance between them and everyone else in the NFC East, the Vikings because they have five tough road games facing them in the second half. They have to get off to a good start in this first one.
Let us take a look at how the rosters match up.
Case Keenum has played well this year but Kirk Cousins is a franchise quarterback who is going to make a lot of money soon. Cousins is sixth in the league in yards per attempt at 8.0 (among quarterbacks with at least 200 attempts) compared to Keenum’s 6.9. He is also one of only seven qualified quarterbacks with a rating over 100, and he is doing it with one of the league’s worst receiving corps.
Dalvin Cook’s injury set the Vikings back a bit in the running game, but Latavius Murray and especially Jerick McKinnon have picked up the slack admirably. The Redskins, on the other hand, rank in the bottom half of the league in yards per attempt and yards per game with Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson handling the carries, though Chris Thompson has become one of the league’s top receiving backs.
As mentioned above, the Redskins receiving production is sparse, to say the least. Their leader in catches by a comfortable margin is running back Chris Thompson followed by Jamison Crowder, who is questionable to play this Sunday. Of the team’s top five receivers, only two, Crowder and Ryan Grant, are wide receivers. The Vikings, when right, have one of the most dangerous duos in football in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen.
Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis were both limited in practice, though Davis is expected to play. If both play then no question, edge to Washington. But Reed’s injury makes it close. Kyle Rudolph has nine more catches than Davis but Davis has 100 more yards. Because of the greater downfield threat and the possibility of Reed playing, slight edge to the Redskins here.
Through the early part of the season, the Redskins had one of the better lines in the game. But then left tackle Trent Williams went down and his replacement T.J. Clemmings imploded for two weeks. The Vikings, though a little banged up, have remained largely healthy and effective all season, particularly in pass pro. If Williams is out again for Washington, the Vikings get the slight edge. Otherwise, it goes to the Skins.
Edge: Vikings (Conditionally)
The Redskins’ interior has good performances with Matthew Ioannidis manning the middle, but they have more weaknesses than strengths there. The Vikings, on the other hand, are stronger on the defensive line than anywhere else. Clear edge Minnesota.
Again, Minnesota’s 4-3 group of Barr, Kendricks and Gedeon is really good, but hard to compare to 3-4 pass rushers Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith. Washington’s middle linebacker Zach Brown is currently the league’s leading tackler and the two edge rushers have combined for 10.5 sacks. Like Baltimore, the linebackers play a more featured role in Washington’s defensive schemes than the Vikings’ do, but are they more effective? Tough to say. We will call this one a draw.
Washington has one of the more solid secondaries in football with Josh Norman, Kendall Fuller and D.J. Swearinger. Keenum will certainly have his work cut out for him trying to pick them apart Sunday. But they still are not as complete as the Vikings’ secondary with a couple lock down corners and hard-nosed safeties. Not by a landslide, but Vikings have the advantage.
Kai Forbath has been one of the best field goal kickers in the league this year. And while he kicks everything short, Ryan Quigley has had success pinning opponents inside the 20. Washington punter Tress Way has better numbers than Quigley, but not by a lot and kicker Nick Rose does not compare to Forbath, nor does Washington’s return game, which ranks near the bottom.
A 4-4 record does not exactly scare you, but the Redskins can be a tough team, depending on the week. They are coming off a big win at Seattle and with Dallas and Philadelphia starting to pull away in the division, they need to hold serve at home if they want to stay in the playoff race. Kirk Cousins is probably going to throw the ball a lot but against this defense, he will likely have just mixed success. Against the Redskins defense, which is deceptively strong despite ranking in the middle in just about every category, Keenum and the offense will probably have another field goal-heavy game, but they are the better team and should come out victorious.