Five big questions about Vikings vs. Redskins…
1. How will the Vikings handle Robert Griffin III?
RG3 is listed as questionable but there is no doubt he will play. So the young quarterback tour continues for the Vikings. They bested Blaine Gabbert but couldn’t find an answer for Andrew Luck, especially in the two-minute drill. Griffin of course is a different animal altogether. The Redskins have tailored their offense to his skills, running a lot of option stuff. Anytime you face that kind of unconventional offense which uses the QB as a runner, discipline becomes a big deal. Guys holding the edge. Guys keeping contain. The Vikes have played pretty heady defense so far so it shouldn’t be an issue. What I’d like to see, and I don’t mean this maliciously at all, is for someone to get a good shot in on RG3 early. After last week’s concussion, Griffin might be a little tentative. So hit him in the mouth and see if you can rattle him. Or maybe the Redskins will get nervous and decide to keep him in the pocket. If he’s limited to being a straight pocket passer, I think the Vikings can deal with him. It’s the running around that makes you anxious.
2. Can the Vikings get Adrian Peterson going?
The Vikes have had mixed results running against 3-4 defenses this year. Adrian Peterson got bottled up pretty well by Indianapolis, who supposedly had no run defense at all, but he was able to operate a little bit against San Francisco, who supposedly have the best defense in the league. Now they face a Washington D that has been pretty solid against the run this year. The key for the Vikings, when they’ve run the ball well, has been sticking with it and getting physical and running it up between the tackles. We’ll see if they can get that working against the Redskins. Washington has held some pretty good runners in check this year. They gave up only 67 yards on 18 carries to Michael Turner, and Ben-Jarvis Green-Ellis got only 38 yards on 17 carries. Naturally, much will be made of Adrian Peterson’s high level of motivation this week, this being his revenge game for the ACL injury last year. But I personally don’t see how that matters. Isn’t Adrian always revved up to punish defenders? So he’s a little more revved up this week. Sometimes it’s not a good thing when he gets too revved.
3. What will Jerome Simpson bring to the table?
Simpson might not even play. We won’t know one way or the other apparently until game time. Simpson had zero catches last week but at least he was on the field as a presence that had to be accounted for by the defense. You saw the difference he can make two weeks ago against Detroit when he drew two PI penalties. I really hope he plays and his leg is all right cause I want to see this passing game be unleashed a little bit against the Redskins’ secondary. Have you looked at the pass defense stats for Washington? They are brutal. Second-to-last in the league. Even worse than the Titans. Not a surprise when you look at some of the people they’re running out there. Madieu Williams is a starting safety? Cedric Griffin is a third corner? DeAngelo Hall is still out there running around? This is a bad, bad secondary. You have to challenge it. I’m just not sure the Vikings can, even with Jerome Simpson on the field. Christian Ponder is still kind of erratic when the throws go past five yards. He still can’t hit outs consistently. The ball tends to sail any time he tries putting zip on it. He’s not a good downfield quarterback yet, and sorry Ponder fans, but it’s not all on the receivers. A lot of it is, but some of it is on Ponder. And I’m sure he would admit that if you asked him. Percy Harvin has saved his bacon in a lot of ways this year.
4. Will the Redskins institute Operation Stop Percy? And if so, how will Bill Musgrave respond?
It’s been sort of fun watching the chess game between Bill Musgrave and the league’s defensive coordinators. Percy Harvin had his way for the first three weeks, then in week four Detroit focused on him and was able to take him away. Then the next week, Musgrave came out and added some new wrinkles to the Percy Attack. He went downfield to Percy, just to remind defenses that Harvin can also run right by your corners and get open. Ponder dropped a perfect arcing pass right into Percy’s hands for a completion. Then there was the now-famous bubble screen that Percy took for a 10-yard TD. That was a new look for the Vikes in the red zone. Teams have been taking Percy away down there but Musgrave found a way to get it to him. Percy, as usual, made Musgrave look good by clowning a couple hapless defenders on his way to the end zone. Here’s my advice for Washington: square up. You need sound tackling technique against Percy Harvin. If you dive around like those Tennessee defenders you’ll just end up looking stupid. God, I hope Percy ends up one-on-one in space against Cedric Griffin. That could be hilarious.
5. Is this the week the bubble bursts?
I’m optimistic about this game, but at the same time I realize there are some bothersome elements to this match-up. The Redskins stop the run well and the Vikings obviously depend heavily on the run. And there’s the whole RG3 magic factor. Coming off that injury, there’s a chance he will play tentatively, but there’s as great a chance he will go out extra-focused and extra-motivated. The great ones tend to bounce back from those situations by having epic games. We don’t know yet if RG3 is one of those special guys who takes adversity and turns it into fuel for greatness but I have a suspicion he might be. So this could end up being one of those games. Yes, the Vikings have had success in recent years against Washington, but some of that was fluky. Donovan McNabb played like crap a couple years ago, and last year the Redskins obviously were just not interested in playing, and then Joe Webb went out there and did some stuff to them. So it’s not like those were good or even average Redskins teams Leslie Frazier ran up his 2-0 record against. They were bad teams. This team is better and they have a QB at the helm who might be special. I’m optimistic about this game but I’m also concerned. This could be a tough one.
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