Minnesota Vikings vs. Washington: Must Win Game?

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports /

The Minnesota Vikings have fallen off the 5-0 cliff they climbed at the beginning of the season with three consecutive losses. With a suddenly-tight race in the NFC North, is their next match up a must-win?

With just a half-game lead over the Detroit Lions, the Minnesota Vikings are heading into a possible must-win game in Washington. However, this early in the season, can this really be considered a must-win game?

Despite the obvious struggles for the Minnesota Vikings, they do still lead in their division. On top of that fact, the NFC is weak this year. Only one team outside the current playoff picture in the NFC has a positive record. To make matters even more favorable for the Vikings, they only play three more teams with positive records all season long. While the Vikings may seem like they are in a slump, the rest of the NFC rests right beside them.

Yet, four straight losses to inferior teams could certainly spell danger for the Vikings. The 4-3-1 team from Washington is very similar to the Giants who the Vikings destroyed in week four. Mediocre quarterback play, great offensive weapons and an under-performing defense characterize Washington.

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Trent Williams, left tackle of Washington, is suspended. Sunday’s game will act as an important test for the Vikings pass rush which has regressed lately. Washington’s defense is ranked 17 in the league. That will act as another test to see if Pat Shurmur’s offense was truly an upgrade from Norv Turner’s. Washington’s defense is ranked 24 in rushing defense, and Minnesota is ranked 31 in rushing offense. If Shurmur can’t muster up a run game against this poor defense, the Vikings may be in trouble moving forward.

Still, to assume that the Vikings will lose playoff contention upon a loss this week is a reach. Washington is one of the three teams the Vikings have yet to face with a positive record. If, in theory, the Vikings lost those three and won the rest, they would still go 10-6 and likely make the playoffs.

Now, however, it may be time to unroll the cliche that this game is a statement game. The Vikings should beat teams like Washington, especially if they hope to win in the playoffs. If the Vikings are happy settling for reaching the playoffs, they will likely reach that goal. However, if the Vikings want to assert themselves as an NFC power, this game matters.

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Is this technically a must-win game? No. Should the Vikings win this game? Yes. It is time for the defense to return to dominance. Certainly, it is time for the offense to return to functionality. In this writer’s humble opinion, the Vikings should do much more than win. They should manhandle Washington.