Coming off the bye, the Minnesota Vikings head to D.C. to take on the Washington Redskins. What do they have to do to come out with a W?
The Minnesota Vikings look to build on a fantastic first-half of the season on the road against the Washington Redskins. Although coach Mike Zimmer has the team playing great football, the Redskins are the first of five potential playoff squads they play in the coming weeks. Not to mention, four of the five games take place on the road.
Unfortunately, they start that five-game stretch facing a team coming off a huge road win against the Seattle Seahawks. With under two minutes to go in the fourth quarter, quarterback Kirk Cousins led a four play, 70-yard drive resulting in a 1-yard touchdown run by Rob Kelley. The result gave them a 17-14 victory and in all likelihood, keeps them in the NFC playoff race at 4-4.
Undoubtedly, this game is going to be a tough one, but there’s no reason to believe the Vikings aren’t up for the challenge. With that, let’s take a look at five keys to victory!
1. Feed Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray at least 30 times.
When the Vikings rush over 30 times, they are 6-0. When they rush less than 30 times, they are 0-2. Basically, running the ball has been the recipe for success this season. Against a solid Redskins defense, it’ll be even more important to get things going on the ground early and often.
While Washington ranks middle of the pack in passing defense, they’ve played against six quarterbacks that rank top-12 in QBR according to John Keim. They also boast a defensive backfield led by Josh Norman and are tied for twelfth in sacks with 22. By establishing the run game, the Vikings hopefully can set up play-action and slow down an effective pass rush. One that pressured Russell Wilson 25 times last week.
2. Attack Bashaud Breeland. Stay away from Josh Norman.
Josh Norman ranks eighteenth among corners by Pro Football Focus, but he’s been known as one of the top corners in football over the last couple of years. In my view, he’s not someone that the Vikings have to completely stay away from, but I’d much rather attack the weaker starting corner. That corner is Bashaud Breeland, who PFF ranks 88th.
Fortunately, Minnesota has two star receivers in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, so likely one of them draws a matchup with Breeland. In turn, Case Keenum should take advantage of that matchup all game long.
3. Take advantage of a beat up Washington offensive line… One that may start T.J. Clemmings across from Everson Griffen… Yelp.
The Redskins were missing starters Trent Williams, Spencer Long and Shawn Lauvao last week. Additionally, starting guard Brandon Scherff didn’t play, but filled an emergency role off the bench. As a result, four backups started and one of those was indeed former Vikings tackle T.J. Clemmings. If he starts again this week, you may as well guarantee Everson Griffen of his ninth straight game with a sack.
Nevertheless, Washington is unlikely to return all four to the starting lineup. Even if they do, it’s safe to say they won’t be 100 percent. Given Minnesota is coming off the bye week, this bodes well for a dynamite pass rush. First, look for the Vikings to shutdown a dismal Redskins rushing offense, so they can go full attack mode on Kirk Cousins.
4. Keep Chris Thompson in check.
Ultimately, limiting Chris Thompson should be the defense’s main goals. He’s a dynamic, all-around running back that’s established himself as the top weapon on the Redskins offense. As matter of fact, he leads them in rushing yards (251), touchdowns (5), receptions (35), targets (46), receiving yards (453) and 20+ yard plays (9).
Of course, coach Mike Zimmer is going to put in place a plan to stop Thompson, but it’s up to the defense to execute it. Specifically, I’d assume Zimmer appoints someone to keep an eye on him throughout the game. Primarily, they’ll need to watch out for screens and swing passes out of the backfield and be sure to wrap up on tackles. The latter will be key to limiting big plays. If they don’t, it’ll be a long day for the Minnesota defense.
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5. Win the turnover differential.
This could be a key to every game. I mean, winning the turnover differential definitely increases the odds of victory. Even so, turnovers have been the Achilles heal of this Washington team. Thus far, they’ve committed 14 turnovers, 10 by fumble, and have a -2 turnover differential.
In particular, the Vikings should look to strip the ball every chance they get, especially when getting to Kirk Cousins. Already, the quarterback has lost six fumbles to go along with four interceptions on the season. On the other hand, Case Keenum has taken care of the ball very well in seven games, only throwing three picks. One of the main reasons for the 6-2 first-half.
While a team can still win with a negative turnover differential, I don’t see that happening in this one. Based on the events of this season, I give the Vikings the advantage to win this battle.
Overall, I like the Vikings’ chances of getting the road win over the Redskins. Look for Minnesota to establish the run, play mistake free football, and continue their elite defensive play. In the end, the Vikings come up with the 24-21 victory over the Redskins, bringing them to 7-2 on the year.