The Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings are headed in completely different directions. Washington is 3-1-1 in their last five games while the Vikings have lost three straight, dropping them to 5-3. Injuries have riddled the Vikings and played a huge role in their downward spiral, but every team deals with players getting hurt.
Sunday’s game between these two teams could have huge playoff implications, particularly if both teams are vying for a wild card berth late in the season. This could very well be a tiebreaker in determining who gets in, putting an extra bit of emphasis on this crucial matchup.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, their losing ways will continue as Washington will come away with a victory in this one.
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Washington can spread the ball around to its bevy of targets
The Redskins, unlike the Vikings, have an incredibly deep core of offensive weapons. A total of six players have at least 23 receptions, four of whom have caught at least 30. By comparison, the Vikings have just two with 30 or more. This allows Kirk Cousins to trust the playmakers around him, knowing that regardless of which receiver he targets, he can rely on them to make the catch. Minnesota has a great secondary with terrific cover corners, but they can’t cover every single one of Washington’s playmakers.
Jordan Reed is a mismatch nightmare for any team as he can run like a receiver and body-up defenders like a power forward in the paint. DeSean Jackson is doubtful, but Jamison Crowder can make several defenders miss in the middle of the field. There are simply too many defenders to focus attention on, which prevents Minnesota from sending extra safety help to one particular receiver. And if they do opt to go that route, Reed will dominate in single-coverage.
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Kirk Cousins is playing well
Don’t look now, but Kirk Cousins is playing extremely well for the one-dimensional Redskins. In his past five games, the Redskins are 3-1-1 behind his 97.4 passer rating and nine touchdowns (to four interceptions). The Redskins have had some success on the ground (100 yards rushing in four of five games), but it’s not because they’ve focused their attention on pounding the ball. Cousins is throwing the ball as much as he ever has, averaging 40 attempts per game. That was certainly the case two weeks ago when he set a franchise record with 56 attempts and 39 completions, throwing for 458 yards.
The Redskins didn’t tie the Bengals because of Cousins – he did everything he could in that game, just as he’s done all season. He hasn’t played the toughest defenses in the league, but that doesn’t take away from the season he’s having. Cousins is fourth in passing yards per game, has a passer rating of 93.1 and is completing 67 percent of his passes. Sunday’s game against the Vikings will be his toughest test yet, but he’ll step up to the occasion and carry the Redskins to a win over Minnesota.
Getty ImagesMatt Hazlett
Josh Norman will take away Minnesota’s top weapon
The Vikings have gotten to a point where they only have one truly dangerous weapon on offense: Stefon Diggs. He’s their best playmaker by a wide margin and Sam Bradford’s go-to option in the passing game. Unfortunately, he won’t be open very often on Sunday. Josh Norman hasn’t been shadowing receivers all year long, but given the way Minnesota’s offense is built around Diggs, the Redskins would be smart to stick Norman on him all game long and never look back.
The Vikings’ next-best option is Kyle Rudolph, who can be blanketed with double-coverage in the middle of the field. After that? Adam Thielen – an out-of-nowhere contributor who is mostly a big-play receiver. The Redskins won’t have to worry about him as much as they will Diggs, and Bashaud Breeland should be able to handle him in the passing game. If Washington can limit Diggs, who had 13 catches last week, to a mediocre game, Bradford will be unproductive.