It’s been quite an eventful week in Washington (but really, aren’t they all?). New place kicker, concerns about the star quarterback’s health in the short and long term, and, for those of you Redskins fans who cross-pollinate, a heart-stopping week of ups and downs for the Nats in the NLDS.
By Sunday, you’ll be ready to kick up your feet (or bite your fingernails) and watch the Redskins. At home. Where they’ve lost eight straight. But are playing another opponent that they certainly can beat. Whether they will … well, that’s why we watch, isn’t it?
As you flick around the channels looking for Redskins chatter, if you’re in the area, at some point you’ll spot Ivan Carter’s face. The Comcast SportsNet host is a former beat writer for the Post, a former Division III football player (salute!) in Minnesota, and one of the only people I know who watches both Redskins and Vikings games as though it weren’t torture. So who better to shoot a couple questions towards as we look forward to Sunday’s 4:25 kickoff.
Keith:Minnesota is 4-1, but it’s kind of a quiet 4-1, with not too many people around the NFL considering the Vikings much of a threat yet. Yet they’ve beaten both the 49ers and Lions, and finished a couple of wins in the fourth quarter, so there’s something to their start. Are we as NFL observers just slow to come around on teams who did poorly last year, or is it right to consider the Vikings’ start a bit fluky?
Ivan: My main thought on the Vikings at 4-1 is, “man, this team is 4-1?” And I’ve watched every play of every game twice. So, yes, there is a feeling that this team is good but not that good, you know? Basically, this team was a disaster last season at playing what I call “quality” football. They turned the ball over, missed tackles, broke down on special teams in key moments and had a coach who sometimes looked like he had no idea what he was doing with game situations. This season, it’s been a nice, solid football team. Percy Harvin has been as good as any player in the league. Linebacker Chad Greenway has been at his best as a pro. Rookie safety Harrison Smith looks like a stud and the rookie kicker, Blair Walsh, has been money. Refreshing. But playoffs? Too early to talk about it.
Keith: Yeah, I’d agree it’s too early to count the Vikings in, and too early to count the Redskins out. The Redskins have their flaws, but they definitely have a quarterback. How did you feel about Christian Ponder at the time of the draft pick, and how do you feel about him now that you’ve seen about a full season’s worth of games?
Ivan: I was intrigued by Ponder at the time of the draft. Watched him a ton at Florida State and liked his arm, mobility and overall approach. Still, I loved what Joe Webb did in spots, including that win over the Redskins last season. [I] entered [the] season unsure of who the “guy” would be. Ponder has been terrific. Only two interceptions — both last week — and he’s a better athlete than some would give him credit for. (It’s funny how it’s 2012 and we still stereotype athletes, but that’s another discussion). I’d give him a B-plus on the season. A little worried about the head-first dives however. Gotta be careful out there, as RGIII will attest.
Keith: I’d imagine most people reading this are well aware of where Washington is weak. From afar, the Vikings don’t seem to have major deficiencies, but they don’t seem to excel anywhere besides running back. What did surprise me from looking at their statistics is that they’re seventh in the NFL in total defense — sixth in scoring and against the rush, and 15th against the pass. The Redskins are seventh in the league in offense, and fourth in rushing, at 162 yards per game, so there’s your head-to-head matchup to watch. I haven’t seen a game where the Redskins have struggled to establish the run, but sticking to it, especially against a defense that might have a little success stopping it early, could be key.
How do you all feel about the game Sunday? It’s a can-win, if not a should-win or a must-win. It’s about time the Redskins win one at FedEx. But beyond that, what would you as fans like to see them do well, and what do you think is the key to success on Sunday, assuming RGIII plays as expected? Floor’s yours.