Overview: What seemed like a tough matchup at the start of the season suddenly looks like a toss-up. After a 5-0 start, the Vikings have lost their past three: at Philadelphia, at Chicago and vs. the Lions, who somehow tied the game as time expired in regulation to set up the game-winning touchdown in overtime. This was supposed to be the start of the Redskins’ most challenging chapter of the season, but the second half of their schedule now appears very similar to the first half. Minnesota has a handful of playmakers on defense, but its stagnant offense makes this a winnable game for Washington.
Biggest threat on offense: This offense isn’t as good as it looked a few months ago. Minnesota lost quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and running back Adrian Peterson because of injuries, and offensive coordinator Norv Turner surprisingly resigned last week. While the Vikings traded for quarterback Sam Bradford, who has played well this season, they haven’t been able to protect him. Minnesota is last in the league in total offense, averaging 298.8 yards per game, and 25th in points, averaging 19.4 per game. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs has shined despite Minnesota’s offensive deficiencies. The Maryland product has 546 receiving yards on 48 receptions with two touchdowns in seven games.
Biggest threat on defense: There are plenty of players to pick from on this defense, which ranks first in points allowed per game (15.8) and third in total defense (298.9 yards per game). The Vikings have all-pro caliber players at every level, but linebacker Anthony Barr is the heart of Minnesota’s defense. Although he hasn’t had any noticeable splashy plays over the past few weeks, Barr is a dangerous outside linebacker with his size, speed and athleticism. Listed at 6 feet 5 and 255 pounds, Barr has 32 tackles and one sack this season.
Key injuries: The Vikings had 14 players on the injury report last week and played without guard Alex Boone (concussion/shoulder/knee), linebacker Eric Kendricks (concussion) and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (knee) against the Lions. Bridgewater and Peterson are two of Minnesota’s eight players on injured reserve. Offensive tackles Matt Kalil and Andre Smith have both also been placed on injured reserve.
Jay Gruden’s coach speak: “I think [Rob Kelley] played good, I really do. I’ve said it all along, we’ve got three, four good backs — four good backs now that Mack [Brown] is up — so I’m not going to project who’s going to get the bulk of the load but right now I think it’s going through Robert Kelley as I stand up here right now. And that could change come Thursday or Friday, but Matt [Jones] will get his touches and earn his way back into the role that we think he should be in.” – Coach Gruden, when asked about Washington’s running back situation.
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