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RG3 looks to keep his Redskins in the hunt in the NFC East
Robert Griffin III and the 3-5 Washington Redskins will travel to the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome to take on Adrian Peterson and the 1-7 Minnesota Vikings on Thursday Night Football on NFL Network at 8:25 pm ET. These two organizations were 2012 playoff teams, but have combined for a 4-12 record so far in 2013. The Vikings can't find a quarterback, while Robert Griffin III is trying to rediscover the quarterback he was a season ago.
Griffin III is still surrounded by talent with Jordan Reed, Pierre Garcon and Alfred Morris at his disposal. Christian Ponder, however, will struggle to find someone to pass to with last week's injury to tight end Kyle Rudolph. Leslie Frazier needs to start winning to save his job, while the Redskins need this win to continue to see their season get back on the right track. This is the 23rd all-time meeting between the two franchises and the 18th time they've met in the regular season. The Redskins own a 9-8 advantage in the head-to-head series.
3 Things to Watch
Vikings Quarterback Carousel
The Vikings' problems on offense can be traced to their revolving door at quarterback. Minnesota has started three different signal-callers without much success. Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman have all been turned to in hope that they could be the answer. None of them have been. Still, Ponder has probably looked the most impressive thanks to his ability to extend plays with his legs. In fact, Ponder has four rushing touchdowns this season and three touchdown scrambles, both of which lead all NFL quarterbacks. His scrambling ability is especially important considering the Vikings' shaky offensive line. Vikings quarterbacks have been sacked 20 times, with the left side of Charlie Johnson and Matt Kalil being most troubling. Kalil has given up a sack, nine quarterback hits and 18 hurries after allowing one sack, four hits and 20 hurries all of last year. After getting the start last week, in which Ponder completed 68 percent of his passes for 236 yards and a touchdown, Leslie Frazier will turn to him once again tonight. This may be the perfect week to solidify the quarterback position as the Redskins defense is giving up 30 points per game.
This matchup pits two of the NFL's most talented running backs and the top two rushers from a season ago. Adrian Peterson hasn't been the same dominant runner he was during his MVP season, but he still is fourth in the NFL in rushing yards, has seven touchdowns and is averaging 4.6 yards per carry. Peterson leads the NFL in rushing yards per game with 88.9. Peterson could be in for a big game as the Redskins own the NFL's 30th-ranked total defense and allow over 115 yards per game on the ground. Alfred Morris actually looks like he has improved from his impressive rookie campaign. He appears quicker and more decisive with his cuts and in choosing a hole. However, Morris really hasn't been given a large enough amount of carries this season. Of all running backs in the top five in rushing this year, Morris has the lowest number of carries with just 133. No one else in that group has fewer than 153 carries and the other four in the top five combine to average 165 carries on the year. Morris leads all running backs with 5.3 yards per carry.
These are two of the NFL's worst secondaries. The Vikings are 29th in the NFL in passing defense, while the Redskins are 28th. Both allow nearly 300 yards per game through the air. Minnesota has an extremely inexperienced group that has been absolutely devastated by injuries. Chris Cook has battled injury issues all year, while rookie cornerback Xavier Rhodes is still trying to get caught up with the more complex schemes of an NFL defense. Josh Robinson, though he has improved is without a doubt the man opposing quarterbacks choose to pick on for big plays. Look for Robert Griffin III to search out tight end Jordan Reed and wide receiver Pierre Garcon, who had a career game last week with seven catches for 172 yards. For the Redskins, the cornerback position is improved from last year. Second-round pick David Amerson has been a pleasant surprise and DeAngelo Hall is having the type of year he hasn't seen in a long time. Still, the Redskins have struggled immensely at the safety position. Brandon Meriweather and Reed Doughty have combined for just one pass defended and no interceptions. Six of the team's top 10 tacklers are in the secondary, which means that this is a defense that allows a large amount of receptions.
Key Player for Minnesota: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR/KR
This is the Vikings' x-factor. Patterson has been Minnesota's most explosive weapon, outside of Adrian Peterson, contributing both on offense and on special teams. His 808 kick return yards lead the NFL and he has returned two for touchdowns. A big play by Patterson could swing this game.
Key Player for Washington: Robert Griffin III, QB
The Redskins go as Griffin goes. While his knee injury clearly limited him in the season's first half, it appears RG3 is getting back some of the quickness and agility he displayed in his rookie campaign. Though he has the offense ranked in the top 10, he has struggled with consistent play this year as he has thrown at least one interception in four straight games. He is 11th in the NFL with 2,169 passing yards. Griffin III has thrown for nine touchdowns and nine interceptions a season after having the best TD-to-interception ratio of any rookie quarterback, throwing 20 touchdowns and just five interceptions. If there's any team and secondary for RG3 to get things going against, it's the Vikings.
Poor Adrian Peterson continues to produce like the reigning MVP only to be surrounded by poor quarterback play and a dismal record. To me, this is a Vikings team that will likely fire Leslie Frazier and reboot their quarterback search after the season. The Redskins did have a poor start to the season, but played perhaps their most complete game of the season last week in their overtime win over the Chargers. I think this game will be a ground battle between Peterson and Alfred Morris against porous defenses. The Redskins' weapons will put them over the top and keep Washington within striking distance in the NFC East.
Washington 27, Minnesota 17