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2011 - Week 16 v Minnesota Vikings

Blognosticator - Elephant

For the second year in a row find myself writing a blog about the Redskins after they have been eliminated from playoff contention. While I love to write, talk, argue, yell and scream about Redskins’ football, I have tired of going into the final few games of the year knowing once the regular NFL season ends the Redskins season is over. It has become an all too familiar feeling that was once so foreign to Redskins’ fans. Last year I wrote a blog displaying the joys of going into the final days of the regular season knowing the Redskins were in it. There was a twenty-year period where the Redskins were almost always a name identified with post-season play. This year I won’t do that because I feel, although we may not be going to the playoffs, we are a team on the rise. While our record may not show improvement, if you are a fan of the Redskins’ you can just feel better days on the horizon.

Because I sense the oncoming resurgence for Redskins’ football, I am not nearly as bitter as I was this time last year no matter how many times I found myself scratching my head this season. It is rarely enjoyable going into the coulda, woulda, shoulda’s, but for all the head scratching moments, the reality is that this team is only two wins against our hated rival away from being in first place in our division. This team has shown flashes of brilliance…on the other hand, they have also shown glimpses of abysmal. I think that is indicative of a young offensive coordinator still sowing his oats and a QB who reaches the pinnacles of greatness and the pits of Hades. OK, Hades may be a bit extreme, but Rex Grossman brings out such an emotion!

I do not think a five-win season accurately identifies this team. Reading what a fellow Skins’ fan has repeated throughout the season and watching the performance of this team over the past month, I am starting to buy into the idea that a consistently competent QB would immediately make this team a playoff contender. I know we need to upgrade at many positions especially offensive line, but for the first time since we saw a four game win streak to end the 2007 season under Joe Gibbs, the Redskins’ are playing like a team, a cohesive unit. While I still have concerns about the player acquisition skills of Mike Shanahan, he has shown that he can find players who can contribute. If nothing else, the 2011 draft class is full of solid depth, but there are several players who have shown they can be either great or very solid starters. Ryan Kerrigan, Roy Helu, Jarvis Jenkins and Leonard Hankerson appear to be solid draft picks but Evan Royster, Maurice Hurt, Niles Paul, and Willie Smith should become solid depth at the very least. Mike Shanahan is building something here and for those of us who believe certain changes could have made us more competitive, faster (staying with a 4-3 base on defense) it is comforting to see the positive attitude of our players at a time when everyone could just give up, that wreaks of good coaching and solid veteran leadership. It smells like a refreshing air of change in Washington.

Now let’s look at the competition for this upcoming weekend, the Minnesota Vikings. Five years ago the Vikings pulled off and off-season move I wished the Redskins had made at the time. Understanding the value of solid line play, that games were won and lost in the trenches, the Vikings signed Steve Hutchinson to the largest contract an NFL guard had ever signed to date. At the time this was a seemingly controversial signing, but over the next few years it would prove to be a key acquisition to making them a team of relevance in the NFC North. The following year with a pair of defensive tackles that were stars, they signed Jared Allen making their defensive line the most formidable in the NFL. Along the way they picked up skill players through the draft like Adrian Peterson and then they signed the keystone, Brett Favre. With Bret Favre at the helm, they fell just short of a Super Bowl bid. Unfortunately, the wheels fell off the following season proving that there is a small window for success if not continually addressing core positions. Favre proved to be done, they lost the all-pro performance of their defensive tackles with off-field distractions, the offensive line began showing age and they lost key receivers to free agency. Although AP was still gaining yards, they were not nearly as easy as they were his first couple of seasons. But the 2010 season was supposed to be an anomaly; all they needed was a solid QB who would fit their system to come in and save the franchise. So they got a supposed steal from the Washington Redskins in Donovan McNabb. McNabb was supposed to be a great QB who didn’t fit the system in Washington.

With thoughts of the Super Bowl in mind, Donovan was brought to Minnesota to take over where Brett Favre had left off just two seasons prior. Bwahahaha! As Redskins’ fans discovered last season, Andy Reid had done a masterful job of disguising McNabb’s deficiencies. For the second season in a row, McNabb was replaced as the starting QB for a team who had such high hopes for him. This time it did not take until the final three games of the season, in fact, it did not even take half the season for Leslie Frazier to realize he had a better chance of winning with the rookie they chose in the first round of the 2011 draft. So much for a McNabb revenge game in DC! Not only was he benched in Minnesota, he is floating aimlessly in the abyss of unclaimed players on wavers. But that is just part of the story in Minnesota, while they were fooling around with Brett Favre, they began to lose sight of the other positions that were either ageing, left via free agency or were suspended because of their off-field issues. Couple the drop off in on-the-field production with the stadium fight and possible move of the team and this franchise is a complete mess, just a season of play away from being mentioned for a deep run into the playoffs.

So what do the Redskins’ face on Saturday? The Vikings’ defense is solid against the run, but are among the worst in the NFL in defending the pass which is rather odd since Jared Allen has a chance to break the single season sack record provided he plays lights out football the next two games. He will likely be playing angry this weekend after a blowup with coaches because they pulled him out of the Saints game this past week since he did not record a sack. The problem is he had continually pressured the elusive Brees. This could be a huge problem summoning the Rex of Hades to appear. They have a solid run game ranking fourth in the NFL in rushing yards even though Adrian Peterson is on track to barely break a thousand yards. He had a poor performance against the Saints last week so his ankle may still be hurting, an injury that kept him out three games. But the pass game is among the worst in the NFL so we should be able to stack the box. Overall the Minnesota Vikings of 2011 are deservedly among the worst in the NFL much to the surprise of many.

The Redskins should have no problem beating this team provided we play to the level we have over the past month. We cannot let the Vikings get the run game going. Toby Gerhardt had a very solid game against us last year spelling AP. If either of these guys get going we could end up playing down to the competition again. If the run game gets going for Minnesota, Ponder has been successful moving the chains, but if they are playing from behind the Vikings are in trouble. We need to establish the run. If I were Shanahan I would hope for the first possession in the game, try to get Helu going early and get a lead on them quickly. If Minnesota has to play from behind, Orakpo, Bowen and Kerrigan should have a field day. With the way the Redskins have played in the last month I expect a sound victory. If Rex from Hades rears his ugly head, we could be in for a very frustrating day and the fans will end up calling for Shanahan’s head again. LOL! Ugh! I think this team has grown quite a bit since we lost to Dallas. I do not believe they play down to the level of the competition and go out for a second straight week firing on all cylinders, this time beating a team we should beat easily.

Redskins 31
Vikings 3


And Merry Christmas everyone!

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