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2012 - Week 6 v Minnesota Vikings

Blognosticator - KDawg


FedEx Field
Landover, Maryland
4:25 Kickoff

At 4:25 PM Eastern time on Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings and Washington Redskins will begin their gridiron battle. This one is a tough one to predict, simply due to the injury to one Robert Griffin III. You may have heard of him. You know? The Redskins crown jewel? The franchise quarterback? The guy who makes the world spin in Redskins nation? Ya. Him. Having suffered a concussion last week, all indications are that Griff will play which is a huge sigh of relief, but then again, concussions can be a fickle, ornery beast.

But let’s start by addressing the Redskins back up quarterback, Mr. “Captain” Kirk Cousins. Cousins came in last Sunday in a nearly impossible role: bring the 'Skins back from the doldrums of defeat, pinned deep in their own territory. A mountain of a task for any man, let alone a rookie backup quarterback. So how did he answer the call? Three and out. Yikes. But then he let one rip to Santana Moss on the 'Skins next possession giving Hogs all over a reason to cheer. Sure, he went on to throw two picks and the game was lost, but that one shining moment gave us reason to believe that our backup rookie was capable of doing, well, something.

A key to this game, regardless of who is playing at quarterback for the good guys (the 'Skins, obviously) is third down conversions on both sides of the football. The Redskins are at an increasingly pathetic 23% conversion rate offensively… That’s less than one conversion on every four attempts. And last week, the Redskins actually recorded zero first down conversions on third down, with the lone big play being the Cousins to Moss touchdown pass. Scary. But the defense isn’t fairing much better. The defense is in the middle of the pack on third down rates allowing a conversion on 36% of the snaps. It’s not horrendous, but it’s not good enough. And as a fan, it feels like every time we need a crucial stop the opposing team hits us with a right hook to the rib cage and drops us into a pile of mush and tears while they convert. But that’s just a feeling, you know? The Vikings, in contrast, convert on 35% of their offensive third downs. The good news is that they allow a third down conversion on 44% of their third downs. Yes. That’s worse than us. Awesome.

One of the most untalked (not sure it’s even a word, but I’m using it anyways) about stories in the NFL is the play of the Minnesota quarterback Christian Ponder. Ponder, through the first five games, has completed 69% of his passes, thrown for 1,082 yards, 6 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. That’s good enough for a rating of 95.5. And that’s not to mention he’s got 15 carries for 77 yards and a touchdown. He’s not necessarily a running threat, but he certainly can run. Ponder’s play has been up to par with his expectations of being a, early first round pick in 2011. That being said, he faces something he hasn’t faced yet this year. He faces a secondary that has allowed 1,643 yards (31st in the NFL) and 13 touchdowns (also 31st in the NFL). If I had a crystal ball, I’d say that the Vikings will attempt to get something going through the air, courtesy of Ponder and X-Factor Percy Harvin.

Harvin has had migraine issues in the past, but this year he looks like he’s firing on every cylinder possible. Harvin has 38 receptions for 407 yards and 1 touchdown. He’s also received 13 carries (slightly over two a game) for a 4.8 yards per carry average and a touchdown. Oh, and he’s also a return man. That Harvin guy just doesn’t go away, does he? The good news is, our return coverage has been phenomenal this year (one of the few special teams bright spots for us) so hopefully we can neutralize Harvin’s return game prowess.

On the ground, the Vikings are led by, of course, Adrian Peterson. AP has 96 carries for 420 yards and two touchdowns. Those numbers aren’t groundbreaking, but for a guy coming off a major injury, those numbers are remarkable and they’ll probably only improve as 2012 goes on. That said, the Redskins rush defense has been fairly stout this season. They rank fourth on the year thus far, as teams have been generally pass heavy due to how porous our pass defense has been. I’d guess that the Vikings will attempt to establish something on the ground while still testing our secondary. Early on they’ll try to be a bit balanced, but as the game wears on and our defense shows its hand, I have to assume they’ll go to the air. So who is their biggest threat outside of Harvin in the air? Kyle Rudolph, rookie tight end out of Notre Dame. Rudolph leads the team in touchdowns with four.

Teams haven’t necessarily tested the Vikings on the ground this year all that much as opponents have attempted just 123 carries versus 204 passes. Part of that probably stems from teams playing behind. The other part is most likely due to the Vikings run defense, which ranks 6th in the NFL in the outdated measurement of yards.

The Redskins can attack the Vikings through the air and have some success, as long as “Bob”ert Griffin plays. His legs create space for the running game and they also create time for the receivers to get open. Griffin hasn’t been sacked all that often despite a sometimes good and sometimes horrendous offensive line in front of him. And with Jared Allen and Everson Griffen (The Vikings two leading sack artists, each with three) coming off the edge, his legs will be vital to the Redskins success. But due to Allen and Griffen’s aggressiveness, the option game may pay off a bit this week. I don’t advocate overusing it, but you can’t just let those two guys get up field and penetrate. You have to make them read and think to slow them down a little bit and help the offensive line out. But overuse of the option could lead the Griffin taking big shots, and coming off of a concussion from last week, that’s a dangerous game to hang your hat on. I think the option has to be used to help slow down the pass rush and thus open up the run game with Redskins rookie sensation Alfred Morris and the passing game.

If the 'Skins can get past the first line, the Vikings most dangerous defender is Chad Greenway. He leads the team in tackles and is a severely underrated linebacker in the NFL.

So, I’ve said all of this, and haven’t made a prediction. Seems kinda bleak for the 'Skins, right? Well… I never predict a Redskin loss.

I predict that Griff opens up lanes and shows the Vikings a threat that they certainly aren’t used to. He’ll suck guys in on coverage and create throwing lanes and help to move the offense down the field both with his arm and his legs. Pierre Garcon will get in on the action and make a few nice plays, and his safety net of Santana Moss on third down will be targeted. In conjunction with Alfred Morris, who will lower his shoulder and deliver a blow to defenders and in the process leave them worn down, the Redskins will put up a sufficient amount of points on a TOUGH Vikings defense.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Redskins will absolutely aim to neutralize Peterson and force Ponder to beat them through the air. Since the Redskins haven’t had a single game with a receiver under 100 yards, I’d say that Harvin will probably have a nice day, and their red zone target Rudolph will make some plays as well.

In the end, I predict the score to be…

Hang on… Looking into my crystal ball…

It’s cloudy, hang on.

No seriously… I hate this overcast stuff…

Okay, there it is…

34-31 Redskins win!

Holy crap am I a homer.

Go 'Skins!
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