1. Can the Redskins stop Adrian Peterson?
Of course, it's not just him,
it's Chester Taylor as well. But you get the point. It'll be difficult
as the duo combines to average 5.6 yards per carry. So the Redskins
might not be able to stop them. Of course, eight-man fronts are likely,
forcing Tarvaris Jackson to beat them. And the Redskins' defensive
linemen must – must – play physical and stay on the front side of the
blocks. That means as the Vikes slant their line, they can't allow
their shoulders to be anything but squared. If that happens, Peterson
will have lots of room to run.
2. What else must they do against Peterson?
Obviously they have to
tackle well, but Peterson breaks a lot of tackles. So the key is to
limit being in one-on-one situations with him. And they have to be wary
of the backside cuts. If the Vikes are smart, they'd run right at Andre Carter. Carter is not great against the run, but his speed makes him
effective on the backside. My other concern is at linebacker. Rocky
McIntosh had slowed down, but was very physical at taking on blockers.
Randall Godfrey is physical, but slow. H.B. Blades is just way too
small at outside linebacker – he's shorter than London Fletcher. And
Fletcher has slowed down as well. They'll be going against Pro Bowl
fullback Tony Richardson. Fortunately for Washington, both safeties are
good tacklers. The corners also help with their run-stopping ability.
3. Can Tarvaris Jackson hurt them?
Only by being efficient. In the past
five games, he's completing more than 65 percent of his passes, a stark
contrast to the first five games he started. Jackson has managed the
game better of late, but anyone who saw him play Chicago on Monday
night has to be salivating. However, don't sleep on him because he has
played better. Remember, this is an explosive offense. Yes it's largely
because of the run, but Jackson's efficiency causes defenses to stay
honest more than they'd like. He doesn't need to be spectacular, he
just needs to move the ball.
4. Will the Vikes always run left?
No. Despite having left tackle
Bryant McKinnie and left guard Steve Hutchinson and center Matt Birk –
the latter two are Pro Bowlers – they will stay balanced on the ground.
Part of it is, with a good cutback runner, it helps to have guys
backside who can provide cutback lanes. But it can be hard to key on
where they're going to run because they don't limit themselves.
5. How will Todd Collins fare?
Better than he did against the Giants,
where a gusty wind coupled with his squirtgun arm made for a bad
combination. But receivers were open and Santana Moss in particular
looks ready to make more big plays. Minnesota's pass defense is ranked
32nd, a by-product of being so stout against the run. But it's a way to
move the ball and Collins will be good at taking what's available. We
think he'll be fine.
6. Can the Redskins run the ball?
They haven't proven they can run the
ball consistently at all this season. So why would they do so against
the NFL's top-ranked run defense? New York hurt Washington with
up-the-gut penetration against the run and this week the Redskins are
facing two Pro Bowl tackles. The linebackers also sell out to stop the
run. The thing Washington has in its favor is Clinton Portis, who
appeared fresher and more energetic against the Vikes. The belief is
that the weekend off after the Bears game helped him considerably. Look
for him to attack the Vikes off the edge. But their corners are
excellent against the run, especially blitzing off the edge. If Antoine Winfield can't play, it would obviously help Washington.
7. Who will have a big game?
Tight end Chris Cooley. The Vikes
linebackers will be heavily involved in the run, leaving strong safety
Dwight Smith to cover him. If the Redskins are going to attack, the
middle should be open for Cooley.
8. What's the mood of the locker room?
Very relaxed. This is a
professional, but very loose bunch. Yes, their playoff fate depends on
this game, but you wouldn't know it from the volume of the locker room
or the smiles on the faces. This team has seen the worst life can offer
this season; getting ready for a football game is nothing. If they
lose, it won't be because they're too tight. And playing loose
definitely helps in these kinds of games.
9. Will the Pro Bowl snubs serve as motivation?
Maybe, but how snubbed
were any players on the Redskins? In all the lists of guys who were
snubbed, I did not see anyone think another Redskin should have made
the list. Mike Sellers has been good, but how would you pick him over
Richardson in a year where one team is dominant on the ground and the
other is rather mediocre? So I doubt this storyline will be a factor at
10. Will the Redskins win?
The Redskins are playing with a purpose and
belief in themselves. Good for them. After what they've been through
they've proven a point. But my problem always is this: injuries.
They've just suffered too many of them. Yes, Jackson is not a very good
quarterback, but does anyone really know how good Collins is? And I
worry about this banged-up D against such a good run offense. The
Redskins will play them close and if they win the turnover battle, that
will tilt the game in their favor. But it goes like this: Minnesota 21,
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