This is the kind of game the Vikings can win by playing the type of ball-control game they like to play. RB Adrian Peterson, who returned at what he said was 85 percent a week ago, should be closer to 100 percent and eager to touch the ball a lot more than the 10 times he got it in last week's 42-20 loss to the Saints.
The Vikings should be able to keep feeding Peterson and the fourth-ranked running game because the Redskins, who rank 26th in scoring, shouldn't be a threat to pull too far ahead. Washington has the 29th-ranked running attack and a quarterback, Rex Grossman, who has thrown 18 interceptions and is completing just 53.8 percent of his passes.
If the Vikings control the game with Peterson and get after Grossman with Jared Allen (17½) and a pass rush that ranks third in sacks per pass play, the Vikings might be able to snap a six-game losing streak. Who knows, they might even be able to intercept a pass for the first time since Week 5.
Despite losing TE Fred Davis and LT Trent Williams to suspensions and RT Jammal Brown to a groin injury before the New England game on Dec. 11, the Redskins produced 763 yards and 50 points the past two weeks against the Patriots and New York Giants, their top outputs since their wave of player losses began in Week 5.
Washington's recent success has been based on the running of rookie back Roy Helu and play-action passes by quarterback Rex Grossman to veteran receivers Jabar Gaffney, Donte Stallworth and Santana Moss. No team allows more points than the Vikings, but they surrender just 3.8 yards per carry. It will also be critical for rookie free agent tackle Willie Smith not to be dominated by Minnesota's Jared Allen.
Vikings QB Christian Ponder is having a decent rookie year, but the Redskins have an embarrassing seven-game string of losing to first-year passers over the last six seasons: Carolina's Cam Newton, 2011; St. Louis' Sam Bradford, 2010; Detroit's Matthew Stafford, 2009; Baltimore's Joe Flacco, 2008; Buffalo's Trent Edwards, 2007; Tampa Bay's Bruce Gradkowski and Tennessee's Vince Young, 2006.
However, Washington shut down Eli Manning and the high-octane Giants' passing attack last week, holding New York out of the end zone for 59:27 while picking off three passes and sacking him three times. Besides, limiting the damage done to your defense by elite running back Adrian Peterson is the key to controlling the Vikings.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Redskins OLT Willie Smith vs. Vikings RDE Jared Allen. Smith, a rookie free agent from East Carolina, was welcomed to the NFL with a sack/fumble/TD by Pats DE Andre Carter (10 sacks) on his third snap two weeks ago. Last week, the Giants' Jason Pierre-Paul (13.5 sacks) beat him for a sack and three hurries. Sunday, Smith faces an even tougher challenge, Vikings All-Pro DE Jared Allen, who's second in the league with 17.5 sacks.
Redskins ILBs London Fletcher and Perry Riley vs. Vikings RB Adrian Peterson. Although he missed three-plus games with a sprained ankle before returning last week, the fast and strong Peterson is just 68 yards shy of his fifth 1,000-yard season during his five-year career. He's the best back the Redskins have faced since San Francisco's Frank Gore in Week 9. NFL tackling leader Fletcher, Riley and the Washington defense are a so-so 15th against the run.
Vikings SS Jamarca Sanford, who has two of the team's league-low six interceptions, vs. Redskins QB Rex Grossman, who has thrown an interception in 10 consecutive games. The Vikings haven't intercepted a pass since notching three in a Week 5 win over the Cardinals. That's nine games, a record since the 1970 merger. Sanford had two of them in that game. Grossman has thrown 18 interceptions, 13 touchdowns and is completing only 58.3 percent of his passes. It's a welcome break for a depleted Vikings defense that's faced five of the top 11 ranked quarterbacks a combined seven times this season. They're 0-7 in those games.
Vikings-Redskins game plan
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