A weekly look at the Vikings’ upcoming matchup featuring numbers that shouldn’t give the reader a headache or require an advanced mathematics degree to decipher.
A late defensive collapse led to the Vikings’ third-straight defeat, 22-16 to Detroit in overtime. Washington enjoyed a bye a week after traveling to London and battling to a 27-27 tie with Cincinnati.
Including five playoff games, this will be the 25th meeting between the franchises. Each has won 12 games. The most recent matchup occurred at TCF Bank Stadium in November 2014 when the Vikings held on for a 29-26 win.
The Minnesota defense allowed the same number of third-down conversions against Detroit (7) that it surrendered versus the Giants, Texans and Eagles combined.
The Vikings had more yards of offense in the first quarter against Detroit (100) than they gained in the second and third quarters combined (96).
The Lions’ 17-play touchdown march that consumed nearly 10 minutes of the second quarter was their longest drive since 1998.
Despite allowing the Lions’ marathon touchdown drive and never touching the ball in overtime, Minnesota’s time of possession was just 23 seconds less than Detroit’s.
After three games, the Vikings had 15 sacks and were on pace to break the team record of 71 set in 1989. After eight games, the Vikings have 21 sacks and are on pace to fall 30 short of topping the record.
Minnesota is 29th in the league in red zone touchdown scoring percentage (43.48).
Washington ranks seventh in the NFL in total offense, averaging 410.3 yards a game. However, the team is just 14th in points per game, averaging 23.3.
The Vikings have dropped to second in the league in turnover differential at plus-12. Washington is 17th at minus-1.
In its 27-27 tie against Cincinnati, Washington was flagged 15 times for 106 yards. Cornerback Josh Norman was responsible for five of those penalties as he tried to cover A.J. Green.
The Vikings were much more productive on first down versus the Lions than they were the previous two weeks against the Bears and Eagles. Discarding a garbage-time completion, the Vikings averaged 2.76 yards on first down against the Bears and 2.55 yards the previous week at Philadelphia.
Against the Lions, the Vikings averaged 6.59 yards on first down. For Pat Shurmur’s first game as offensive coordinator, Minnesota began the Detroit contest by passing on six consecutive first downs and seven of the team’s initial eight first downs. In Norv Turner’s final game calling plays in Chicago, the Vikings opened by running on four consecutive first downs and six of the club’s initial seven first downs.
After absorbing a battering the previous couple of weeks in being pressured 40 percent of the time, Minnesota quarterback Sam Bradford was "only" pressured on 26 percent of his dropbacks versus the Lions, according to Pro Football Focus. That doesn’t mean the offensive line, currently ranked last in pass-blocking grades by PFF, dramatically improved. The Vikings did a better job of accounting for the line’s deficiencies.
PFF’s analysis reveals that Bradford’s time-to-throw average was 2.10 seconds, the fastest in the league in Week 9. Going into the game, Bradford was averaging 2.46 seconds. Against the Lions, only nine of Bradford’s 38 aimed attempts traveled more than 10 yards downfield. He also threw eight wide receiver screens in the game. The Vikings had attempted 21 wide receiver screens in their first seven contests.
For the season, Bradford is 166 of 243 (68.3 percent) for 1,715 yards with nine touchdowns, one interception and a 99.0 rating. His favorite target continues to be Stefon Diggs, who snagged 13 passes versus the Lions and has 48 catches on the season for 546 yards (11.4) and two TDs. Among the wideouts, Adam Thielen has proven to be the most explosive in terms of yards-per-reception average (14.9). Thielen has at least one 20-plus-yard catch in four straight games.
Running on Empty
The Minnesota running game continued its season-long struggle against Detroit, averaging 3.12 yards a carry. For the season, the Vikings are last in the league with a 2.7 yards-per-carry average.
The Washington defense is 15th in the league by allowing 246 yards passing per game and 19th in passing yards allowed per attempt (7.4). The team’s pass rush should be a significant challenge for Minnesota’s struggling offensive line. Outside linebackers Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy have combined for 13 sacks.
This could be the week Minnesota’s running game gets going. Washington is 26th in rushing defense (123.8 yards a game) and 31st in yards allowed per attempt (4.9).
After a shaky start to the year, Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins has put together a solid season, completing 215 of 321 passes (67 percent) for 2,454 yards (7.6 per attempt) with 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Against the Bengals, he threw for 458 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Cincinnati only pressured Cousins 10 times on his 56 pass attempts, according to PFF. The offensive line has been solid throughout the season, surrendering just 11 sacks.
Cousins has many targets, including wide receivers Jamison Crowder (40-498 and four TDs), Pierre Thomas (36-396 and one TD) and DeSean Jackson (30-416 and 1 TD). The tight end combination of Jordan Howard and Vernon Davis might be the most lethal one in the league and should give Minnesota’s linebackers fits. Reed and Davis have combined for 65 catches, 731 yards and five touchdowns.
Washington is third in the league, averaging 298.8 passing yards per game, a figure that matches Minnesota’s total offensive output per-game average.
Minnesota had a meltdown of sorts last week against Detroit. The Vikings allowed Matthew Stafford and the Lions to drive 35 yards in the game’s waning seconds to set up the tying 58-yard field goal. In overtime, the Vikings forgot to tackle. The Lions drove 87 yards in 11 plays for the winning score.
For the year, Minnesota ranks fourth in giving up 205.8 passing yards a game. The Vikings are holding opposing quarterbacks to a 70.5 rating and have recorded 10 interceptions.
A week after Chicago rookie Jordan Howard ran for 153 yards against them, the Vikings gave up a 42-yard run by Detroit’s Theo Riddick, who entered the game averaging only 3.7 a carry. On the season, Minnesota is eighth in run defense (93.1) and 13th in rushing yards allowed per attempt (4.0)
Running back Matt Jones is questionable with a knee injury, but if he plays the Vikings should be wary. Jones has picked up 460 yards and is averaging 4.6 a carry. As a team, Washington is 14th in rushing yards per game (111.5) and eighth in yards-per-carry average (4.5).
Best of the Rest
Minnesota’s Offense vs. Washington’s Defense
Vikings’ points per game: 19.4 (25th)
Washington points allowed per game: 23.6 (19th)
Vikings’ total offense: 298.8 yards (32nd)
Washington total defense: 369.8 yards (22nd)
Vikings’ successful third-down conversions: 38.8 percent (16th)
Washington third-down conversions allowed: 45.9 percent (29th)
Washington’s Offense vs. Minnesota’s Defense
Washington points per game: 23.3 (14th)
Vikings points allowed per game: 15.8 (1st)
Washington total offense: 410.3 yards (7th)
Vikings total defense: 298.9 yards (3rd)
Washington successful third-down conversions: 44.7 percent (6th)
Vikings third-down conversions allowed: 38.3 percent (12th)
According to FiveThirtyEight, Minnesota has a 47 percent chance of beating Washington.
WhatIfSports.com‘s NFL simulation engine had the Vikings winning 42.7 percent of the 501 simulated matchups versus Washington. The average score had Washington winning 23-21.