Vikings-Redskins Game Plan

It's a game that means little to the Washington Redskins and everything to the Minnesota Vikings. So now the question is this: Can the Vikings exploit the personnel and matchup advantages they have on Washington? Get the thinking from both camps, as well as the key matchups and injuries heading into Sunday's game between the Vikings and Redskins.


The Vikings will load up to stop the run and will play eight men in the box. That should be enough to stuff backup running back Ladell Betts, who will replace the injured Clinton Portis (torn pectoral muscle).

With Betts neutralized, the Vikings will blitz horrible QB Patrick Ramsey and force him to make costly mistakes. That's the easy part.

The tough part will be scoring against the Redskins once the Vikings get the ball. The Vikings aren't a physically dominating running team, so they probably won't establish the run well against Washington's No. 3-ranked run defense.

QB Daunte Culpepper will have to be as sharp as he has been all season. He will need to take some shots downfield to WRs Randy Moss and Nate Burleson, but he also will have to know when to check down to TE Jermaine Wiggins and RB Michael Bennett. Except for the losses to the Giants and at Chicago, Culpepper's decision-making has been extraordinary this season. With the season possibly on the line, he should come through.


Vikings RBs Michael Bennett and Onterrio Smith vs. Redskins front seven — The Vikings are hinting that Smith might be inactive for the second consecutive week, but don't be surprised if he ends up starting. He's stronger and more explosive between the tackles. He's also better on grass against a tough defense such as Washington's. Plus, Smith should be well rested since he didn't play last week because of the flu. The Redskins rank third in the league in run defense and first in fewest yards allowed per carry (3.1). The Vikings offensive line needs to keep SLB Marcus Washington and WLB Lemar Marshall from disrupting plays and making stops for no gain or losses. With Washington's No. 2-ranked defense, this is not the game to be getting into long-yardage situations on second and third down.

Vikings front seven against Redskins RB Ladell Betts — Clinton Portis and his 1,315 rushing yards are out because of a torn right pectoral muscle. Betts, who has only 253 yards rushing but a 4.0-yard average, will be looking to make a name for himself. If the Vikings stuff the run early, as they have recently, they can tee off on QB Patrick Ramsey, whose 72.0 passer rating is the second worst in the NFC behind teammate Mark Brunell (63.9).

Vikings WR Randy Moss vs. Redskins CB Shawn Springs — Speculation in Minnesota is Moss' back and hamstring were bothering him when he caught only two passes for 30 yards and a touchdown in the 34-31 loss to the Packers last week. Coach Mike Tice said Moss is healthy and was rendered ineffective because of the Packers' aggressive style at the line of scrimmage and their Cover-2 schemes downfield. The Vikings would like to establish the run and then nail a deep pass to Moss early in the game off play-action. Springs leads the Redskins in interceptions with five. Rookie S Sean Taylor will help bracket Moss downfield. Washington has to be careful not to dedicate too many bodies to covering Moss. WR Nate Burleson and TE Jermaine Wiggins have hurt defenses that do that.


  • CB Ralph Brown (fractured eye socket) won't play. He might have been able to help out on special teams and as a dime back.

  • CB Antoine Winfield would have rested his high left ankle sprain this week had the Vikings clinched a playoff spot last week. He returned last week after missing two games. He played in the nickel defense on third downs only until pulling himself out of the game in the waning minutes because of the pain. The Redskins' passing attack is so woeful, the Vikings should be able to get by with Winfield less than 100 percent and playing in the nickel.

  • DE Kenechi Udeze strained a calf against the Packers last week and is hobbling. He is expected to play, but look for Lance Johnstone and Darrion Scott to get more of Udeze's reps against Washington.

  • RB Onterrio Smith missed the Packers game because of the flu and a minor elbow injury suffered the week before against Seattle, according to coach Mike Tice. Tice said this is the kind of game — outdoors, on grass against a tough defense — in which Smith will be needed. If Smith can't play or isn't used, the Vikings should be OK with Michael Bennett starting. In his second consecutive start last week, Bennett combined for 161 yards and a touchdown on 20 touches from scrimmage.


    Despite the absence of RB Clinton Portis, the Redskins are expected to still run a ground-based attack. RB Ladell Betts won't be much of a drop-off, considering that he has run hard and has been fairly productive during his stints filling in for Portis. And the opportunity to make a statement should be incentive for Betts, whose style is more oriented around the power game.

    The Vikings have one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL, but Washington hasn't been able to throw the ball deep on anyone. Look for another batch of short passes. Long gains will come only if the Vikings miss tackles.

    Defensively, Washington will have its hands full trying to stop the best offense it has played all year. The Redskins have done a good job pressuring mobile quarterbacks, but Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper might be the most difficult passer in football to bring down. Minnesota's standout receiver corps could have a huge day considering the Redskins' injuries at cornerback.

    Washington's saving grace is its ability to consistently stuff the run. Even last week at Dallas, when the Redskins seemed to struggle in the ground game, the Cowboys averaged just 3.0 yards per rush.


    Redskins guards Randy Thomas and Derrick Dockery, who have endured an up-and-down year, vs. Vikings DT Kevin Williams, who leads Minnesota defensive linemen with 92 tackles — Williams last week was voted to his first Pro Bowl, and he's the biggest impediment to the Redskins being able to establish a ground game with backup RB Ladell Betts.

    Redskins CB Shawn Springs, who remains a bit hazy from a concussion two weeks ago, vs. Vikings WR Randy Moss, who has 12 touchdowns in 10 games this season — Earlier this month, Moss caught four passes for 104 yards against Seattle and four for 102 at Detroit. That type of performance probably would lead a Vikings victory in this game.


  • The Redskins' widespread injuries at cornerback will be problematic, especially against a passing offense as potent as Minnesota's. Coaches are confident that young Garnell Wilds and Rufus Brown will be able to produce, but we'll wait to see them get a piece of Randy Moss and Nate Burleson.

  • Not having RB Clinton Portis (pectoral) available actually will be rather intriguing as Ladell Betts will get a game to prove himself.

    --LB LaVar Arrington (knee) was placed on injured reserve Wednesday.

  • RB Clinton Portis (pectoral) was placed on injured reserve Wednesday.

  • CB Ade Jimoh (ankle) was placed on injured reserve Wednesday.

  • TE Dan Goodspeed was cut this week.

  • CB Fred Smoot (back) skipped practice Wednesday and was listed as doubtful for the Vikings game. He remains in rough shape following a shot to the back by FS Sean Taylor in the Cowboys game.

  • LB Marcus Washington (knee) didn't practice Wednesday and is questionable for Sunday. He apparently was injured during the Cowboys game, but the club didn't say anything until Wednesday.

  • Without downplaying LB Marcus Washington's talent, the potential absence of Washington (knee) probably would be accounted for in Gregg Williams' scheme without too much difficulty.

  • LT Chris Samuels (ankle) practiced Wednesday and is probable for the Vikings game.

  • CB Shawn Springs (foot) missed practice Wednesday but is probable for the Vikings game.

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