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.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
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.
REDSKINS GAME PLAN
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.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
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.
--LB LaVar Arrington (knee) was placed on injured reserve Wednesday.