In the past four night games, regular and post season, the Vikings have lost by a cumulative score of 127-65.
Seven of the team’s Week 1 starters look set to be in street clothes.
Last time we played the Redskins, this happened:
Then why am I feeling optimistic? Perhaps because this game offers a win-win situation no matter the result. Firstly, the team has a decent chance to break that duck in night games. That would make me feel warm and fuzzy on my insides. Secondly, losing gets all of us in the melancholic Vikings Nation closer to a shiny new quarterback, with my preference being Johnny Manziel. Seeing as half the season is still yet to unfold, I will be concentrating my efforts on feeling warm and fuzzy.
For once, I will not be writing about the Vikings’ own defensive frailty; in all fairness until the coaching staff decided to abandon the game plan and play prevent they only conceded 13 points against a Dallas team that has at times looked like an offensive juggernaut. But I digress.
Washington has ranked 29th in yards per play allowed this year. In the past 3 games, that ranking holds steady. Now they definitely have a bunch of brand name players on that squad. Some of them have actually performed beyond their reputation. Mostly, I am thinking of Ryan Kerrigan. He takes over three quarters of his snaps from the defensive left, and will thus be lining up across from second string tackle J’Marcus Webb. Sorry, back to the optimism.
Washington’s team defense has looked soft. They rank second to last in “2nd Level Yards allowed per carry” (yards between 5-10 yards of the line of scrimmage). At 97.7, their passer rating conceded ranks 27th in the league. Who are the culprits for such yucky (official statistical jargon) numbers?
Of inside linebackers that have played 60% or more of their team’s defensive snaps, London Fletcher and Perry Riley have the second- and fifth-lowest grades, respectively per Profootballfocus.com. Running backs like Danny Woodhead and Knowshon Moreno feasted on them in coverage, with both having nice days catching the ball against the Redskins.
Aside from getting fined, Brandon Meriweather has looked pretty ineffective this year. Cornerback David Amerson was highly touted out of N.C. State, but is still a rookie. The likes of Keenan Allen and James Jones have already taken him to school this season, and if Ponder leaves his blinders in the locker room, Greg Jennings could be primed for a big day.
It is upsetting that Kyle Rudolph is missing this one. Not only is the Cincinnati native Ponder’s security blanket, but he would also be perfectly adept to take advantage Washington’s poor inside linebackers and safeties. I really want to believe in John Carlson, and this is as good a stage as any on which to have a career revival (anybody else thinking ‘The Master of Disguise‘?) Unfortunately, the preponderance of evidence suggests he offers little threat down the seam, but here is to hoping.
Combine all this with a running defense which is mediocre by conventional statistics (17th in rushing yards per carry allowed) and brutal by certain advanced statistical measures (second highest expected-points-added per opponent carry), Minnesota has the potential to build on the offensive performance they showed last week.
Christian Ponder will still have to see open receivers. The defense will have to go against their tendency of being awful on 3rd downs (no. 32 in the league, allowing opponents to convert a whopping 49.15% of the time). Talking about the defense, if you hit the link before the last one (on advanced statistical measures) you may also notice that the Vikings are 31st in the league when it comes to expected-points-added per play by opposing offenses (pass and running combined). To boot, Washington averages over 5 yards per carry, coming in at number 3 in the league.
RGIII, aka RGIII & out from weeks 1 & 2 of the 2013 season, continues to struggle when forced to make multiple reads which poses a problem as his recovery from injury and faith in the reconstructed knee ebb and flow. It looks like staying in eight man zone coverage will cause him to hold the ball too long, and that should aid a defense that has looked helpless against the dink’n'dunk. However, that is a relatively nuanced criticism that has more to say about the long term. The former Baylor Bear is still perfectly capable of making one read and tucking it in if need be. Griffin’s new toy Jordan Reed should also cause some worry, given the Vikings’ struggles against the likes of Martellus Bennett, Jordan Cameron, Jason Witten.
At least our side should have karma with it, given that the Vikings takes its ethnic-based name from a less aggrieved group.