WASHINGTON REDSKINS (3-5) at MINNESOTA VIKINGS (1-7)
The Vikings try to snap a four-game losing skid when they face the roller-coaster Redskins for the fourth straight year on Thursday.
Washington has alternated losses and wins in each of the past six games (both SU and ATS), rolling up 500 total yards in last weeks 30-24 overtime victory versus the Chargers. Minnesota's 27-23 loss in Dallas last week, in which TE Kyle Rudolph broke his foot, drops the club to 0-7 SU (2-5 ATS) on U.S. soil this year. Although Minnesota is happy to return home, its defense is allowing 36.7 PPG and 413 total YPG at Mall of America Field. This series is 5-5 (SU and ATS) since 1992, with the Redskins prevailing 38-26 last year behind QB Robert Griffin III, who threw for 182 yards and touchdown and ran for 138 yards and 2 TD. Both teams have some favorable trends, as Washington is 10-2 ATS (83percent) versus poor passing defenses (61percent completion pct. or worse) in the past two seasons, while the Vikings are hoping this trend stays true to form: Road favorites with 130+ rushing YPG, after outrushing an opponent by 100+ yards, are only 70-117 ATS (37percent) since 1983
Washington's ground game has been outstanding over the past four games with 187 rushing YPG on 5.2 YPC. RB Alfred Morris has piled up 390 yards on 5.1 YPC over this stretch, including 121 yards and a touchdown in last week's overtime win versus the Chargers. QB Robert Griffin's III had a big throwing day in Week 9 when he completed 23-of-32 passes (72percent) for 291 yards (9.1 YPA), but he also tossed an interception with no touchdowns, bringing him to 9 TD and 9 INT for the season. Last year Griffin threw 20 TD passes with only five picks. But because of the Redskins' punishing ground game (5.2 YPC, 2nd in NFL), they have been outstanding both in third down situations (44.5percent conversions, 4th in NFL) and in the red zone (65.4percent efficiency, 3rd in NFL). Winning the turnover differential has been vital to this Redskins team, which has a minus-4 TO margin in its five losses, but a +2 TO margin in its three victories. But this team isn't going anywhere unless the defense improves dramatically. Washington has allowed 31.6 PPG (2nd-worst in NFL) and 399 total YPG (3rd-worst in league). The run defense has been better recently though, allowing just 89 rushing YPG on 3.8 YPC over the past six games
Minnesota will once again start Christian Ponder under center, as he had some big moments in the near upset of heavily favored Dallas last week. He completed 68percent of his passes for 236 yards and 2 TD (1 rushing, 1 passing), but he also committed two turnovers, including a third-quarter fumble in his own end zone that the Cowboys recovered for a touchdown. Ponder also had his ups and downs in last year's meeting with the Redskins, completing 35-of-52 throws (67.3percent) for 352 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns, but he also tossed a couple of picks, including one that was returned for a score. For the Vikings to get back on track, they have to keep giving the ball to reigning league MVP, RB Adrian Peterson. After averaging just 50 rushing YPG over three straight losses, Peterson rumbled for 140 yards on 25 carries (5.6 YPC) in last week's defeat. He rushed for a solid 79 yards on 17 carries (4.7 YPC) in last year's loss in Washington. The Minnesota defense has not played well by any stretch, but the unit has been on the field for a 34:18, which is the second-longest time of any NFL team. This has led to 395 total YPG allowed (4th-most in league). The Vikings have the NFL's worst defense on third downs (49.2percent), which has led to the team allowing the third-most points in the league at 31.5 per game. The lack of a consistent pass rush (17 sacks) has been unable to help generate turnovers. The Vikings started out the season with 12 takeaways in four games, but they have forced just two turnovers combined over the past four contests. They have also been decimated by injuries, especially in the secondary where S Harrison Smith (toe) is on short-term IR, S Jamarca Sanford (groin) is doubtful, and CBs Chris Cook (hip) and Xavier Rhodes (leg) are both questionable for this week.