Washington is facing a must win scenario for the sake of playoff positioning this upcoming Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. The Redskins currently are in the sixth seed of the playoff standings, however with teams like the Lions, Saints, Panthers, Cardinals, and Packers all capable of finishing strong the Redskins have no room to let winnable games slip away. We are all aware of the challenge Kirk Cousins and the offense faces against the Minnesota defense, but as bad as the Vikings offense has looked the defense faces a challenge just as big.
Statistically, the Vikings are the worst team in yards on offense, ranking 27th in passing offense, and 32nd in rush offense. Per the eye test, their offense has been just as bad to watch. Here’s the deal when looking at the Vikings offense, what they have done up until this point yardage wise is irrelevant when focusing on the Redskins defense. Outside of the Eagles game, the Redskins defense season long has not put together a complete game and this is an issue when facing Minnesota. This defense has struggled to stop the run season long, still second to last in yards per attempt on the ground, which gives any opponent a confidence when facing the Redskins. On paper, Washington should not have a struggle when facing the Vikings offense, however if the Vikings are able to have any type of success on the ground they would not have any issues trying to provide a balanced attack.
Stopping the run is key for any game and must be key for this game as well, so is creating turnovers. Minnesota has only turned the ball over in two games this year, just five turnovers on the season as they do a great job at protecting the football. With the Vikings defense being the best in the league in scoring, it is more likely than not the Vikings will be in this game until the end. The key to disproving that will come at the hands of the Redskins defense, who have been mightily inconsistent at forcing turnovers. Washington has forced 11 turnovers on the year which is 10th best in the league, however outside of the Giants and Browns games, they have been hard to come by this season. This defense has issues getting off the field, ranking 28th in average time per drive, and yards per drive, while ranking 25th in average plays per drive. These are issues that can create opportunities for a struggling Vikings offense.
In my opinion this coming Sunday, I expect Washington to force the game into Sam Bradford hands. The Redskins has had success rushing the passer as they ranks 7th in sacks, this is a very important game for the pass rushers especially Preston Smith who has been virtually a ghost season long. With the Vikings struggling offensive line, Washington can also take advantage of their constantly improving secondary. Man coverage has improved as the season went along, and their blitz packages have started to hit home. Fully expect this defense to send pressure all game while being able to stack the box in hopes of eliminating the run game. It is key for Washington to play sound and disciplined football and make the plays when they are presented to them, because mistakes like missed tackles and breakdowns in coverage will do nothing but generate confidence and momentum for a struggling offense in Minnesota.
This defense of Washington has an opportunity to start the second half of the season on the right foot in a big game, and create some type of stability heading into the weeks ahead.