It starts this weekend against the Washington Redskins, who will have their rookie franchise quarterback, Robert Griffin III, back and hopefully he will be more aware that quarterbacks need to slide.
Every game is a trap now—and this one is as tricky as any.
When the Vikings are on Offense
If it isn't broken, why fix it?
So far the pattern for offense has been twofold—run Adrian Peterson. Throw short, conservative passes.
This keeps Christian Ponder from turning the ball over (last weekend notwithstanding) and the chains moving.
The Redskins' run defense is ranked eighth in the league and yet I still say: Run.
Because this ranking is a pretty big illusion. Sure, they rank eighth but their pass defense is horrid and so they have been run on just 111 times—26th in the league. They're dead in the middle of the league with yards per carry—a solid (for running backs) 4.0.
This is not to say it's an awful run defense—it's just far from shutdown.
So run Peterson right into the teeth of this run defense and he'll have plenty of success.
Of course, as I mentioned, the pass defense is bad—31st in the league and allowing 13 touchdowns so far (tied for worst in the league). The Redskins don't sack the quarterback much (just eight sacks in five weeks) and only have four interceptions.
This is a defense the Vikings should be able to move the ball on at will, especially if they go back to the physical style of play they showed against San Francisco and Detroit.
They didn't hit quite as hard against the Tennessee Titans, and I'd more than anything like to see that emerge again against Washington.
They can't take this team lightly, because the offense for the Redskins isn't half bad.
However, by utilizing the run game and the short game Ponder excels at, the Vikings should be able to control the tempo of the game.
When the Vikings are on Defense
It appears that Robert Griffin III is going to play, so containment is the biggest issue. Griffin is a dangerous runner, though he is undersized for how often he runs and the type of hits he takes.
The Vikings need to get a hand on him early and see if they can get him to stay in the pocket because he is more dangerous on the move than in the pocket. The reverse would be true if the Vikings were facing Kirk Cousins.
The wide receivers here are nothing special, so the secondary shouldn't be tested too much. As long as they don't let the Redskins get behind them (as Santana Moss did to the Atlanta Falcons last week), they should be able to bottle the offense up.
Really the biggest focus should be the run game with Alfred Morris appearing to be the real deal for the Redskins. That said, this is the strength of the Vikings' defense and unlike Washington, Minnesota has a legit ground defense.
Morris is a good runner but not that good—he won't blow up a defense that stymied Frank Gore and stomped on Chris Johnson.
Again though, it's a matter of controlling Griffin and not letting him make plays with his legs.
The Redskins have a decent offense but not beyond the capabilities of the Vikings to overcome.
There's no such thing as a 'gimme game,' but the Vikings should be able to leave DC with a win. From here on out, it's all about focus though as Frazier alluded to.
If they come to play and execute their game plan, then they should take another step towards the playoffs and maybe a division title.
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