Washington Redskins (3-5) at Minnesota Vikings (1-7)
Thursday November 7 at 8:30 pm ET on NFL Network
Redskins favored by 2½, with a point total of 49

 

Both of these teams are coming off games that went down to the wire, with opposite results. Washington used a last-second goal line stand to defeat the Chargers at home in overtime, while Minnesota allowed the Cowboys to drive 90 yards for the winning touchdown in a 27-23 defeat at Dallas. The Vikings seemed to outplay Dallas but found a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory for their fourth straight loss, while the Redskins managed to keep their playoff hopes alive in the NFC LEast with their second win in the last three games.

QB Robert Griffin received plenty of compliments for leading Washington to the playoffs for the first time in five seasons last year, but much of the success was due to RB Alfred Morris, who had 1,613 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns. Griffin has been wildly inconsistent in his second season: in the team’s three wins he is 59-92 (64%); in the last two losses he is 34-69 (49%). Morris has been more reliable, averaging at least 4.4 yards per carry in each of the last seven games, and is third in the NFL with 85.8 yards rushing per game.

Both teams have struggled mightily on defense this year. The Vikings are allowing 31.5 points per game (30th) and 395 yards per game (29th), while Washington is giving up 31.6 points per game (31st) and 399 yards per game (30th). Part of that is due to the offenses putting the defenses in a predicament too often: Washington has turned the ball over 16 times, and the Vikings have 17 giveaways; only two teams have turned the ball over more often.

For better or worse, Viking head coach seems to have settled on Christian Ponder as his quarterback. Apparently one game was enough to make a decision on Josh Freeman, and Frazier must believe that Ponder has more potential than Matt Cassel. Frazier says that Ponder gives Minnesota the best chance to win, but the numbers don’t back that up. Cassel is 1-1 as a starter this year, completing 70% of his passes for 7.1 yards per attempt with 3 TD and 2 INT; Ponder is 0-5 with a 62% completion rate, 6.8 yards per pass, 3 TD and 6 INT. Maybe if Ponder plays in enough games against soft defenses like Dallas last week or Washington this week, eventually his numbers will be good enough to justify Frazier’s decision. Some of the players on defense have become openly critical of both the offensive and defensive play-calling; another loss and Frazier may completely lose his team. Ponder’s favorite target, TE Kyle Rudolph is out with a fractured foot. RB Adrian Peterson will likely be leaned on heavily; his hamstring injury appears to have finally healed, as he ran for 140 yards last week.

Pick • Washington 27, Minnesota 24
Vikings +2½
Over 49

 

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