The Vikings will travel to the Nation’s Capital this weekend for a Christmas Eve showdown with the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Neither the Vikings nor Redskins can look forward to the playoffs this season, but both teams are looking to close the season on a high note to build momentum for 2012.
The Redskins come into this matchup with a 5-9 record and 4th-place standing in the rough and rugged NFC East. Washington actually began the season as the NFC East’s best team, winning 3 of its first 4 games. But then head coach Mike Shanahan’s group lost 6 consecutive games coming out of their Week 4 bye and they’ve lost 8 of their last 10 after starting out 3-1.
Washington got back to its winning ways last week, though, pulling off a 23-10 upset win over the NY Giants at Met Life Stadium. The running game was key for the Redskins in their victory, as Washington ran the ball 40 times for an average of 3.1 yards per carry, while the Giants rushed the ball just 18 times total and QB Eli Manning was intercepted 3 times.
The running game should be key in this weekend’s game, too. Washington has passed 60.7% of the time this year, which is 6th-highest in the NFL, but Shanahan prefers to have a more balanced attack. With the success Washington had running the ball in victory last week, expect the running game to be emphasized again this week at home against the Vikings. After facing the pass-happy Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saints in the last two weeks and surrendering 76 points in the process, the Vikings will welcome the challenge of battling Washington’s ground game. The Vikings rank 10th in rushing defense this season, while Washington ranks just 29th in rushing offense.
When Washington does pass the ball, Rex Grossman is the trigger man. A 9-year veteran out of the University of Florida, Grossman is familiar with the Vikings after beginning his career in Chicago and playing there from 2003-08, a run that included a Super Bowl appearance as the team’s starter. Grossman began this season as the starter in Washington and went 3-2 over the first five games before giving way to backup John Beck for 3 games. Then Grossman reclaimed the starting job in Week 10 and has started the Redskins last 6 games, going 2-4 in that stretch. For the season Grossman is completing 58.3% of his passes for 2,611 yards with a 13-18 TD-INT ratio and a modest 71.4 passer rating. Beck wasn’t any better in his brief stint under center this season, going 80 for 132 (60.6%) for 858 yards with 2 TDs and 4 INTs for a passer rating of 72.1.
A few other notes on Washington’s offense…
— TE Fred Davis leads the team in receptions with 59, but he won’t play in Saturday’s game because he’s been suspended for the rest of the season. WR Jabar Gaffney leads the team in receiving yards with 842. Washington also has Santana Moss, a productive veteran who has 4 TD catches this season.
— Rookie Roy Helu leads Washington in rushing attempts (147), rushing yards (635) and is tied with Beck for the team lead in rushing TDs (2).
— Washington ranks 15th in 3rd down offense, converting 37.3% of their tries, and 27th in red zone offense, scoring TDs 43.2% of the time they enter the red zone.
— The Redskins have allowed 37 sacks on the season, which is tied for 22nd.
Defensively, the Redskins run a 3-4 scheme and boast a talented front 7. The 3 starting down linemen are Adam Carriker and Stephen Bowen at DE and Barry Cofield at NT. Talented pass-rusher Brian Orakpo and rookie standout Ryan Kerrigan man the OLB positions, while 13-year pro London Fletcher and Perry Riley start at ILB. Fletcher leads the defense in tackles, Kerrigan (7.5) and Orakpo (7.0) lead the way in sacks, and Bowen and Carriker do a lot of the grunt work in the trenches. Bowen and Carriker have combined for 11.0 sacks on the season.
The Redskins secondary features ball-hawking CB DeAngelo Hall, who has 35 INTs in 8+ seasons and 3 INTs and 14 passes defensed through 14 games this year. The secondary has taken a hit recently, though, as S LaRon Landry, a do-it-all type of defender, has been placed on the Reserve/Injured list.
Here are a few more notes on Washington’s defense…
— Washington ranks 13th in pass defense, 15th in rushing defense and 16th in scoring defense (21.4 points per game).
— The Redskins have collected 37 sacks on the season, 10th-most in the NFL.
— Washington ranks just 16th in 3rd-down defense (37.0%), but they rank 2nd in red zone defense (surrender a TD just 39.1% of the time).
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