It’s safe to wonder if the Minnesota Vikings are a bit deflated after the collapse which cost them the win against the Dallas Cowboys last week.
At the same point Robert Griffin III and the whole Washington team seems to be on the upswing and, in a division which is a tire fire (even the New York Giants are technically in it) that momentum could well propel them into the playoffs after a start which looked disastrous.
Here are three things to watch tonight in the game.
- Is it possible for Minnesota offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave to get less creative? We already have a situation where the plays seem to be so bland that armchair linebackers across the NFL fanbase can call them out. Rookie Cordarrelle Patterson is admittedly raw, but tremendously dangerous with the ball in his hands. Yet the team can’t seem to find ways to get him involved more than two or three snaps. They don’t seem to be able to do much than the most basic plays across the board. That’s on Musgrave and if he wants to keep his job, he should try to show us more than we’ve seen so far.
- Can Washington’s defense hold onto a lead? Last week they let San Diego back into a game that should have been sewn up. The week before that, they beat on Denver for three quarters only to collapse in the fourth. They’ll lead Thursday night against Minnesota—perhaps from the very first quarter. But it;s not how you start, it’s how you finish and the last few weeks, the defense hasn’t been finishing strong.
- Both quarterbacks come into the game with questions circling them. For Robert Griffin III, it’s the continued concern he came back too soon and still plays in such a way as to beg to end up hurt again. Can he start playing a bit more safely, get out of bounds and avoid the big hits? Meanwhile Christian Ponder has not really improved since taking over for Donovan McNabb in 2012. He still makes one read and pulls the ball down far too often. Perhaps the microscopic improvement is, in part, due to Musgrave’s lackluster playcalling but all too often Ponder gets impatient and pulls the ball down when he shouldn’t. Thought that’s better than when he forces the ball into excellent coverage.
Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com, the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com and an NFL Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.