Game Overview ::
By mike johnson >>
- Both teams have benefited from weak schedules to get to their current records.
- Taylor Heinicke has made the entire Washington offense more stable and predictable than they were with Carson Wentz.
- The Minnesota passing offense will be the engine of this game, and the ability of this game to produce high-scoring hinges on if they are able to air it out early.
- Differing tempos from these teams, with the Vikings pushing things and Washington slowing things down.
How Minnesota Will Try To Win ::
The Vikings are in control of the NFC North, with a 6-1 record and a three game lead while also holding the head to head tiebreakers with their closest competition (Bears and Packers). They have benefited from a relatively weak schedule, as only two of their seven opponents so far this year currently have a winning record. This week, they face a Washington team that is 4-4 and has won three straight games. The Vikings offense has been consistent, scoring 23+ points in every game this year except their Monday Night Football loss to the Eagles, who have one of the top defenses in football. The Vikings also just acquired another offensive weapon in TJ Hockenson via trade although it is hard to say how involved he will be in the offense in his first week with the team.
From a philosophical standpoint, the Vikings in their first year under head coach Kevin O’Connell have turned up the pace and pass rate, as they rank 6th in both pass rate over expectation and situation-neutral pace of play. The shift in offensive focus has actually made the Vikings more efficient in their running game as well, as they rank 4th in rushing offense DVOA behind a running game led by Dalvin Cook and complemented by Alexander Mattison. Staying true to O’Connell’s background with the Rams, the Vikings play primarily out of “11” personnel, with three receivers, one running back, and one tight end. This week, the Vikings face a Washington defense that has not been exposed recently, mainly due to their lack of competition from opposing passing games. Their last five games were against three teams (Bears, Packers, and Titans) who all arguably rank bottom-five in the NFL in receiving corps talent, and two teams (Colts and Cowboys) with backup quarterbacks and run-heavy game plans. Prior to that, however, the Commanders had been torched through the air by the Jaguars, Lions, and Eagles to start the season. Most notable was the Eagles game when Jalen Hurts threw for 299 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. This Commanders defense currently ranks 2nd in the league in run defense DVOA, while ranking a pitiful 28th in pass defense. The Commanders also just released talented cornerback William Jackson due to a lack of “scheme fit” due to Jackson’s man coverage strengths and the Commanders preference to play heavy zone coverage. Justin Jefferson has destroyed zone coverage this season, with the 3rd highest PFF grade against zone among all NFL wide receivers. The result of all these data points suggests that the Vikings will be happy to continue or increase their tempo and pass-first approach against a very beatable opponent through the air.