The Minnesota Vikings have been looking like a real threat so far this season. With a 6-1 record and comfortably lounging atop the NFC North, all is going smoothly for the Vikings faithful – but it is clear that this inconsistent Vikings side has to lose eventually; and that loss could come sooner than expected during their visit to Washington.
Washington’s 4-4 record doesn’t seem too intimidating at first, but coming off of 3 consecutive victories, led by a quarterback that is undefeated so far this season, and boasting a defense that has not allowed more than 21 points in the last 4 weeks, this team is hungry and dangerous.
Taylor Heinicke stepped in for Carson Wentz week 7 of this season and immediately drove his team to a victory over the Packers. The very next week Heinicke gave the Commanders their 4th win of the season after a good overall performance and a masterfully executed game-winning touchdown drive. With the help of Terry McLaurin who has proven himself to be one of the most talented players at his position, Washington have been finding ways to move the ball downfield and put themselves in scoring positions.
As one of the most explosive receivers in the league, McLaurin has the big play capability to change the game – and he has in several big moments this season. With almost weekly 40+ yard receptions, “Scary” Terry has been a massive issue for secondaries this year, being able to burn corners and get behind safeties to create crucial plays. And as one of the worst passing defenses in the league, Minnesota needs to find a way to quiet McLaurin without allowing another one of Washington’s biggest weapons to flourish… The run game.
With a beautifully hard-headed rushing attack this season, the Commanders have been at the top of TOP (time of possession). With the second most total time of possession this year, Washington has been able to dominate the clock, keep opposing offenses off the field, and keep themselves in control of the game. It is no question that Minnesota’s best quality is their offensive capability, but if they hardly see the field, the result of the game hangs in the hands of their lackluster defense, something they may not be able to avoid.
Even if Minnesota does get the opportunity to move the ball on offense, this Washington defense will by no means make it easy. The Commanders have an extremely punishing pass rush; with a total of 21 sacks, this defense will undoubtedly challenge Kirk Cousins and could nullify the ever-impressive Justin Jefferson if plays do not have time to develop. This defensive front is also rightly equipped to neutralize the run. They have only allowed 4 rushing touchdowns through 8 games which makes them 3rd best in that category, and that will certainly be an issue for the Vikings as nearly half (10/21) of their touchdowns are scored on the ground.
It is also worth mentioning Washington’s dominant 3rd down defense – the 3rd best 3rd down defense in the entire league. The Vikings have some offensive 3rd down troubles as is (18th in the league), combine this with the fact Washington only allows teams to convert 31% of the time and all of a sudden things do not look very promising for Kevin O’Connell’s Vikings offense.
Minnesota will be hopeful to add another win to their impressive record, but right now this Washington team is excited to compete and ready to challenge the Vikings on Sunday.