Thursday Night Preview: Can the Redskins Tomahawk the ‘Purpled’ People Eaters?

Preview: Washington Redskins (3-5) at Minnesota Vikings (1-7)

Last year, the Minnesota Vikings and Washington Redskins each piled up second-half wins en route to surprising playoff appearances and prompt postseason exits.

The Vikes had the benefit of NFL MVP Adrian Peterson, who rushed for over 2,000 years on the season, while the Redskins countered with stud rookie quarterback and the NFL’s offensive Rookie of the Year, Robert Griffin III.

Well, the Vikings are out of it in 2013 – 1-7 and staring up their division’s drainage pipe at three 5-3 teams in Green Bay, Detroit, and Chicago.

As for the Redskins… actually, in some ways it’s shocking but they’re still hanging around, still playing competitive football.

At 3-5, the ‘Skins are somehow off to a better start than they were in 2012 – when they were 3-6 after nine games – and running back Alfred Morris is doubling down on last year’s strong rookie campaign with a 5.2 yards-per-carry average.

Morris is currently fifth in league rushing yards with 686, just 25 yards shy of the guy on the other sideline tonight, which will be Peterson.

Despite an 0-3 start, Washington has rebounded and is just one game behind Dallas for first in the NFC East.

“I think that it’s just the offence starting to jell,” Griffin told this week. “As a team our defence is playing really well for us, getting turnovers, getting us the ball in good situations on the field.

“We’re winning those areas and I think we are coming together more as a team.”

The media circus surrounding D.C.’s football team, however – the same media circus that used to fawn over Griffin when he was an innocent rookie, fainting from blushing at his presence like they were holding an umbrella in a Baz Luhrmann film – has been anything but positive towards the Skins this season.

While Griffin was propping up his squad’s rediscovered chemistry, Sports Illustrated‘s Andy Benoit was penning the following venom:

“Inexperienced quarterbacks often think that reading the field means recognizing when a guy gets open. Great QBs know that reading the field is more about recognizing when a guy is not open. Quickness is the key to good recognition. Great quarterbacks have a scientific understanding of how each route works in relation to the others, and how they’re all designed to leverage different defensive looks and find holes in the coverage.

“Halfway through his second season, Griffin is unmistakably an unrefined quarterback. He is unable to consistently anticipate whether receivers are going to be open or covered. He tends to fixate on his initial read, which leads to trouble.”

Washington’s wins have come against Oakland, San Diego, and Chicago, but they’ve also lost key conference matchups to Green Bay and Detroit, and they’ve lost both division games this year to Philadelphia and Dallas.

They were also slapped back to earth against Denver in Week 8, losing 45-21 to a Peyton Manning squad that found its legs in the second half.

The Vikings have been pitiful, sure, save for a Week 4 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in London.

Last week, the Vikes – buoyed by an incredible red zone touchdown run from Peterson – lost a heartbreaker, 27-23, to Dallas, and the Cowboys jumped ahead of divisional foes Washington and Philadelphia with the win.

“Whatever I did today is void,” Peterson said after the loss, a loss which saw him rack up a season-high 140 yards on the ground (source: The Oklahoman). We didn’t get a W. It’s frustrating. This one hurts. It was a tough loss. They made one more play than us.

“Those things (like rushing titles) are secondary, especially being 1-7… I really don’t really care about the yards. I want to get some W’s. I want to see the postseason. I don’t want to rush for 2,000 yards and be sitting at home watching other guys play.”

Tonight could be a springboard for the Redskins, who could move to 4-5 and stay within striking distance of the Cowboys for first in the East.

For Minnesota, it would simply be a win to look back on and say, “We were heroes, just for one day.”

With the way Peterson’s talking – with the Vikings by a fingernail over the same Cowboys team that currently leads the Skins in the playoff hunt and has outplayed them virtually all year – tonight just could be Minnesota’s night.