The Minnesota Vikings (6-1) travel to D.C. to take on the Washington Commanders (4-4) at FedEx Field at 1:00 pm (EST). The Vikings are a 3.0-point favorite and are given a 56.2% chance to win according to ESPN’s FPI. With that let’s take a look at what to expect from Minnesota vs. Washington.
The Vikings come into Sunday’s matchup red hot, winning their last five games. The Vikings now sit at 6-1 with a 3.5 game lead in the NFC North. New head coach Kevin O’Connell has done great things with the Vikings, getting them to this point in the season. Now entering their last ten games and hardest stretch of the season, it will all be put to the test. It all starts Sunday against Washington in a classic trap game. Looming ahead is a massive matchup with the Super Bowl favorites Buffalo Bills (6-1).
The Vikings must remain focused at the task at hand in the Commanders, who are no joke. Yes, they aren’t great, but 4-4 isn’t someone you should go sleeping on. Washington has won three in a row and plays most games close. A win for the Vikings puts them at 7-1 and at worst keeps their 3.5 game lead or extends it to 4.5 depending on how the other games pan out. A loss drops them to 6-2 and likely shows that they were caught looking ahead.
What To Watch
What I’ll be watching on Sunday will be how the defense does against the Commanders offense. Taylor Heinicke has been great so far this year with a 2-0 record beating both the Packers and Colts. He has thrown for 480 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions. Thankfully, they haven’t been scoring more points and only average 17.8 per game. They also average 350.5 yards of total offense with 246.1 passing and 104.4 rushing.
The Vikings on the other hand allow 20.6 points per game with 401.6 yards of total offense (294.0 passing and 107.6 rushing). Washington for the most part plays teams tough and close with an average margin in their games being 7.3 points. The Vikings average margin is 8.6. This game is going to be close, ugly and it’ll be up to the defense to keep Washington’s offense in check.
How does T.J. Hockenson impact the offense? Honestly, I’m dying to see this and am very excited to see Minnesota land him. The Vikings on the final day of the trade deadline acquired Hockenson and two fourth round picks for a second and third rounder. This was a steal in my opinion. Hockenson so far this year has 26 receptions for 395 yards, three touchdowns, and averages 15.2 yards per catch. I feel like he is a missing piece that you didn’t know you needed until you got him. His presence is so big by forcing teams to change coverages that typically involve a double on Justin Jefferson.
The Vikings boast an offense of Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, K.J. Osborn, and now T.J. Hockenson. I almost feel bad for whoever has to take on this offense, it is just so loaded with talent, now with him at tight end. Apologies to Irv Smith Jr. but your time seems to be done in the North Star State.
The Vikings have five players on their injury list this week.
- Za’Darius Smith (LB) – N/A
- Jalen Nailor (WR) – N/A
- Cameron Dantzler Sr. (CB) – N/A
- Dalvin Tomlinson (DT) – Calf
- Irv Smith Jr. (TE) – Ankle
The Vikings placed tight end Irv Smith Jr. on the IR with a high ankle sprain that may require surgery. Smith, Nailor, and Dantzler Sr., all are questionable and their injuries and status for Sunday’s game are unknown. Tomlinson is week-to-week with a calf injury and his status for Sunday’s game is unknown at the moment.
The Commanders, like the Vikings, are hot. Having won their last three games, they now sit at .500 with a 4-4 record. Washington looks to keep their momentum going as they host a Viking team who has won five in a row. A win for Washington puts them at 5-4 and likely could begin a conversation about whether or not this team could make it as a wild card, solidifying the NFC East as the best division in football. A loss drops them to 4-5 with issues of whether they can beat good teams or not.
What To Watch
Taylor Heinicke, that’s what I’m watching for with the Commanders. Why? Well, he is 2-0 since coming in for an injured Carson Wentz and has had a decent track record of performing well in the past. In wins over the Packers and Colts, Heinicke has thrown for 480 yards, with a 60.1 completion percentage, three touchdowns, and two interceptions. He’s been good for the Commanders, and they’ll need him to be again on Sunday.
The Vikings defense hasn’t been great, yet the team is 6-1 so something is working for them. On average they give up 401.6 yards per game with 294 passing and 107.6 rushing. The Vikings do average 1.8 turnovers per game with 13 on the year. This team is good in big moments and can pressure the quarterback. Just ask Kyler Murray who was sacked four times last week. If Heinicke can get good protection and not turn the ball over, he’ll be giving his team the best chance to beat the Vikings.
Can the offense score enough points against a loaded Vikings offense? Seriously, the Vikings just added T.J. Hockenson to an already loaded receiving core. This will be a tough task for the Commanders on Sunday. While they’ve done a good job at limiting teams they play, only allowing 30-points once this season, it’ll be a different beast come Sunday.
The Commanders have been susceptible to good passing attacks this season. So far, they’ve allowed Jalen Hurts, Jared Goff, and Cooper Rush to combine for 819 yards and eight touchdowns in three of their losses this year. Not great, especially given that Kirk Cousins now has arguably one of the best weapon groups in the league. If they can get pressure on Cousins, (whose offensive line has been good for the most part this year) they’ll have a shot at creating some dysfunction on the Vikings offense, otherwise they could be in trouble.
The Commanders have seven players on their injured list this week.
- Logan Thomas (TE) – Calf
- Cole Holcomb (LB) – Foot
- David Mayo (LB) – N/A
- Jahan Dotson (WR) – Hamstring
- J.D. McKissic (RB) – Neck
- Cole Turner (TE) – Concussion
- Chase Young (DE) – Knee
Holcomb, Dotson, and McKissic all did not participate in Thursday’s practice. Turner and Thomas both were limited participants at practice on Wednesday. Mayo’s status and injury are unknown. Chase Young on Wednesday was designated for return from the PUP list.
My bold prediction for the game is that both teams stay under 300 yards of total offense. Yes, as I’ve said before this game will be close and it will be UGLY. I don’t think the Vikings will be looking ahead because Washington is respectable. Both offenses have struggled this year and the defenses are both good. The offenses won’t be sharp and will struggle to move the ball much. Turnovers will be frequent, and the defenses will shine. In the end someone will get lucky to take a lead and hold.
The following betting lines are according to ESPN’s Pick Center.
- Minnesota: -3.0
- Washington: +3.0
- Minnesota: -164
- Washington: +146
Where To Watch
Minnesota vs. Washington will air on Fox at 1:00 pm (EST) on Sunday. Commentating the game will be Adam Amin (play-by-play), Mark Schlereth (analyst), and Kristina Pink (sideline). You can watch the game on the Fox Sports app or on FoxSports.com. The game will also be on NFL Sunday Ticket (Directv). Streaming services that have Fox are fubo TV, Hulu (with live TV), Sling TV, and Youtube TV.
Ah, if this game doesn’t scream ugly, I don’t know what else would. This is going to be low scoring and a defensive bout. Neither team will get much but some field goals (and some misses as well). It’ll be a field goal lead at halftime. Coming out of half each team will get something going, but that’ll be all for a while. The Vikings offense will finally get going and score a touchdown late. In the end another late Viking turnover will seal it for the Vikings. Minnesota wins 20-16.
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