Keeping Tabs on Washington's Team

What to Watch: Vikings vs. Redskins

Washington tries to get to 3-3 and stay in the divisional hunt

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 16: Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins jokes with head coach Mike Shanahan also of the Washington Redskins during pre-game warm ups prior to playing against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on September 16, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

    Game time: Sunday, Oct. 14, 4:25 p.m. ET, FedEx Field
    TV: FOX
    Weather: Mid-70s, partly cloudy
    Records: Vikings (4-1) at Redskins (2-3)

    Two things: When the Redskins have the ball

    1. Washington's offensive game plan hinges on whether rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III will be cleared to play after suffering a concussion in last week's loss to the Falcons. RGIII practiced without incident on Wednesday and Thursday and he'll be evaluated by team doctors before practice Friday. If he can't go, the team's other rookie QB, fourth-rounder, Kirk Cousins, would likely get the nod. Downside: Cousins' in-the-pocket style would be a stark difference from the Baylor-inspired offense that highlighted RGIII's skills. Upside: Rookie fourth-rounders making their first NFL start have been serviceable.

    2. If the Redskins are going to have a chance against one of the league's best defenses they'll have to improve on third downs. As it stands, Washington is 32nd in third-down conversation percentage. And it's not like the offense primarily sees third-and-long situations. According to the Associated Press, the Redskins are a combined 0 for 9 on third-and-2 and third-and-3. The league average conversion rate in those situations is 47 percent. The 'Skins were just 1-of-9 on third downs against the Falcons last week.

    "It's not something you need to press about," Griffin said Wednesday. "It is something that is a glaring issue for us right now. Teams are going to try to exploit that and say `Hey, whatever we run on third down, these guys aren't being able to move the ball and get first downs.' We'll make sure we clean that up, and that takes everybody."

    Two things: When the Vikings have the ball

    1. How will the Redskins slow up Adrian Peterson? The last time Peterson was in FedEx Field, he left on a cart with a torn ACL. He spent the offseason rehabbing and admitted as recently as last month that he was only 95 percent. But AP's 95 percent is better than just about everybody else at full strength. And if Washington's defense is going to consistently get off the field, they have to limit AP's effectiveness on early downs and get after quarterback Christian Ponder in third-and-long situations.

     “He looks pretty good," 'Skins linebacker London Fletcher said via the Washington Post. "He’s still explosive, still can make some great cuts and great reads. He still has his vision. If he’s not 100 percent, he’s 98 percent. But he looks really good out there. He’s definitely a freak of nature when you look at his injury happening in December and to come back this early and be playing that well. You don’t notice him favoring that leg or running around gimpy or anything.”

    Peterson currently has 420 rushing yards on 96 carries. By comparison, Alfred Morris has 491 yards on 100 carries.

    2. Contain Christian Ponder and Percy Harvin. These are words we never thought we'd write. But the second-year quarterback out of Florida State won't ever be mistaken for Daunte Culpepper in terms of the downfield passing game (or the 275-pound frame), but he effectively manages the offense (and we mean this in the most laudatory way possible), completing 69 percent of his throws (2nd in the league to … RGIII) with 6 TDs and 2 INTs. His leading receiver? Harvin, who has been mentioned as an MVP candidate. He has 38 receptions for 407 yards, but he's also a dangerous kick returner, averaging 38.3 yards per return, including a 105-yard touchdown

    X Factor. And so begins the Kai Forbath era. How long it lasts depends on the kicker's consistency.

    “I’m hoping to stay here a long time,” he said earlier this week. “I’ve talked to a lot of kickers in the league and it’s taken them from team to team to team to stay on a team. So two years (out of school), I’m not complaining about that.” And the Redskins wouldn't complain if Forbath improved on Billy Cundiff's 7-for-12 effort during his month in Washington.