Tonight’s game between Washington and Minnesota isn’t the flashiest game of the week, but we’ll try to do it a little justice. It does at least have two of the bigger names in the NFL in Robert Griffin III and Adrian Peterson. Unfortunately, it’s been a rough season for those two as the Vikings are having a terrible year and Washington isn’t doing a whole lot better, although at least the state of their division is keeping them in the race. Let’s break the game down and then take a look at the SuperContest picks.
I mentioned the Vikings a little bit last time because they’ve had the misfortune of falling into the bottom of my model’s rankings. Minnesota started 0-3, albeit with two close calls, broke through against Pittsburgh in London, but then lost another four in a row in fairly non-competitive fashion. They’ve started three different quarterbacks, including a super-brief dalliance with Josh Freeman. Interestingly, the only guy not considered to start recently is the guy with the best completion percentage, yards per pass, touchdown-interception ratio, sack percentage, and the only win: Matt Cassel. It seems like that’s because the Vikings know they aren’t going to win now, so they’re seeing if Ponder or Freeman can turn out to be better than Cassel. But I’m guessing if Peterson were having another year like last year, instead of just a good (but average for him) season, they’d think about keeping Cassel in. At any rate, it’s unsurprising that the Vikings are getting the league’s 5th-worst yards per pass attempt and 8th-worst interception rate from its QB corps while Adrian keeps the rushing game in the top five.
On defense, Minnesota rates out at about average against the pass, although they aren’t getting many sacks. That’s a shame since they were 7th in the league in sack rate last year. They are above-average against the run, so maybe it isn’t entirely on the defensive line, but given the QB situation, the Vikings need a good defense to contend, and their status as more average isn’t cutting it.
On the other side, Washington has just seemed more inconsistent. They have a road win in Oakland to go with their two shoot-out type victories over Chicago and San Diego (both decent teams), but losses to Philly, Green Bay, Detroit, Dallas, and Denver. That’s a pretty decent collection of teams as well, so part of the issue is that the schedule has been tough. Unsurprisingly, the issue hasn’t really been the offense (at least, not all the time). Washington is 8th in the league in yards per play, buoyed by the top rushing attack in the league (tied with Green Bay, Oakland, and Philly) and an average yards per pass but held back by the 6th-worst interception rate. RGIII is getting intercepted twice as often as he did last year, which is part of the inconsistency issue.
The other part is the defense, which is 8th-worst against the run, average at sacks, and 4th-worst at passing efficiency. Their above-average interception rate is something, but not enough; Washington is tied for second-worst yards per play surrendered. If they could clean up the defense a bit, the offense might be enough to drag them to the NFC East title. But that’s a big if.
Alright, so we have a game in the dome in Minnesota, where the hosts have a shaky-at-best passing game and very good running game going against a bad defense. Those are both pros for the Vikings. On the other side of possession we have a good offense going against an average defense. That’s a pro for Washington. You also have to consider that having a better pass offense/defense is more important than being good at running, throw in a little info on penalties and the like, and both Luigi and Yoshi 2 have this as about a toss-up. Yoshi 1 likes Washington to win by about a field goal, which is roughly what the SuperContest line is at right now (SBR has it at more like Vikings +1). So I would have a slight lean towards Washington to win, but it looks awfully close.
With that in mind, Luigi’s full line-up of winners looks like Washington, Seattle, Chicago, Green Bay, Tennessee, Indy, Giants, Pittsburgh, Cincy, San Fran, Arizona, San Diego, New Orleans, Miami. Yes, it thinks the Chargers will beat the Broncos. I’ll have to try and remember to break that down during the weekend picks. The SuperContest picks are (not surprisingly) the Chargers +7, Oakland +7, Chicago +2.5, Carolina +6, and Atlanta +6. I’m going to hope the Chicago pick is wrong, or at least that the Lions have another 1 or 2 point victory in them.
Yoshi 1 is going with Jacksonville +11.5, Oakland, Houston +2.5, Chargers, and Buffalo +3. The Rams are a close sixth option, and Luigi has the Packers -1.5 as a close sixth. Yoshi 2 would go with the Chargers, Oakland, Atlanta, Chicago, and Carolina (the same as Luigi but in a different order). So maybe Oakland and San Diego are good picks, but we’ll see how it goes. If we can get a 4-1 week instead of 3-2, I think Luigi will get back near the money.