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The (Thursday) Five - 5 Keys to Victory Redskins vs. Vikings

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Mike Harar gives his five keys to victory this week against the Minnesota Vikings.

Larry French

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

Thursday - 8:25 pm on NFL Network

The Redskins lead the all-time series 12-10.

This week's opponent, the Minnesota Vikings, are led by their all-world running back Adrian Peterson on offense and by pash-rushing demon Jared Allen on defense. The Vikings are a bad football team with no discernible NFL quality starting quarterback. In order for the Redskins to avoid the upset and get a victory on Sunday, they MUST do the following:

1) Do whatever it takes to contain Adrian Peterson - If the Vikings aren't running well, they have no offense. Peterson is a special back who has a punishing style and impressive speed. This year, he has rushed 153 times for 711 yards and seven touchdowns. The only way Minnesota has a legitimate chance in any game is when he is churning out yards. The Redskins defense will key on him and cannot allow him to get on track. This is easier said than done and the Redskins only rank 22nd against the rush, allowing almost 117 yards per game.

2) Don't let Patterson have the big return - The only other real threat on the Vikings is rookie playmaker Cordarrelle Patterson. The 6'2" wide receiver and return man has 4.38 speed and when he gets into open space, he is dangerous. Washington's special teams unit will have to be fundamentally sound to keep him in check. The Vikings design plays to get the ball in his hands on offense as well, and the Redskins' defense will have to be very aware at all times of where he is on the field. Patterson, who already has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in 2013, leads the NFL in kick return yards with 808 and average with 36.7 yards per return. On offense, has 16 catches for 146 yards.

3) Keep Jared Allen and their defensive front guessing - Against the Chargers, the play-action offense worked wonders and kept Robert Griffin III from getting sacked. It also continued to open up lanes for receivers Pierre Garcon, Leonard Hankerson and Jordan Reed. As everyone knows, this goes hand-in-hand with Alfred Morris and Griffin steadily posing as threats in the running game. One thing that has become clear in recent weeks is that the Redskins offense is close to unstoppable when they are firing on all cylinders. The Vikings currently rank 11th in rushing yards allowed with 104 per game and only 29th in passing yards allowed, giving up an average of 291 yards.

4) Keep Darrel Young in the equation - The Redskins just created another wrinkle for the opposing defense to worry about. When the Redskins have RG3, Young, Morris and Reed in the backfield, the defense will now have to respect all four. They have managed to make the triple option more lethal by making it almost a "quadruple" option. Griffin can hand off to Young or Morris, or keep the ball and then pitch out to Reed depending on the defense's reaction. Washington unleashed the Reed option plays last week and also showed they were not afraid to feed the "up" man in Young, who had three touchdowns in the game. Kyle Shanahan has been flashing his offensive prowess with the talent he has to work with on the field, and it's been fun to watch.

5) Limit Penalties - Unfortunately, mental mistakes reared their ugly heads last week. The Redskins' offense is always a threat, and it seems the only way they can be stopped sometimes is when they shoot themselves in the foot. Delay of game and holding penalties occurred in very inopportune times against the Chargers in Week 9. Griffin was called for an inexcusable delay of game penalty deep in San Diego territory near the end of the third quarter. Chris Chester was called for a holding penalty (his second) that killed a drive late in the fourth quarter which could have iced the game if it had led to points, but instead led to a punt. Then in overtime, Will Montgomery was called for a hold during their game-winning drive that they were thankfully able to overcome on their way to a touchdown. Avoiding these killer mistakes will serve them well going forward. For the 2013 season, the Redskins rank 12th overall in the league in offensive penalties with 51 for 448 yards.

After a season-saving performance in Week 9, it is imperative that the Redskins now build on their success. The NFC East is still anyone's division, and they must win the games they are "supposed" to win. This game, in which the Redskins are favored on the road, certainly qualifies as that. If they can jump ahead early with touchdowns and take Minnesota out of their rushing attack, this should be a very doable task.

Under the Shanahan regime, Washington has been known to play down to their opponents. A loss would put them back into the doldrums of the NFL basement. A commanding victory this week, however, would go a long way towards perpetuating the notion that they are ready to be playoff contenders.