Vikings – Washington
For readers looking for insight into the Vikings opponent on Saturday, please read Sam Monson's scouting report on Washington.
At one point, this looked like a game the Vikings had a chance to win. But no more. Washington beat the New York Giants on the road last week and gave the New England Patriots all they could handle the week before. They are playing much better than the Vikings at this point in the season. And even though Washington has Rex Grossman at quarterback, Sir Rex could very well carve up this Vikings secondary.
But Indianapolis' 19-16 win over Houston makes a Vikings victory even more irrelevant than ever. This team now has a legitimate shot at claiming the number one overall pick in April's college draft. That will be a valuable chip to have, as quarterback-starved teams will be looking for someway to land Standford quarterback Andrew Luck. They will probably be willing to pay a handsome price for getting the top pick from whatever franchise – Minnesota, Indy or St. Louis – has it.
But back to Saturday's game. What's important for the Vikings if the score ultimately isn't?
Obviously it would be nice if Christian Ponder showed some level of competency after putting up two stinkers in a row. But the suggestion this week that the Vikings might be having second thoughts about Ponder as their QB of the future is ridiculous.
As a rookie, playing behind the offensive line and the wide receivers the Vikings currently have, it would be tough for anyone to excel. The fact Ponder's been able to have some good games with the talent he's been given to work with suggests he has the stuff to be successful. What he needs to do now is make better decisions on where he's throwing the football and be more accurate with the throws he makes. I'd like to see some progress in that regard Saturday against Washington.
Besides Ponder, I'm mostly interested in seeing how the Vikings perform after playing so horribly at home against New Orleans last weekend. Another listless, uninspired effort won't give me much confidence that Leslie Frazier is the right man to lead us out of this dark age of Vikings football.
The performance of the members of the Vikings 2011 draft class is also worth keeping an eye on. When you are a 2-12 football team, as Minnesota is, you want to get excited about the young talent you have on the roster. They are the ones who should be the foundation of this franchise's rebuilding effort.
But the 2011 draft class hasn't shown much thus far. Ponder's been up and (mostly) down. Tight end Kyle Rudolph has been okay, but has only 21 catches despite receiving a fair bit of snaps. Defensive lineman Christian Ballard plays but doesn't do anything with the playing time. Mistral Raymond and Brandon Burton are only playing because the Vikings have nobody else that can. As for Brandon Fusco, DeMarcus Love and D'Aundre Reed, they are always inactive.
If these guys are the future of the Vikings, I'm afraid it's going to look a lot like the present.
Washington 27 Vikings 14
More Draft Talk
While the Colts victory over the Texans is a positive development for the Vikings draft, USC quarterback Matt Barkley's decision not to enter April's draft is a negative one.
Barkley figured to be a hot commodity among teams like Washington and Miami who need a quarterback and would be willing to trade up in the first round to get one. The Vikings could have been a potential dance partner with a pick in the top three. But with Barkley out of the mix, will the trade market dry up? It certainly will if Baylor's Robert Griffin III decides to stay in school.