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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, November 6, 2013 at 5:00 PM

Lost in the shuffle of Washington’s recent home thrillers against Chicago and San Diego, is the fact that those victories kept them alive in the watered down NFC East race. On one hand, we’re talking about a 3-5 team that is just a few seconds away from being 1-7. On the other, we’re talking about a team that’s just. 1.5 games behind first place Dallas with half a season to go.

 

NFC EAST STANDINGS

Dallas 5-4

Philadelphia 4-5

Washington 3-5

NY Giants 2-6

The last-place Giants took a big hit last week when everyone else won during their bye week. The top three are still in “control their own destiny” mode to a large degree because they have so many divisional games left. Washington could use a little help. But, they’re likely to get that help given the inconsistency of the teams above them.

Thursday Night, the Redskins are “almost” a 1-7 team visiting a similar opponent who’s ACTUALLY 1-7. The Minnesota Vikings have more talent than that…but less than stellar play against a brutal schedule has them way off the playoff pace in 2013. A collapse of this size is a surprise for a team that snuck into the playoffs last season. Heck, BOTH of these teams were in the playoffs last year, yet are just 4-12 at the midway point.

 

Won-Lost Records (strength of schedule)

Washington: 3-5 (#7 schedule in USA Today)

Minnesota: 1-7 (#4 schedule in USA today)

You can see that both teams have played killer schedules according to Jeff Sagarin’s numbers at USA Today. Take that into account, and Washington is basically a .500 type team, while Minnesota is more realistically a 3-5 caliber squad. That sets up the potential for a good game if Minnesota hasn’t thrown in the towel on the season. They played with fire last week in Dallas (after not even being able to light a match against the NY Giants recently). But, that punch-in-the-gut loss in the final moments may be the key to getting the towel tossed.  

 

Yards-Per Play

Washington: 5.9 on offense, 6.1 on defense

Minnesota: 5.2 on offense, 5.5 on defense

Again, you adjust for strength of schedule, and those are respectable differentials. Washington moves to .500 caliber or a touch better, and Minnesota arguably matches them because they played the slightly tougher slate. We’re not talking about championship contenders by any means. These teams are better than their records.

 

Turnover Differential

Washington: -1

Minnesota: -3

RGIII has taken a few too many risks with the ball this year because he’s lost the ability to sprint out of trouble. Last year’s offense was very efficient and largely risk-free. That’s changed for the worse. Though, he has been moving better in recent games. Christian Ponder of Minnesota hasn’t shown much growth since getting drafted too high a few years ago. He’s likely to be turnover prone as long as he’s a starter.

 

Market Performance

Washington: 3-5 ATS

Minnesota: 3-5 ATS

Both teams have been disappointments for their backers, but not disasters any more after covering last week. The market has overrated both off those playoff appearances last year. And, oddsmakers were particularly stubborn about assuming RGIII would be fine in his return. Recent games have been pegged more accurately.

 

Current Line: Washington by 2.5, total 50

 

Remember that Washington is the ROAD team in this game, meaning that the market sees them as 5.5 points better on a neutral field. That’s steep given the stats we just read. There’s clearly an assessment from oddsmakers and sharps that Minnesota has potential to no-show the game, while Washington has every reason in the world to show up. If this game had been played in September, Minnesota would have been a small home favorite.

JIM HURLEY is very excited about this great Thursday of football action. In addition to Washington/Minnesota on the NFL Network, he has big things planned for Oklahoma/Baylor and Oregon/Stanford as you’ve been reading all week. You can purchase the final word for Thursday right here at the website with your credit card. To talk to a live person about full season options, call our handicapping office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal weekday business hours.

Back with you Friday to preview into LSU/Alabama to give you a head start on that blockbuster matchup. NFL prime time previews resume Sunday and Monday with Dallas/New Orleans and Miami/Tampa Bay. If you missed our earlier sneak previews for the Thursday college thrillers, click the links below:

Oklahoma at Baylor

Oregon at Stanford

This is a football weekend that people could be talking about for YEARS. Be sure you GET ALL THE MONEY with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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