Week 8 of the NFL season gets started with a matchup between the surging Minnesota Vikings and the helpless Washington Redskins. Game time is at 8:20 EST on Thursday, October 24 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Fans can watch the game on either Fox or the NFL Network.
The Vikings have opened the week as 16-point favorites at home. The over/under for the game is set at 42 points. Click here to check out all of the Week 8 NFL odds.
With three straight wins, the Vikings seem to have hit their stride as we approach the midway point of the season. Two of those wins have come on the road, including Sunday’s 42-30 win over Detroit, which is impressive after Minnesota dropped their first two road games of the season.
The problem is that being 5-2 is still only good enough for second place in the NFC North. The Vikings are a game behind the Packers inside the division and tied with Seattle for the two Wild Card spots in the NFC. Minnesota is also facing a challenging schedule ahead, with three of their next four games coming on the road after Thursday’s date with Washington, so they can’t afford to have a slip-up before things get tough.
Meanwhile, the Redskins got back to their losing ways after getting their first win two weeks ago against the Dolphins. On a rain-drenched field, the Washington offense barely reached 150 total yards, as the Redskins lost 9-0 to the 49ers, undone despite only giving up three field goals.
At 1-6, the Redskins no longer have to worry about going winless this season. However, it’s hard to see where interim coach Bill Callahan is going to get a chance to get another win. The Redskins play back-to-back road games before getting a bye week and perhaps regrouping a little for the second half of the season.
The most interesting part of this matchup is that the Vikings and Redskins have swapped quarterbacks since they last met in 2017. Minnesota won that game 38-30 behind Case Keenum, who is now Washington’s starting quarterback, while Kirk Cousins, who started that game for the Redskins, is now leading the Minnesota offense. Just for good measure, Washington running back Adrian Peterson is also returning to the place he called home for many years, adding another intriguing subplot to this game.
Subplots aside, this looks like another lopsided matchup featuring one of the NFL’s truly dreadful teams. More importantly, the Vikings have become one of the hottest teams in the NFL over the last three weeks. Being at home on a short week might actually make it easier for the Vikings to keep their rhythm. While I hate lines this big in the NFL, I’ll lay down the points and take Minnesota to cover.
The biggest question facing the Vikings this week is the status of wide receiver Adam Thielen, who left Sunday’s game against Detroit with an injury. Thielen is reportedly “optimistic” about playing on Thursday. But I’m not that worried if he doesn’t play. Despite a few sluggish games, Stefon Diggs has over 100 yards receiving in three of his last four games.
More importantly, Cousins has turned things around after that dismal game against the Bears a few weeks ago. Cousins has thrown 10 touchdown passes to just one interception during Minnesota’s three-game winning streak. He’s also connected on over 75% of his passes during those three games, playing at an exceptionally high level. On top of that, the Minnesota running game remains one of the best in the league with Dalvin Cook going over 130 rushing yards twice in the last three weeks.
The Washington defense hasn’t exactly proven that they can stop a team with such good balance on offense. The weather helped limit San Francisco to nine points last week more than anything the Redskins did on defense. If you take away that game and the win over the Dolphins, Washington has conceded at least 31 points in four out of five games this year. Josh Norman is also questionable after missing the San Francisco game, so with or without Thielen to draw attention, Diggs could be in for a big game.
On the other side of the ball, the Redskins are sticking with Keenum despite some dreadful performances in recent weeks. He was benched a few weeks ago against the Giants after just 37 yards passing on 11 attempts. Even against the Dolphins, he was just 13 for 25 for 166 yards. This week, he won’t have to worry about the weather, which should help. However, the Vikings are giving up less than 18 points per game this season and have been even better defensively in their home games. Also, the Redskins are likely to be without Chris Thompson and Vernon Davis, taking away two of their better skill players.
In the end, I have a hard time believing the Washington offense will be able to score too many points in this game. The game plan will be simple on a short week and the Redskins don’t have the talent to win many one-on-one matchups. Even if the Minnesota offense doesn’t play at their best with Thielen’s status up in the air, the Vikings won’t need that many points to cover. Of course, Minnesota is averaging 36 points per game during their current winning streak, which makes me trust they’ll score enough to cover the 16-point spread.