What: Vikings (4-1) vs. Redskins (2-3)
Where: FedEx Field, Landover, Md.
When: Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
TV: Fox WTTG-5
Redskins Kickoff and Postgame Live: Comcast SportsNet 3 and 7
The big question this week is whether Robert Griffin III will be cleared by doctors to play after leaving last week’s game with the first concussion of his NFL career.
But the bigger question is this: Did the rookie quarterback – and face of the Redskins – learn a valuable lesson about avoiding similarly perilous situations in the future?
What’s going to happen the next time Griffin is flushed from the pocket and he has a hulking linebacker bearing down on him?
Will he slide or slink out of bounds?
Will he toss the ball into the stands?
Or will he again put ego before team, attempt to add another highlight to his vast collection and leave himself vulnerable to a season-or career-altering blow?
What’s ironic about the hit, it came on an afternoon in which Griffin was not a significant part of the ground attack. In fact, Griffin’s rushing attempts have plummeted each the past three weeks, from a season-high 13 against the Bengals to eight vs. the Buccaneers to just one against the Falcons.
Since returning to practice on Wednesday, Griffin has said all of the right things. If he’s given the go-ahead by an independent neurologist to suit up against the Vikings, we’ll find out if he meant it.
“If you have to live to play another down,” he said, “you live to play another down.”
Redskins’ fans had better hope Griffin’s 180-degree turnabout from the bravado he expressed earlier this season wasn’t just lip service. The entire offense is predicated on Griffin lining up behind the center and, as last week’s loss emphasized, rookie backup Kirk Cousins is not ready to be a starter in the NFL. (Cousins threw a touchdown, but he also tossed two interceptions – double Griffin’s total – in only 13 snaps.)
“It’s about being smart,” Griffin said of punishing hit he absorbed. “It’s a learning experience for me.”
Griffin has adjusted to the speed and complexity of professional defenses faster than most anticipated. And, as a direct result, he’s ascended from Heisman Trophy winner to NFL star quicker than expected as well. But how long will it take for him to embrace the self-preservation tactics all successful dual-threat quarterbacks eventually learn?
Right now, it’s arguably the most important question facing the franchise.
Here are three other areas the team at www.csnwashington will be monitoring:
1) Running back Adrian Peterson is the biggest star on Minnesota’s roster. Wide receiver Percy Harvin, however, might be the Viking’s most dangerous -- and the league’s most versatile -- weapon.
Harvin can line up in the slot, split wide, in the backfield and as a kick returner. He’s racked up 407 receiving yards, of which a league-leading 329 have come after the catch, according to STATS Inc.
The Redskins defense, meantime, ranks second to last in passing yards against (329 per game) and last in passing touchdowns allowed (13).
In last week’s 30-7 victory over the Titans, Harvin lined up as a running back and took an inside handoff from Christian Ponder and powered his way into the end zone from four yards out. Two quarters later, Harvin lined up in the slot, eluded two would-be tacklers and turned a routine bubble screen into a dazzling 10-yard touchdown.
“They find different ways to utilize his talent,” safety Madieu Williams said. “You always have to be aware of where No. 12 is.”
2) The Redskins will turn to their third kicker in two seasons against the Vikings after releasing the struggling Billy Cundiff on Tuesday and signing the talented but untested Kai Forbath.
Forbath was named college football’s top kicker in 2009 and the 25-year-old possesses a strong leg. But he’s never kicked a field goal in a regular season NFL game and did not kickoff during his four years at UCLA.
Adding to the challenge Forbath faces: he’s had only five days to develop a rhythm with long snapper Justin Snow and holder Sav Rocca.
“We need him to make field goals for us,” special teams captain Lorenzo Alexander said. “We’re not a good enough team to miss opportunities to put points on the board.”
Cundiff missed five of his 12 attempts.
3) Is this the week the Redskins snap their losing streak at home? It’s reached an epic eight consecutive games and is the longest such drought in the NFL, dating back to Sept. 18, 2011.
Six of those defeats, however, have come by seven points or fewer, including last December’s 33-26 loss to the Vikings.