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'Thursday Night Football' preview: 5 things to watch

Robert Griffin III's rookie struggles came a year late. One season after steady weekly performances sprinkled in with spectacular plays, RGIII is experiencing the ups and downs of a normal young quarterback.

The Redskins scored 45 points in Week 7 against Chicago, with Griffin looking explosive as a runner. Washington scored 30 points and gained 500 yards last week against San Diego, with Griffin completing a number of difficult third-down plays. The game in between, against Denver, was the worst game of his career.

This should surprise no one. Griffin, like any young player, needs to refine his game. He didn't get the chance during a lost offseason. His torn ACL injury has affected his trademark accuracy. Washington coordinator Kyle Shanahan is no longer out-scheming opponents every week.

Thursday night's game in Minnesota sets up well for Griffin. The Redskins have imposed their will on the ground in recent weeks with long drives, and there's little reason to think the woeful Vikings' defense can stop Washington.

Just don't start parroting the storyline that another good game means Griffin is back. Give him a full offseason first. The RGIII weekly temperature check is inevitable, but it's going to make a lot of us look silly. Like most talented young quarterbacks, all Griffin really needs is just a little patience.

Here are five more things to watch in Thursday's matchup:

  1. Pierre Garcon is coming off one of the best games that any wide receiver has played this year. His ability to fight for the ball was special against San Diego, even when off-target.
  1. Watch out for Griffin and the coaching staff's clock management in late-game situations. It's amazing how many mental errors the Redskins make, especially the coaching staff.
  1. Minnesota's defense has been among the worst this season, but it played Dallas tough last week. Jared Allen is not close to the same player he once was, but he's still an average starter. Fellow defensive end Brian Robison is having a great season, and backup Everson Griffen is talented. The Vikings have the ability to hit Griffin plenty. San Diego couldn't stop RGIII, but the Chargers did deliver a number of huge hits on him.
  1. Christian Ponder has helped stabilize the Vikings' offense. He looks to run on third down too much and can be afraid to pull the trigger, but offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave has made the offense competent again by focusing on the short passing game. (If only they could get rookie wideout Cordarrelle Patterson more integrated.) One sad note: Ponder couldn't reach the end zone on a Hail Mary last week.
  1. Chris Wesseling said it well on our latest "Around The LeaguePodcast." Adrian Peterson looks ready to bust out a 300-yard game. He ran with barely controlled violence against Dallas, and it was beautiful to see. Washington's defense has improved in recent weeks, but it's not great. We are due for a signature Peterson performance during this lost Vikings season.

The latest "Around The League Podcast" previewed "Thursday Night Football" and "stuck a fork" in the Raiders' 2013 chances.

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