The NFL's a funny old beast, with half of each season's playoff teams failing to make it the next season. A case in point, tonight's Thursday Night Football matchup is between two such teams, as an underachieving 3-5 Washington team visits the all-but-dead 1-7 Minnesota Vikings.
Then again, Washington were 3-6 after 9 games of the 2012 season and Mike Shanahan was openly in "evaluation for next season" mode, before going on a seven-game winning streak through to the end of the season that carried them to the top of the NFC East and, ultimately, a playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Can they resurrect their season once again, starting tonight?
As for our NFC North rivals, their season stumbles along with Christian Ponder starting his third straight game, and free agent pickup Josh Freeman and (winningest Vikings quarterback of 2013) Matt Cassel both active tonight behind him.
As if things couldn't get any worse, right tackle Phil Loadholt is out with a concussion so J'Marcus Webb starts in his place. Against the Dallas Cowboys, he came on and gave up a sack-strip of Ponder in the endzone on his first play, which was recovered for a defensive score.
Ben Goessling and John Keim take a look at how the two teams match up in this article, and PFF pick out their three things to focus on here. Is it better to root against a divisional rival that's already reeling (and whom we visit in week 13), or a conference rival that may yet prove dangerous come the business end of the season?
This is your Thursday Night Football open thread. Have fun!