The Minnesota Vikings are one of the more surprising teams in the NFL, and pretty much everyone outside of Minnesota (and let's be honest, many within) underestimated this team save for Zygi Wilf and likely the team itself.
The Vikings have been playing a tough, physical style, which has kept their opponents on their heels and in disarray. As Leslie Frazier has said, the next four games is where the rubber hits the road, and the Vikings can really get a leg up in the NFC North with some wins.
Let's see how they go about it this week:
When the Vikings Are on Offense
It's very simple, really.
Run Adrian Peterson.
Keep to the mostly conservative passes.
Mix in some more Jerome Simpson.
Simmer for one hour, serve at 4-1.
If it ain't broke...
I mention getting Jerome Simpson more involved, and while I wouldn't change the overall short-and-safe passing offense yet, the Titans have allowed the third-most passing touchdowns in the league with only one interception. They've also only managed six sacks.
Ponder should have all the time he needs to find his receivers, who should have little trouble breaking free. It's a perfect situation to try stretching the field a little, but there is no reason to go totally off-book with a lot of bombs.
Of course, a large portion of the offense will handing the ball off to Adrian Peterson, who definitely hit his rhythm against Detroit in Week 4.
Expect more of the same this week against the 27th-ranked run defense in the league, allowing 136.5 yards a game and giving up five touchdowns to date.
A lot of Peterson, a lot of Harvin, a little Simpson.
Should be a very tasty game for the Vikings.
When the Vikings Are on Defense
This offensive line may not have let Locker get sacked much, but he got hit often enough.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscriber link to summary by week page), the Titans offensive line allowed him to get hit about seven times (not counting sacks), and he was under pressure at least 29 out of 168 snaps (17 percent).
In other words, this could be a tremendous day for guys like Everson Griffin, Jared Allen and a returning Erin Henderson.
If they can get penetration into the backfield, they will have ample chances to hammer Hasselbeck, who is a bit of a statue. While Hasselbeck's able to feel pressure and read defenses well, his arm is a noodle, so the secondary will have a chance to generate turnovers, as well.
With Kenny Britt unlikely to play this weekend, that leaves Nate Washington and Kendall Wright to cover, and while both are productive, Washington can definitely be shut down, and Wright is a rookie who will drop some balls.
Once upon a time the Titans would have turned to Chris Johnson, but aside from Week 4, he has been downright awful this year. Sure he ran for 147 yards last week against a stout Texans defense, but he gained 60 of those yards when the game was essentially over. I remain skeptical, and he's going against a tremendous run defense this Sunday.
The Vikings will have to work hard to bottle him up but so far they've shut down Frank Gore and Mikel Leshoure while holding Maurice Jones-Drew under 100 total yards.
They can't let up, but if they play the physical brand of football that they have brought to the table the last two weeks, they can get Johnson to quit.
Hit him enough and he will break down.
After that, there isn't much left.
The Titans shocked everyone when they beat the Lions, but they returned to earth against the Houston Texans last week. The Vikings will be prepared for any razzle-dazzle Tennessee will try on kick or punt returns. The Vikings' overpowering defense will pretty easily shut down this offense.
As long as Ponder continues to play mistake-free football, there is no reason for the Vikings to walk out of the Metrodome with anything other than a victory.
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