After two straight victories against the San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions, the Minnesota Vikings are rolling right now.
The defense has been spectacular against the run and the pass, and second-year quarterback Christian Ponder has done enough to lead them to a 3-1 record.
The Tennessee Titans, on the other hand, just suffered a 38-14 defeat to the Houston Texans and saw starter Jake Locker dislocate his left shoulder for the second time this season. Locker is ruled out against the Vikings.
Here's a look at Sunday's clash in Minneapolis.
Where: Mall of America Field, Minneapolis, MN
When: Sunday, Oct. 7 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket
Spread: Vikings -6 (via Bovada)
I would definitely take the spread in this one.
Not only will the Vikings likely severely limit the Titans offense, but Ponder has an opportunity to go off against a porous pass defense.
This could be a blowout if Ponder comes into this game with the right mentality; that is, take no mercy on Tennessee's secondary.
Over/Under: 44 (via Bovada)
I would take the "under" in this one.
While Ponder could have a good game, he's still not the kind of quarterback who lights defenses up at this stage in his career. Also, the Titans have the ability to hold Adrian Peterson in check.
As for Tennessee's offense under Matt Hasselbeck, let's just say I don't have a great deal of confidence.
Injury Report (via USA Today)
TE Jared Cook—Shoulder—Probable
G Leroy Harris—Shoulder—Probable
OT Mike Otto—Knee—Probable
LB Colin McCarthy—Ankle—Questionable
LB Patrick Bailey—Hand—Doubtful
DE Scott Solomon—Hamstring—Doubtful
WR Kenny Britt—Ankle—Doubtful
QB Jake Locker—Shoulder—OUT
S Markelle Martin—Knee—OUT until at least Week 7
CB Antoine Winfield—Knee—Probable
G Charlie Johnson—Back—Questionable
WR Michael Jenkins—Ribs—Questionable
LB Marvin Mitchell—Calf—Questionable
S Mistral Raymond—Ankle—Questionable
DE D'Aundre Reed—Calf—Questionable
LB Erin Henderson—Concussion—Questionable
DB Andrew Sendejo—Ankle—Doubtful
Fantasy Big Plays
Titans: Chris Johnson, RB
Chris Johnson finally got things going in Week 4 against the Houston Texans, albeit in a loss. He rushed for 141 yards on 25 carries after totaling 45 rushing yards in his previous three games.
The Titans are going to need him to explode against Minnesota to have a chance in this one.
The only problem is, Minnesota is allowing 3.3 yards per carry this season (sixth in the NFL) while coughing up just one rushing touchdown.
It's going to have to be a collective effort, from Johnson to the offensive line, to make an impact on the ground in Minnesota.
Vikings: Jared Allen, DE
You don't have to be a die-hard football fan to know Jared Allen is a beast. The four-time All-Pro and two-time NFL sacks leader is a handful for offensive linemen everywhere.
Allen has two sacks, 10 tackles, three tackles for loss and a forced fumble this season. That includes a sack, six tackles and two tackles for loss against the Detroit Lions in Week 4.
The Titans have only given up six sacks this season, but the less mobile Matt Hasselbeck took three sacks against the Texans last week when Jake Locker went down with an injury.
Key to Titans Win: Finding Ways to Score
While Chris Johnson performed well against the Texans, Matt Hasselbeck threw two picks in relief of Jake Locker, with both being returned for touchdowns. You take away those mistakes and it's a much closer game.
The Vikings don't have a top-notch offense (22.5 points per game), so if the Titans can find ways to score, either in the running game or the passing game, they stand a chance of upsetting Minnesota.
Unfortunately for Tennessee, that's going to be tough against a balanced defense allowing 18.0 points per game.
Key to Vikings Win: Passing Game
Second-year quarterback Christian Ponder has been careful with the ball this season (four touchdowns, no interceptions) and has a high completion percentage (68.3).
On the other side of the coin, Ponder is averaging just 6.7 yards per attempt, which ranks 24th among qualifying quarterbacks.
Ponder's priority is obviously to take care of the ball with a strong defense behind him, but it would be nice to see him do more damage through the air, especially against a Titans defense allowing 8.0 yards per attempt (26th) and 10 passing touchdowns (tied for second-most in the NFL).
Tennessee is allowing 3.9 yards per carry this season, including limiting Arian Foster to 3.6 yards per carry last week, so this may be the game the Vikings ask Ponder for a little more.
Prediction: Vikings 24, Titans 14
Who will win?
I don't trust the Titans' offense against the Vikings defense; that's really what it comes down to.
I also believe Ponder is a good enough quarterback to do something against this secondary. He's shown strides in his second year and Tennessee is clearly missing cornerback Cortland Finnegan.
I could actually see the Vikings scoring more in this game, with the passing game coupled with the potential for the defense to create turnovers, but I think Tennessee has the means to limit Adrian Peterson on the ground.