They’re a superior all-around football team.
But if Adrian Peterson can give Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record a scare eight months removed from tearing his ACL, he can carry the Vikings to an upset victory over the Texans.
Here’s everything you need to know about this Week 16 matchup.
Where: Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas
When: Sunday, January 23 at 1:00 p.m. ET
Listen: Sirius XM Radio: 112 or online at Audio Pass
Spread: Houston -9.5, according to Odds Shark
For how hard Peterson is running right now, it’s pretty bold to bet on anything over -2.5 for the Texans. Yes, Houston deserves to be favored and it’d be a surprise if Minnesota comes out on top.
But on a two-game winning-streak, the Vikings are hot. And two wins from locking up a playoff spot, they’re hungrier than the Texans. Betting on a two-score victory isn’t wise.
Over/Under: 43.5, according to Odds Shark
Houston and Minnesota both score and surrender more than 20 points a game, so their combined efforts are likely to total over 43.5 points. The only thing which would stop that from happening is if Peterson and Arian Foster can’t break off any long runs—something each of them does quite well—and the clock gets eaten up.
Minnesota DE Brian Robinson is questionable with a shoulder injury.
Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson is probable with an abdomen and groin injury.
Minnesota CB Antoine Winfield is probable with a knee injury.
Minnesota DE Everson Griffin is probable with an elbow injury.
Minnesota DE Jared Allen is probable with a shoulder injury.
Minnesota CB Chris Cook was placed on injured reserve with an arm injury.
Minnesota TE Kyle Rudolph is probable with a shoulder injury.
Houston LB Brooks Reed is questionable with a groin injury.
Houston LB Tim Dobbins is questionable with a thumb injury.
Houston CB Alan Ball is questionable with a hamstring injury.
Fantasy Big Plays
Minnesota: RB Adrian Peterson
I know, you didn’t need told to start AP. But just in case you were nervous about a Peterson playing through injury against the fifth-best run defense in the NFL, this is to clear it up.
Plus, it isn’t like there’s another Viking who’s a fantasy-worthy starter.
But anyway, Peterson is simply elite-defense proof right now. He’s averaging 6.3 yards a pop. What’s a bad outing for him going to be—4.3?
Houston: TE Owen Daniels
Because the Texans refuse to draft a respectable wideout to start across from Andre Johnson, Daniels remains Matt Schaub’s second-most reliable target. And against the Vikings’ 23rd-ranked pass defense, there’ll be plenty of balls to go around.
Keys to a Minnesota Win
Feed Peterson all day.
Yes, the pun was intended. But no, it wasn’t an exaggeration.
For the Vikings to win this game, Peterson must have a 175-yard, two-touchdown effort at least—which, for how well he’s been playing, isn’t the least bit out of reach.
Keys to a Houston Win
Jumping out to an early two-score lead is huge for Houston. The Texans likely won’t be able to slow down Peterson with their front seven (I say likely, leaving the door open for them to slow him down because J.J. Watt is a monster), but their offense could.
A few deep Schaub-to-Johnson connections would force the Vikings to pass more than they’d like to keep pace. And whenever the ball is in Christian Ponder’s hands instead of Peterson’s, it’s a win for Houston.
Peterson will continue his assault on the record books. Now at 1,812 rushing yards, he may even eclipse the 2,000-yard mark. But when it’s all said and done, the Texans have too much talent for Minnesota to keep up.
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.