Everson Griffen/Anthony Barr vs. Eric Fisher
The Chiefs made Fisher the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft, and he played right tackle during his up-and-down rookie season. His workload has gotten significantly tougher for his second season, as he's made the move to left tackle and is coming back from offseason shoulder surgery.
According to Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star, Fisher gave up a quarterback hurry and was flagged for holding last Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.
Fisher will have another big test on Saturday night when he's tasked with keeping Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen and linebacker Anthony Barr away from his quarterbacks.
Griffen had three quarterback hits on Saturday night against the Cardinals and was a constant presence in the Arizona backfield. Barr, the Vikings first-round pick out of UCLA, had a strip sack on Drew Stanton and has a sack-and-a-half in two games.
Both Griffen and Barr will attack Fisher with a combination of size, speed and power that will certainly give the second-year man an indication of how well his shoulder has mended. Both teams have indicated that their starters will play the entire first half and perhaps into the third quarter, so expect all three of these players to get plenty of reps squaring off on Saturday night.
Captain Munnerlyn vs. Frankie Hammond
Munnerlyn didn't have a great game last week against the Cardinals. He pitched in with two tackles, but unfortunately for defensive players, it's the tackles you don't make that usually stand out. On Arizona's third play from scrimmage, Carson Palmer found Jaron Brown with a quick-hitter that Brown took down the sidelines for a 51-yard gain.
Both Munnerlyn and Xavier Rhodes missed chances to bring down Brown for a short gain. Those are plays that can make a huge difference in the course of a football game. The Cardinals went from deep in their own territory to the Minnesota 22-yard line.
It was the kind of play that can make coaches pull their hair out, and surely both players heard from the Vikings coaches when they were watching the game back.
At any rate, that's what the preseason is for: to work out the kinks in a defense that needs to be dramatically better for Minnesota to improve in 2014.
Heading to Kansas City, Munnerlyn will look to have a bounce-back game. He'll be matched up plenty of times against Chiefs receiver Frankie Hammond, who'll be filling in for injured Dwayne Bowe this week, according to Randy Covitz of the Kansas City Star.
Hammond, who joined the Chiefs last year as an undrafted free agent out of Florida, caught three passes for 57 yards last week against the Carolina Panthers and had another 51-yard reception called back for a holding penalty.
Via Covitz, Hammond has been impressing Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith for quite some time:
Frankie is like Mr. Reliable. All offseason, all training camp, every time he’s out there, he knows what he’s doing, he makes plays, and he showed it in camp and the last couple of games. When his number gets called, he’s ready and beyond that.
He’s playing aggressive and cutting it loose. He knows all the (receiving) positions. We move him all around. I know in the quarterbacks room, he demands a lot of respect because of the way he goes about his business.
It's a matchup that Munnerlyn has to win for the Vikings defense to be successful. While Rhodes will usually be matched up with team's No. 1 receivers, Munnerlyn will move around the field a lot and have to do a lot of defending against the "other guys."
Hammond seems to be a player on the rise in Kansas City, and a good performance from Munnerlyn will get the Vikings defense going in the right direction.
Cordarrelle Patterson vs. Sean Smith
Not that it matters a whit in the preseason, but Minnesota still hasn't seen a "wow" play from wideout Cordarrelle Patterson in the Vikings' first two games. Patterson has been pretty quiet, not returning kickoffs and only catching five passes for 47 yards so far.
With the starters getting extended playing time this week, look for Patterson to bust out a little bit and give us a glimpse of the huge season everyone is expecting him to have.
For Vikings fans, it would be especially nice to see Patterson targeted on a deep route, where he still has to prove that he can go up and get the ball away from a defender.
Almost all of Patterson's receiving yards last season were produced by his running ability. He'd take quick hitches and short routes and turn them in to huge gains by making people miss and outrunning them.
If Patterson is to become an elite receiver in the NFL, he'll have to expand his game and be able to get open and make catches on intermediate and deep routes as well. It's certainly understandable if the Vikings are keeping their plans on how to use Patterson under wraps until September, but it would be nice to see him catch some deeper balls on Saturday.
The Chiefs raised a lot of eyebrows when they released Brandon Flowers and his 17 career interceptions in June. Although Flowers was coming off his first Pro Bowl, the truth is, according to Adam Telcher of ESPN.com, that Flowers had become Kansas City's third cornerback behind Sean Smith and Marcus Cooper.
Smith, at 6'3", 218 pounds, is the huge corner NFL teams currently covet. He has seven career picks and 53 passes defended in his five seasons in the league. He and Cooper combined to defend 31 passes last season, and at with Cooper being 6'2", the Chiefs have ideal size on the corner.
That combination should give Patterson a great gauge to see where he's at with the regular season just around the corner.
According to ESPN.com's Ben Goessling, special teams coach Mike Priefer said on Thursday that Patterson would get a kick return or two against the Chiefs.
Vikings' X-Factor of the Week: Jerick McKinnon
With Adrian Peterson watching from the sidelines during the preseason, Vikings fans might have expected to see a little big more out of McKinnon, the third-round draft pick out of Georgia Southern.
Through the first two games, McKinnon has rushed just 12 times for 45 yards for an underwhelming 3.8 yards per carry. He's also returned five kickoffs but averaged just 22.4 yards per attempt.
While he threw a fantastic downfield block that helped spring Kyle Rudolph for his 51-yard touchdown last week, Minnesota fans would like to see a little more big-play ability out of McKinnon during the last two preseason games.
While Peterson's role in the passing game will be a work in progress, the Vikings need McKinnon to be a player who can make things happen when Peterson isn't on the field.