Minnesota Vikings: 10 Things To Look For in Week 2
The Vikings' 14-9 loss to the Saints is in the books.
We learned that the Vikings need a go-to receiver, and are a little thin in the defensive backfield.
This should have been no surprise to anyone, as this was a given going into the season opener against New Orleans.
The Vikings' defense played well enough to win, allowing the highest scoring offense over the past two seasons, only one touchdown per half—one rushing, and surprising only one passing.
Minnesota was only one big play from defeating the Saints, an interception returned for a score, or Adrian Peterson breaking clear and taking one from 40 yards.
With the home opener for the Vikings this Sunday, here are 10 things to watch for as they take on the Miami Dolphins.
Brett Favre Looks Left, Looks Right, Slings The Ball Downfield—Caught By ?
It was evident in the game against the Saints that Brett Favre is not on the same page with any of his wide receivers—yet. Favre connected with four different wideouts, for a total of four completions.
Just as in 2009, Favre is starting out rusty—missing most of training camp can have that effect.
The Miami Dolphins, although they don't appear to be as bad as either of the Vikings' first two opponents in 2009 (Cleveland and Detroit), should not pose as much of a challenge as the Super Bowl Champion Saints.
This is a chance for Greg Camarillo to show his former team what they gave up, and his current team what they got.
Look for Visanthe Shiancoe to continue to make big catches over the middle.
It's time for someone, anyone, to step up and establish themselves as the Vikings' No. 2 receiver when Sidney Rice returns in the midseason.
I like the Favre to Percy Harvin connection to heat up this week.
Prediction: Favre 17 for 25, 250 yards and one touchdown.
Tennessee's Chris Johnson or Minnesota's Adrian Peterson—Who's No. 1?
Let the debate rage on!
Chris Johnson or Adrian Peterson—who is the best running back in the NFL?
In 2009 Johnson led the league with 2,006 rushing yards, while Peterson was fifth at 1,383.
Peterson led the league in touchdowns with 18, while Johnson was second with 16.
Johnson won round one of the 2010 season with his 142 yards on 27 carries and two touchdowns, compared to Peterson's 87 yards on 19 carries.
Sure, take away Johnson's one big run of 76 yards, and his numbers are 66 yards on 26 carries—but then again, hasn't that been Peterson's style?
Now is the time for Peterson to step up and prove he is the best back in the league. Without a dominant receiving target for Favre, this would be the perfect time for Peterson to roll up 150 yards on the ground with a couple of touchdowns.
I think he falls short, but will score his first rushing touchdown of the season.
He will also continue to expand his role in the passing game.
Prediction: Peterson 105 yards rushing on 21 carries and a touchdown. Five receptions for another 40 yards.
Is the Vikings' Defense Turning the Corner (back)?
Both Chris Cook and Cedric Griffin practiced on Wednesday, although their participation was limited.
Leading up to the opening game, second round draft pick Chris Cook had impressed the coaching staff enough that they had him penciled in to start at cornerback, opposite of Antoine Winfield.
The Vikings, with only three healthy cornerbacks, are in desperate need of reinforcements.
Could this be the game Cook makes his NFL debut? Doubtful.
Going against the No. 20 passing offense in 2009, Minnesota would be wise to ensure Cook, coming off arthroscopic knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus, and Griffin, recovering from offseason ACL surgery, are completely healthy before adding them to the mix.
Prediction: Neither Cook nor Griffin make their 2010 debut in Week 2.
Husain Abdullah or Tyrell Johnson—Who's Got the Corners' Backs?
In 2009 the Vikings' safeties had a total of ZERO interceptions.
There has been a lot of criticism of the Vikings' safeties—the weakest link in the defense.
Madieu Williams has not been impressive since he came over from Cincinnati for the 2008 season with only two interceptions in two seasons.
Compare that to Darren Sharper who had 18 interceptions in four seasons with Vikings, and nine for the New Orleans Saints in 2009.
Last year Tyrell Johnson started 15 games at strong safety. Husain Abdullah got the start in place of Johnson against the Saints.
Will there be a revolving door at the strong safety position between Johnson, Abdullah and Eric Frampton?
Prediction: The Vikings will stick with the safety combination of Williams and Abdullah.
Jared Allen: Will There Be Any Rodeo at MOA Field?
Jared Allen is the emotional leader of the Vikings' defense.
He's had 14.5 sacks in each of his two seasons in Minnesota, only one shy of his career high of 15.5 when he led the league in 2007, his last season in Kansas City.
Allen was shut out against the Saints. This week the task won't get any easier. He faces two-time Pro Bowl tackle Jake Long, the first overall pick by the Dolphins in 2008.
Prediction: Allen will be a disruptive force, but there will be no calf-roping routine as he goes sack-less again.
Return on Investment—Can We Get a Punt Return?
Even though Bernard Berrian has 23 career punt returns, and an 82-yard return for a touchdown in 2008, he looked extremely uncomfortable in the loss to the Saints as the Vikings' punt returner.
He had two return yards in two attempts, with one fumble.
Wide receivers Percy Harvin and Greg Camarillo, or backup cornerback Asher Allen have been mentioned as possible options to return punts. Combined they have not returned a single punt in the NFL.
The popular move would be to put Harvin back there, who has had success returning kicks for the Vikings.
However, already thin at wide receivers, it might not be wise to expose Harvin to any more punishment.
Prediction: Because he still needs to learn the Vikings' offense, look for Camarillo to get a shot at returning punts—five returns for 15 yards.
Albert Young or Toby Gerhart: Who Will Back Up?
Even though Adrian Peterson will be looking to establish himself as the best running back in the NFL, he will still need to come off the field occasionally.
Against the Saints, second-year player Albert Young got only two yards in three carries.
On Wednesday it was reported that second round draft choice, Toby Gerhart, fully participated in the Vikings' practice, and he is looking to make a contribution to the Vikings' offense.
In the preseason both Young and Gerhart averaged over six yards per carry, with Young scoring one touchdown.
Prediction: Gerhart will see his first action of the season. Two carries for six yards.
Vikings Vs. Dolphins—Who Wins the Turnover Battle?
The Vikings were eighth in the league in turnover ratio at a plus six, and the Dolphins were 26th at a minus eight.
Cedric Griffin, who led the team with four interceptions last season, is unlikely to see any action against the Dolphins.
Jared Allen, who led the team with five forced fumbles, will be going up against All-Pro tackle Jake Long.
And Adrian Peterson led the team with seven fumbles. No other Minnesota player had more than two.
It would appear to be a difficult task to win the turnover battle.
However in 2009, punt returner Davone Bess led the Dolphins with six fumbles, followed closely by running back Ricky Williams with five, and quarterback Chad Henne with four.
Prediction: Vikings will recover a Miami fumble, and Favre will not throw an interception to even their ratio for the season.
Can the Offensive Line Handle Miami's 3-4 Defense?
The Vikings' offensive line did a decent job against the Saints' blitz-happy defense, allowing only one sack.
In 2009 the Dolphins' 44 sacks was third in the league behind Minnesota (48) and Pittsburgh (47).
However, linebacker Joey Porter, who led Miami with nine sacks is no longer with the team, now playing with Arizona, and Jason Taylor is now with the Jets.
Still the Vikings could have their hands full with Randy Starks who was tied for second on the team with seven sacks in 2009.
Prediction: Adrian Peterson will be effective enough running the ball keeping the Dolphins' defense off Favre. McKinnie will play and the Favre will get sacked once.
When It's All Said and Done—Vikings Win!
With 10 days between games, and a another week of practice, Brett Favre will have knocked off some of the rust from the first game and lead the Vikings offense to victory.
Prediction: Vikings 24, Dolphins 13