A case could be made for the quarterback. Glamorous positions like running backs and wide receivers could also receive some credit.
But when things are boiled down, the offensive and defensive lines are the most crucial positions on a National Football League team.
Without those massive specimens in the trenches, no play would be possible. They are certainly unheralded, yet vital to all 32 football teams.
In fact, the main battle that will take place on Sunday when the Vikings and Colts kickoff will be between a couple dozen 300-pound men. The offensive and defensive lines of both teams have been subjected to heavy fire from the media and bloggers alike this past week, and both squads would love nothing more than to prove themselves once and for all.
When the Vikings Have the Ball
The Indianapolis defensive line got banged up against a horribly soft Chicago offensive line in Week One. Rookie Matt Forte ran for 123 yards and a touchdown in his debut. While I have nothing against Forte, I think everyone can admit that a certain Adrian Peterson is a better running back.
The Colts will definitely have their hands full against this steamrolling freak-of-nature, but that's not to say that they can't slow him down.
The Colts run a "Tampa 2" defense. That generally means that there are four defensive linemen, two linebackers playing shallow left and right, two cornerbacks, a linebacker playing deep center, and two safeties playing deep left and right.
To put it lightly, the Colts will get slaughtered by Peterson if they leave four men in the box. As a rule of thumb, any form of "Tampa 2" is very vulnerable to a strong, consistent running force up the middle. That is exactly what Peterson provides.
The Colts will need to load eight men in the box on most plays. They will also try various blitzing packages to attempt to throw Tarvaris Jackson and his offensive line off guard.
The main things Peterson worked on this offseason were receiving out of the backfield and blocking. In order for the Vikings to have success, Peterson will need to display his newfound ability to pick up linebackers or safeties that come charging into the box.
It's not like Peterson will be the only one helping out Jackson. The Vikings have an above-average offensive line, even without playmaker Bryant McKinnie. The combination of Ryan Cook at right tackle, Anthony Herrera at right guard, Matt Birk at center, Steve Hutchinson at left guard, and Artis Hicks at right tackle make a formidable barrier between the defense and offense.
This line is obviously the strongest in the middle. They will be vulnerable to the pass rush the Colts will throw at them, with Dwight Freeney and Robert Matthis. Both of those players managed a sack against the Bears last Sunday night. Lining up opposite them will be Ryan Cook, who is still getting adjusted to the right-tackle position, and Artis Hicks, who is, at best, a below-average replacement player.
Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe isn't the best blocker in the game, either. Much like last week, Tarvaris Jackson has a very real possibility of being roughed up by a strong Indianapolis pass rush.
When the Colts Have the Ball
Much like the Colts, the Minnesota defensive line got beat around against their opponent in Week One. The Green Bay Packers ran for a total of 139 yards and a touchdown. Considering the Vikings have one of, if not the, best defensive lines in the league, this was far from expected. They didn't manage to sack Aaron Rodgers once.
The Colts will send Joseph Addai into the fray this coming Sunday.
There have been concerns about his injury, but all signs point toward him taking the field beside his teammates on the 14th of September. He may not be at his top form, but he will still provide a challenge for the Vikings.
Pat and Kevin Williams are highly regarded as the top defensive tackle duo in the league. Their combination of strength, finesse, and sheer body weight make it nearly impossible for anybody to run up the middle.
On the left and right sides of the ball, respectfully, are Ray Edwards and Jared Allen. The latter should have no problem getting around Tony Ugoh, at least a few times this game, despite Ugoh's ability. Edwards, on the other end of the spectrum, is a slightly above-average defensive end who has some troubles with an effective first step. He will be lined up opposite Ryan Diem, who is an average veteran tackle who loves contact.
The Vikings run a Cover Two defense, which is, in most respects, identical to the "Tampa 2." Minnesota will have four guys (three of whom could be the best at their respective position) in the box, and seven other defensive backs.
With an assortment of blitzes, the Vikings should be capable of holding Addai to a sub-150 yardage game, which Peterson should easily eclipse.
The Indianapolis guards, Charlie Johnson and Ryan Lilja, are both average at best. Jeff Saturday, however, provides a great presence at center. Provided, of course, he plays. Saturday has returned to full practice this week, however, and it looks like he will anchor this solid offensive line once again.
The Vikings have one of the best defensive lines in football, and it should show on Sunday. Allen should bounce back and get past Ugoh at least a few times and record some sacks. The Colts, with the exception of Saturday, have a relatively weak inside line. That, coupled with Pat and Kevin Williams, should prove that Addai can't run inside and will have to make many vertical runs during this game.
The Colts will have trouble shutting down the dynamic Peterson, but they should slow him down considerably and force Jackson to make some plays. Indianapolis will stack eight men in the box for the majority of the game, which means that they will be vulnerable to a big play, which should happen at least a few times during this game.
Whether you tune in to this game live or watch the highlights after, be sure to pay special attention to the offensive and defensive lines. They will be the key to what should prove to be a very entertaining matchup.
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