When the 3-0 Titans come marching in on Sunday, everyone will experience a collective case of déjà vu. These two teams may be different in record, but some things are exactly the same.
The first and most obvious comparision is at quarterback. The starters going into the season for these two teams were Tarvaris Jackson and Vince Young. The former was removed via coaching decision, and the latter was replaced because of injury.
Either way, it still pits two backups against each other; Gus Frerotte and Kerry Collins. The differences arise when you compare Frerotte and Collins, however. They are both very experienced, but Frerotte has better strength, accuracy, and composure in the pocket. It’s also known that Collins is a worse scrambler than his counterpart, Frerotte.
Collins has only been sacked once in two games this year, thanks in large part to his extremely solid offensive line. Remind you of anyone? That’s right, the Vikings seem to have one of the best offensive lines in the league as well. The absence of Bryant McKinnie will be huge this week, as both Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Vanden Bosch will be on that crucial right side of the defensive line. On the other hand, Michael Roos will have to deal with Jared Allen.
The defensive lines on these two teams are also remarkably similar. Haynesworth is certainly near the same level as Kevin Williams. The thing that is most similar, though, is the defensive end position. Both the Vikings and the Titans made big acquisitions this off-season, bringing in top-tier ends to solidify their already-strong defensive line. The Vikings, of course, traded for Allen, while the Titans brought back Jevon Kearse.
Neither teams have a great receiving corps. The Titans have Justin Gage and Justin McCareins to go along with Lavelle Hawkins and Brandon Jones. Not exactly big names in the receiver market.
The Vikings have done all they can to improve their receiving game, but Bernard Berrian and Sidney Rice have not lived up to expectations this year.
The ground game will anchor both of these teams’ offenses. LenDale White is named the starter in Tennessee, but is getting the same amount of carries as rookie Chris Johnson. Johnson is gaining double the yards, but White has assumed his role as goal-line back. The Vikings will likewise rely on their running game to get the offense going, and Adrian Peterson appears to be completely healthy and should have a big part in any success the Vikings have on Sunday.
Both the Titans and the Vikings have veteran tight ends. Visanthe Shiancoe and Alge Crumper will have an effect on this game, primarily due to the lack of receiving game both these teams suffer from. Crumpler has seen better years but has been ravaged by the injury bug. Shiancoe has taken leaps and bounds from his abilities when entering the league, but still isn’t a top tight end.
The Vikings and Titans both have very underrated linebacking corps as well. E.J. Henderson is one of the best middle linebackers in the game, and Titan outside linebacker Keith Bullock is also one of the best at his position.
None of the Tennessee linebackers are very good at stopping the run, but they all can cover the pass effectively. Minnesota linebackers, meanwhile, are excellent against the run but leave something to be desired in pass coverage.
This upcoming game against the Titans could be the most exciting for the Vikings yet, and there will be more than usual to look for when watching the game. A low-scoring affair is certainly plausible, but a shoot-out is also very possible.
Anything can happen, so I’m expecting a very thrilling game coming down the wire.
Early prediction: Tennessee 17, Minnesota 14