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Vikings Face Virtual Must-Win In Foxboro



Date: 31 October 2010 Location: Foxboro, MA
Time: 3:15 PM Central Stadium: Gillette Stadium
DirecTV Ch. 715
Know Thy Enemy: Pats Pulpit
Gonzo's Prediction: Vikings 27, Patriots 24
Final Score: Patriots 28, Vikings 18

Well, folks, it's come down to this. This team may or may not have a quarterback controversy, may or may not be ready to mutiny against its coach, may or may not still have an opportunity to turn things around here, and may or may not have a season that is thoroughly circling the bowl in about three hours or so, depending on the outcome of this afternoon's contest. To top it all off, the obstacle standing in front of them is led by one of the all-time great quarterback/coach combinations, and the Vikings need to get this victory not at the cozy confines of the Metrodome, but on the road in Massachusetts.

So. . .how's your Sunday going thus far?

So what are the keys going to be in order for the Vikings to overcome all of this and leave Gillette Stadium this afternoon at 3-4 with an improbable victory under their belts?

1) Stop turning the damn ball over. . .yeah, Brett Favre, I'm looking at you - To be honest, this should be about 1 through 6 or so, but it's definitely the most important. I detailed earlier in the week how many of the points the Vikings have allowed have come directly from turnovers. When teams have to travel a sizable distance against the Vikings' defense, they more often than not have trouble getting the ball into the end zone. Now, the Patriots' defense hasn't been great by any definition this season. . .going into this game, they're 22nd in the league in points allowed, 29th in total yardage allowed, 30th against the pass, and they're the worst team in the league when it comes to getting off the field on third down, allowing opponents to convert nearly 50% of the time. But as a team, they're +6 in turnover ratio this season, where the Vikings are at -6. The Patriots, in all likelihood, will make the Vikings cover significant ground if they want to score points. Minnesota has to do the same to New England if they want to keep pace this afternoon.

2) Get off to a fast start for once - Where the Patriots defense has been below average for most of the season, their offense has been spectacular, and they come into this game with the highest points/game average in the league, putting up nearly 30 points per contest. As we've all seen, the Vikings aren't equipped to play catch-up, and they're certainly not going to do so successfully against a team the caliber of the Patriots. The Vikings can't afford to take a quarter or a half to get themselves into gear. . .they need to come out hitting on all cylinders. If they start out on defense, they need to get a stop. . .if they get the ball first, they need to put it into the end zone. Minnesota's opponents have gotten the first score in all six Vikings games this season. . .the Vikings can't afford to let that streak run to seven.

3) Lean on the stars on offense - We know Adrian Peterson has been a monster all season long, and we've already gone over how the majority of the offense needs to be run through his hands. Yes, the Patriots' defense has been much better this season against the run (10th in the NFL) than they've been against the pass, but that shouldn't stop the Vikings from feeding the beast. We also know that this is Randy Moss' first trip back to New England since the trade that brought him back to Minnesota earlier this month. The two names that I think, outside of Peterson, are going to make the biggest difference in this game are Percy Harvin and Visanthe Shiancoe. Shiancoe has basically disappeared. . .not entirely of his own volition, mind you (thanks again, Scott Green. . .ass). . .but the Patriots have had trouble with covering tight ends this season, and Shank can still get open. Harvin, on the other hand, has been a monster since moving back to the slot since Moss' arrival, whether it's working from the slot, taking handoffs out of the backfield, getting the ball on sweep plays, or returning kickoffs. The Patriots' secondary doesn't have anyone that can hang with #12, and Minnesota needs to take advantage of that. They also need to play within the confines of the offense and not try to force things. . .but that goes back to key number one mentioned up top.

Yes, my prediction is for a Vikings victory. . .making me pretty much the only person in America going with Minnesota in this one. . .and it's based on a little bit of homerism and a whole lot of hope. If the Vikings can pull out a victory this afternoon, they should be able to get to within striking distance in the division, particularly with a second half of the schedule that looks to be significantly softer than the first. If this team falls, however, and gets on the plane back to Minneapolis at 2-5, you can't help but think that things are going to get really ugly, really quickly. I don't want that, you don't want that. . .nobody wants that. Nobody that matters, anyway. (Fans of other teams? Yeah, their opinions don't matter.)

Kickoff is right around two hours from now. Let's do this thing, ladies and gentlemen.