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Finally, At Home In The Dome

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Date: 19 September 2010 Location: Minneapolis, MN
Time: 12:00 PM Central Stadium: Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome
DirecTV Ch. 707
Know Thy Enemy: The Phinsider
Gonzo's Prediction: Vikings 27, Dolphins 17
Final Score: Dolphins 14, Vikings 10

Well, after having to endure what no group of fans should ever have to endure. . .that being a ten-day wait between football games. . .the Beloved Purple will be taking the field once again, this time to match up against the Miami Dolphins. The Vikings almost have to have a better showing today than they put together in their season opener. . .don't they? The Dolphins come in having looked impressive on defense but shaky on offense, having battled to a 15-10 victory over the Bills in Buffalo to open their season. I certainly hope that the Vikings present much more of a challenge to them than the Bills were able to mount.

As Eric pointed out yesterday, the Vikings have had very good success at home in recent years. They were the only team in the National Football League with an unblemished mark at home in 2009. Since moving into the Metrodome back in 1982, the Vikings have a home record of 159-79 (a robust .658 winning percentage), and have established one of the best. . .if not the best. . .home-field advantage in the National Football League. They've won six of their last seven home openers, the lone loss being an 18-15 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in 2008. And after their performance in Week One, it's a pretty safe bet that they're awfully angry and pretty fired up about this afternoon's contest.

So, what are the keys to victory for the Minnesota Vikings this afternoon?

1) Feed the beast - By "the beast," I mean the best running back in football. And by "the best running back in football," I mean Adrian Peterson. With the Vikings' passing attack still possibly being a little rusty, even with extra time to prepare going into this one, a heavy dose of #28 will give the Vikings a much better chance of winning. The Dolphins are going to be without two defensive starters, ILB Channing Crowder and DE Jared Odrick, and so their front seven might be a little more susceptible to the run than they would ordinarily be. Getting Peterson going early will open up the play-action passing game as well. . .and with the struggles our receivers had getting open in our first game, they could use a little extra assistance in that category. I think the passing attack will be markedly better than it was in the opener, but handing the ball to Adrian Peterson is rarely a bad idea.

2) Make Chad Henne beat you - Henne didn't look quite right against the Bills, and hasn't looked right, from many accounts, since pre-season started. The Bills have a good defense, don't get me wrong. . .but while their strength is the secondary, Minnesota's strength is up front with the pass rush, and if the Vikings can get out to an early lead, Henne is going to get acquainted with a few members of Minnesota's front seven. I know that Henne was a quarterback at Michigan and has played in front of big crowds before, but the Metrodome environment will be unlike anything he's seen as a professional, particularly if it's rocking and he needs to try to change a play or something. I think he's got a lot of potential as a quarterback, but if the Vikings can slow down the Dolphins' rushing game and Henne is asked to carry his team on his shoulders, I think Miami is in trouble.

3) Win the time of possession battle - The Dolphins' power running attack will be markedly less effective if the Vikings' front four can remain fresh. . .something that they failed to do in the season opener. The Vikings' defense was on the field for 21 of 30 minutes in the second half, and it showed at the end of the game. The Dolphins and their "Wildcat" formation, along with the running back combination of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, will attempt to control the line of scrimmage. If the Minnesota offense can sustain drives and stop constantly going three and out like they spent the second half of the season opener doing, the Dolphins' chances of doing so will decrease markedly. And don't think that Jared Allen, Pat Williams, Kevin Williams, and Ray Edwards have forgotten what happened in Week One. . .you can be damn sure that they don't want it to happen again.

The Vikings are the overwhelming pick of the "experts" out there to win this game. . .this generally makes me nervous. However, I think that the Vikings are going to take advantage of the extra time they've had off to prepare. I think we'll see a lot of Adrian Peterson, a lot of Percy Harvin, a much larger portion of Greg Camarillo than we saw in the season opener. . .and don't think that that guy isn't helping with some of the nuances of Miami's offense, either. . .and a much fresher, more aggressive defense than we got in Week One. The Dolphins will be a tough out, to be sure, but an out that I firmly believe the Vikings can. . .and will. . .get this afternoon.

It's about two hours before game time. . .this thread has been auto-posted, because I'm probably still in bed at the moment. Gotta love shift work and being up until 9 AM Central before a noon kickoff. It's been great dealing with the Dolphins fans this week and getting to know a little more about their team. . .highly refreshing change of pace from the crap we dealt with previously. Here's to a hard-fought, injury-free game. . .and both teams walking off the Metrodome turf today at 1-1.