Through four weeks of the NFL season, the Minnesota Vikings and Tennessee Titans seem to be two teams headed in different directions. The Titans have won one game and been non-competitive in three. Their top running back has had one good game and three bad ones, and their quarterback of the future will miss Sunday's game with a shoulder injury.
By contrast, the Vikings have a second year QB who is among the league leaders in completion percentage and has yet to throw an interception. They've won three games and should've won all four, their running back looks like he hasn't missed a step after his December knee injury, and they really seem to be getting some wind in their sails.
So this game is either going to be a Vikes blowout or an Admiral Akbar special. To avoid the latter, the Vikes need to do the following:
Avoid Complacency: This is probably starting for a team that's 12-24 over the last two years and four games, but I think it's a real threat here. Both Kyle and Fearless Leader talked about it at length, and it's seems out of place talking about this for this team. But I think it's something that needs to be said. The Vikings have a history of playing up or down to their competition, and I strongly feel this is a game that Minnesota can take control of early and out it out of reach by the third quarter. Don't let Tennessee hang around and sneak out of Minnesota with the win.
Vary It Up Passing The Ball: The Titans are near or at the bottom of just about every major defensive category. They give up yards in chunks, and this game will be a great opportunity to get Jerome Simpson into the end zone. To do that, though, the Vikings will need to call more pass plays other than bubble screens and the rollout dump off to Rudolph. For the most part, Bill Musgrave has installed good game plans and called an effective game, and he did a good job getting Simpson involved early last week. Let's continue that trend this week.
Adrian Peterson Should Go Off This Week: Two weeks ago Lions RB Mikel Leshoure ran for 100 yards against the Titans in their OT loss. Last week, AP looked like he was all the way back as he went over 100 yards against the Lions. AP is so much better than Leshoure that it's not even worthy of discussing why. Peterson should have a huge game Sunday.
Stop Chris Johnson: Sort of lost in the weeds of their 38-14 beatdown by Houston was that CJ went off, rushing for 141 yards after going for a combined 45 yards in his first three games. A lot of those yards came once the Titans were out of it, but 141 yards against that defense is still impressive. But so is the Vikings run defense. Matt Hasselbeck was good in his day, but if the Vikes take away the running game, he's not very mobile and he's going to get hit hard and often. That will lead to mistakes, ones I hope the Vikings can take advantage of.
Prediction: The Titans are reeling, the Vikes are rolling. The Titans have a horrible defense and an average offense, are on the road, and their starting QB is out with an injury. Why am I worried about this game? I think the Vikes win, but it will be closer than people think.
Ted Says: Vikes 24, Tennessee 16.