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Vikings Need Passing Game To Step Up Against Titans

Leon Halip - Getty Images

When looking at the match-up comparison for Sunday's game between the Tennessee Titans and the Minnesota Vikings, the main thing that stands out is the Tennessee defense. From looking at the numbers, they've been pretty bad through their first four games. They're last in the NFL in points allowed, giving up 37.5 points a game through their four contests, including giving up at least 34 in each game. They're 31st in total yardage allowed, 28th against the pass, and 27th against the run in terms of yardage allowed.

Now, one might look at that rushing figure and determine that star running back Adrian Peterson might have an opportunity to go off in this one. However, a closer look at the Tennessee run defense shows that they're actually pretty solid on the ground. They're only allowing 3.9 yards per carry, and the longest run they've allowed this season has been a mere 17 yards. (Only the Vikings are better in that last category, with the longest run they've allowed this season being 15 yards.)

They're as low as they are on the totem pole largely because of sheer volume. Only two teams in the National Football League have faced more rushing attempts than the 141 that the Titans have seen through the first four games. Those two teams are the 0-4 New Orleans Saints (who are legitimately awful against the run, allowing a full yard/carry more than Tennessee) and the Arizona Cardinals, who are a middle of the pack rush defense, yardage-wise.

If you're hoping that Adrian Peterson is going to end up with a lot of yards for your fantasy team or just that he's going to get a lot of yards in general, it's entirely possible that he still will. But if that's the case, he's going to get there because the Vikings' passing offense has made some hay and gotten the Vikings a big lead. When it comes to the passing game, the Vikings should. . .should, mind you. . .have a marked advantage.

The Titans have allowed the highest completion percentage in the National Football League, allowing opponents to complete 75.3% of pass attempts thus far. They've allowed ten touchdown passes, tying them for the second-worst mark in the league in that category, and they've balanced that out with just one interception. The Titans are also allowing an even 8 yards/attempt, the sixth-worst mark in the National Football League (the Vikings are sixth-best in that category at 6.5 yards/attempt). They're on pace, as far as passer rating allowed goes, to have the worst mark in that category in NFL history, worse than even last year's Vikings. Last year, Minnesota had a passer rating allowed figure of 107.6. Through the first four games this year, Tennessee has allowed a whopping 118.3 mark in that category. Again, as reference, the highest-rated passer in the NFL so far this year is Atlanta's Matt Ryan. . .his quarterback rating is 112.1.

If the Vikings are going to continue their march forward, they need to have continued solid, steady play from quarterback Christian Ponder. Ponder is still the only starting quarterback in the NFL without an interception, and has been making markedly better decisions with the football this year than in his rookie campaign, where he threw 13 interceptions in 10 games.

It could also be a big game for Kyle Rudolph, as the Titans have shown a propensity to give up big plays to tight ends. In Week 1, both Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski had six catches and a score for the New England Patriots. In Week 2, San Diego Chargers tight end Dante Rosario had three touchdown catches in place of Antonio Gates. Brandon Pettigrew brought in eight catches in Week 3 in a Tennessee victory, and Owen Daniels had six catches and a touchdown in Week 4 for the Houston Texans against the Titans. So, of the 10 touchdown passes that Tennessee has allowed through the first four games, six have gone to tight ends.

In order to find themselves victorious against the Tennessee Titans tomorrow afternoon, the Vikings have to continue doing what's gotten them to their 3-1 start. They need to protect Christian Ponder (the Titans have just six sacks through the first four games), and Ponder needs to continue being smart with the football. If the Vikings can continue doing both of those things, they stand a pretty good chance of surpassing their 2011 win total just five games into the 2012 season.