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Vikings at Saints: Things To Look For

It's time to focus back on football. Since, you know, there's a game Sunday and all

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

At the end of week one, the Vikings seemed to be a young team on the rise with the best running back in football, an explosive young playmaker on the outside, an efficient quarterback, and an aggressive defense that forced the action.

That narrative was blown up in the span of 48 hours starting last Friday night.

The Adrian Peterson scandal hit, then the Patriots blew out the Vikings. The best running back in football won't see the field anytime soon, the explosive playmaker was virtually ignored, the efficient quarterback seemingly completed more passes to the Patriots than the Vikings, and the defense gave up 30 points.

Two games into his head coaching career, and Mike Zimmer is already having to deal with a crisis, one that was not of his making. And it doesn't get any better this week, as the Vikings travel to N[EFF THOSE GUYS]ns, home of an 0-2 team a lot of people had on their short list for NFC title contender and a team desperate for a win.

Most people are giving the Vikings no shot of winning this game, and after the decision by the Vikings to keep Adrian Peterson off the field until his legal issues are resolved, the S[EFF THOSE GUYS]ts went from an 8.5 point favorite to 10.5. But is it that bad? I don't think so, and when you look at the numbers, I don't think all is lost. And let's keep in mind that there are two truths to Vikings football. One is that they have a penchant for letting journeymen quarterbacks have career days against them. The other one is that at least once a year, even when they're terrible, they win one game they have no business winning. Last year, they blew the doors off of Philadelphia. In 2012, they went to Houston and dominated what would become a 13-3 team.

So, do the Vikings have any shot at all of winning this game? Most people say no, but I think they do. Let's see how this is even remotely possible.

Don't turn the ball over. This is pretty obvious, but it's that simple. Last week Matt Cassel threw four interceptions and the Vikings had a field goal blocked and returned for a touchdown. That accounted for 24 of New England's 30 points, and the Patriots consistently had a short field to work with. You're not going to beat anyone doing that. Cassel has to have a good game and avoid the horribad throws he can be known for. He doesn't have to engineer a scoring drive on every possession, but he can't give an offense like N[Seriously, EFF THOSE GUYS]s a short field to work with, either. It's been said that Cassel can't go out and win a game on his own, but he can lose one. If last week was exhibit A, week one was exhibit B of that coming to life.

But there is money to be made throwing the ball. Yeah, we've talked about the four picks, but the S[EFF 'EM. In the ear. With a pick axe]s defense, especially the secondary, looks remarkably like the 2013 Vikings secondary. They're bad, kids, really bad. Now, Matt Ryan carved them up in week one, but Brian Hoyer had a good game against them. Of the 657 passing yards given up by them this year (good for dead last in the NFL), one third of it (219 yards) has come by picking on the right side of the Saints defense with short passes. That tells me that if you can get a quick/short pass out to a playmaker coughCordarrellePattersoncough he'll be able to make a guy miss and get some decent yardage. There's also another opportunity for Kyle Rudolph to have a big game, and make amends for some drops after a strong start last week.

That said, you still have to run the ball, though. Without Peterson, the Vikings running game isn't anything to be concerned about if you're a team defending it, but the Vikings still need to be able to get yards on the ground. Forget about the home run threat with AP, but it's essential that they can get three here, five there, and keep giving the Vikings situations where the S[EFF. THOSE. GUYS. FOREVER.]s have to be prepared to defend both the run or pass option. Personally, I think Jerick McKinnon is a legitimate breakaway threat, and I'd like to see him incorporated into the offense more. With the short notice deactivation of Peterson, I can understand why the Vikings might not have last week--they simply hadn't game planned to do that. With a full week (mostly, anyway) of knowing who will be available and who won't, I'd like to think NORV! Turner has a package or set of plays to get McKinnon more involved in the offense.

So, do we really know anything about the defense yet? I think I could make an argument that the answer to that question is no, not yet. Against the Rams, they dominated that game from beginning to end. But they should have, as the Rams were playing against two pretty bad quarterbacks. Against the Patriots, yeah they gave up 30 points, but they were playing in the shadow of their own goal line for a good part of the afternoon, and seven of those points came off the blocked field goal. So was it that bad of a performance? No, not really. But they will have a huge test on Sunday, and the last thing the Vikings want is to get into a shootout with the S[EFF THOSE GUYS]s. Can they rise up? I honestly don't know. Chad Greenway has a broken hand, Xavier Rhodes is questionable, and the Vikings defensive line, which looked so impressive in week one, was dominated in week two. If the aggressive, pressuring defense from the Rams game shows up and knocks around Drew Brees, they're going to make things very interesting. If they don't put any pressure on Brees...yeah, gonna be a long day.

So...Teddy time? I've said all along Matt Cassel played his way into the starter's job, and Matt Cassel will have to play his way out of it. He started doing that against the Patriots, and if he has another first half like he did last week, I wouldn't be surprised to see him pulled. If he does play the full game, and it's another four interception performance, the Teddy Bridgewater Underground will be on high alert.