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Vikings at Titans: Five Things To Look For

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Week one has the good guys in Music City. What are the keys to victory?

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Hi kids, are we doing okay?

With week one upon us (WOOOOOOOOOOOOO) it's time to take a look at our opponent, the Tennessee Titans. The Vikings open up on the road again, for the fourth year in a row, and the seventh time in eight years. Seriously, what does a team have to do to open up at home? Because building a new stadium didn't do the trick.

Anyway, with the season thrown into tumult last week, the Vikings scrambled to solve the conundrum at quarterback by trading for Sam Bradford, former #1 overall pick. The hope is that Bradford picks up the offense in a week to the point he can start...and be productive enough for the Vikings to win. And that leads our list of things to look for, so let's get to it.

1. Sam. I am Sam. I do not like bad picks and ham. I know the Vikings aren't saying who starts Sunday between Shaun Hill or Bradford, but I will be stunned...stunned...if Bradford doesn't start. And look, I hate the term 'game manager', but for week one, that's all Bradford has to do. Don't turn the ball over, stick to the scripted 35-40 plays that the Vikings have practiced, maybe more with mirrored formations, and just get the ball into the hands of their playmakers. With the main playmaker and play being...

2. Let Adrian Peterson rumble. There are several reasons Tennessee was 3-13 last year, and one of them is their defense. They were pretty good against the run, though, and this will be a good first test for the Vikings revamped offensive line. Getting Peterson untracked early is going to be important, and the Titans know this. They're going to load the box early, so it's going to be a test of will. If the Vikings can move the ball on the ground and get on the board early, they'll get the Titans playing from behind. If that happens, they can't let...

3. Tennessee match run for run. I'm not really sure what to make of the Titans running game. Last year,it was one of the worst in the NFL, but they've tried to address it through free agency and the draft. They traded for Demarco Murray and drafted Derrick Henry to bolster their running game, so it should be better. I still like the Vikings defensive line over the Titans offensive line a lot in this matchup, though. Still, if there's been a weakness with this defense since Mike Zimmer got here, it's not being able to stonewall the running game consistently. That's going to be key early, because the last thing they want the Titans to do is get into a rhythm and get comfortable. If they can disrupt and stop their running attack, then they can...

4. Beat up Marcus Mariota and the rest of the offense. Mariota is a good young QB, but he played behind an absolutely awful offensive line last year. It's going to be hot in Nashville, but the Vikings defensive line depth is good enough that the Vikings should be able to rotate guys in and out all day, and keep everyone fresh. They should be able to bring a lot of pressure to bear on Mariota, and when they do, they'll have to keep him contained by using a spy like Eric Kendricks to keep him from escaping the pocket and making a play with his feet. Hopefully, it will be a long day for the Titans offense, because I really don't think they have a really good matchup against the Vikings, with the exception of...

5. Delanie Walker. He was a 1,000 yard receiving tight end last year, and if he played anywhere but Tennessee he'd be a lot more well known. He's that athletic tight end that has caused the Vikings matchup issues in the past, and taking him out of the game early is key to getting Mariota rattled and off his game. If Mariota starts hearing footsteps, they might force him into making a mistake.

All of that said, this game should be close. the Vikings will have a new quarterback, whether it's Hill or Bradford, and the Titans, at least on paper, look like they've improved, and Mariota is a good QB that doesn't make a ton of errors. This game will all come down to coaching, and I think that's where the Vikes have a decided advantage.

I'm going with a 23-16 Vikings victory.