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Cincinnati Bengals at Minnesota Vikings: First Quarter Open Thread

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Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
CINCINNATI BENGALS (5-8) WK 15 MINNESOTA VIKINGS (10-3)

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Date: 17 December 2017
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Time: 12:00 PM Central Stadium: U.S. Bank Stadium
TV: CBS
DirecTV Ch 707
Radio: Vikings Radio Network
XM Ch 135
Sirius Ch 226
TV Announcers: Ian Eagle
Dan Fouts
Know Thy Foe: Cincy Jungle
Weather: Indoors
Line: Minnesota -11, Over/Under 42 (Thanks to the SB Nation odds page)
Chris' Prediction: Vikings 31, Bengals 13
Final Score:

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For the first time since the middle of November, the Minnesota Vikings find themselves back at U.S. Bank Stadium. This week, they will play their final interconference matchup of the year, as they play host to Mike Zimmer's former team, the Cincinnati Bengals. A victory this afternoon will give the Vikings their second NFC North division title in three seasons and keep them on track for a first-round bye in this year's NFC playoffs.

So, what do the Vikings have to do in order to do just that?

1) Run the football - The Vikings' rush offense never really got started in last week's loss to Carolina. That should change this week, as the Bengals come into this one with the worst rush defense in the National Football League. On top of that, they come into this one without the services of all three of their starting linebackers. That means that Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon should be able to get their legs underneath them and take advantage of that. If they can do that, it should open up a lot of things for the offense.

2) Protect Case Keenum - Last week, the Vikings allowed Keenum to get sacked six times, which is just about as many times as he had been taken down the entire season going into that game. While the Vikings will be without the services of starting left tackle Riley Reiff in this one, the Bengals don't have quite the pass rushing prowess that the Panthers do, so they should be able to do a much better job of keeping their quarterback upright. The Bengals, as we've already touched on, are dealing with a lot of injuries on defense, and the Vikings need to take advantage of that.

3) Get after Andy Dalton - The Bengals' offensive line has struggled mightily this season. They have talented players at the skill positions, but because of the line play, the Cincinnati offense ranks among the worst in the NFL in just about every major category. We've seen enough of Andy Dalton over the years to know that if you hit him a few times, he starts to get a little skittish and starts making bad throws. The Vikings need to do everything they can to move Dalton off the spot and make it tougher for him to find A.J. Green and the rest of his targets. Hopefully we'll see a big afternoon from Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter, and the rest of the Minnesota front seven.

As I've said numerous times in the past, I'm usually hesitant to pick the Vikings to win in a blowout, but with the way the Bengals looked last week and the Vikings having a lot on the line this week (in addition to returning home after a month away), I just don't see a whole lot of scenarios where this one ends up being super close. The Vikings would have to play a second consecutive sub-par game, and I don't think Mike Zimmer and company are going to let that happen.

Keep an eye out for a new thread at the start of each quarter, ladies and gentlemen, and enjoy today's game!

SKOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL VIKINGS!!!!