WHAT I’LL BE WATCHING
I’ve already expressed my skepticism that the Vikings can win this game but that said, here are the things I’ll be watching:
I’m certain he’ll start but whether or not he’s effective is another matter. No one disputes his toughness but with fractures in his foot, will he have enough mobility to move within and outside of the pocket to get the job done? Will the Patriots implement The Blueprint in order to force Favre from the game?
If Favre doesn’t last and TJax enters the game, I’ll be watching through my fingers. You know what I think of his game.
Bill Belichick‘s MO is to show you looks you’ve never seen before. Remember the last time the teams met, the Patriots spread the Vikings defense with five wide and dismantled them for an easy 31-7 romp.
It says a lot about that organization and Belichick that they have the personnel to execute so well using any scheme. It is indicative of both the talent of their talent evaluators and the quality of their coaching staff.
So expect to see the unexpected on both sides of the ball. How the Vikings react–or don’t–to what the Patriots show them will dictate their success. In 2006, the Vikings had no answer to the Patriots’ spread offense.
If Favre is hobbled or if Tarvaris Jackson is taking snaps, Adrian Peterson is likely to get a ton of touches. Amid a season of frustration for the team as a whole, Peterson is having a fantastic year.
Peterson trails Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw for the league lead in yardage by only 24 yards but he’s done that playing one less game than Bradshaw. Peterson is averaging 114 yards per game compared to 101 for Bradshaw; he has five rushing touchdowns compared to Bradshaw’s three; Peterson has fumbled once and lost none compared to the four that Bradshaw has lost.
Chris Johnson? He’s third in the NFL overall but has also played one more game than Peterson.
Though I expect to see a lot of Peterson, the Patriots are 10th in the league against the run but they are 30th against the pass.
Which would seem a natural reason for taking some deep shots to Randy Moss or a steady diet of Percy Harvin until the Pats try and shut that down so that we can take some deep shots to Randy Moss.
The problem with that is we’ll need to be able first to pick up the blitz and, if we do, then to get the ball into Moss’ hand. If it’s TJax throwing the ball, I’m not very confident he can do so.
It has apparently dawned on Jared Allen that the shutouts he keeps facing may be an indication that he’s got to change things up in order to get back to his sackin’ ways.
The Vikings defense flourished with the arrival of Allen, so his continued Pro Bowl-caliber play is a crucial component to the team’s defensive success. When opponents can devote just the left tackle to shutting him down, that allows them to focus on Kevin Williams or Ray Edwards and all of a sudden, the Vikings have no pass rush.
ASHER ALLEN/CHRIS COOK
And if you get no pressure on the quarterback, then Tom Brady will be able to expose Asher Allen and Chris Cook fairly easily.
We know what we’ve got with Allen: A decent but developing cornerback who is going to get beat because of that.
Surprisingly, though, after so much pre-season praise, we may need to worry about Chris Cook, considering how he was crispy-fried by Aaron Rodgers. And Aaron Rodgers is no Tom Brady.
Today we get to find out if Cook’s play against the Packers was an off-day or if he was simply exposed.