Week 4 of the NFL season brings the Minnesota Vikings to LP Field in Nashville. This will be a match-up of two very similar teams on paper. Both possess great ability to run the ball and have swarming defenses. Both have turned to former starting quarterbacks in this league that have taken over for much their much younger protégés. The biggest difference between the two is that the Vikings were many experts pick to make a big jump in the NFC this season, while many of those same “experts” thought that the Titans would struggle to make it to the playoffs. Instead though, it is the Titans that find themselves in the driver seat in the AFC South, and it is the Vikings that find themselves tied for second with the Bears in the NFC North at 1-2.
Titans rushing offense vs. the Vikings defense:
By now, we all know how well the Titans can run the ball. Rookie Chris Johnson currently stands alone atop the AFC in rushing yards (276 yards) while his much larger partner in crime in the backfield, LenDale White, is tied for second in the league in rushing touchdowns (4). Throw those two behind one of the best offensive lines in football and you’ve got yourself one of the top rushing offenses in the NFL.
Still though, much of those numbers have come against mostly inferior competition thus far. That won’t be the case this week, as the Vikings happen to be one of the more staunch run defenses in the league. With a massive defensive line featuring the Williams’ brothers (Pat and Kevin) and defensive end Jared Allen, the Vikings front four are some of the biggest and baddest in all of the NFL. Allowing only 3.2 ypc and a measly 70 yards rushing per game to opponents, the Vikings defense should be able to hold the Titans tandem relatively in check. Don’t be surprised to see LenDale pound it in if the Titans get close, but unless “Gold Medal” slips through the first two tiers and busts off a big one, don’t expect to see the Titans approach the 150-plus yards a game that they have been averaging. Something more like a 100 yards and possible a TD are more likely expectations but, depending on how those yards come, they may be enough to move the ball into scoring position a few times. That is unless Kerry Collins puts a little WD-40 in those boots and gets those wheels rollin’ again.
Titans passing offense vs. the Vikings defense:
If the Titans are going to have a chance to win this game, this will be one area they must execute well. Many scouts feel as though Vikings strong safety Darren Sharper, the leader of their secondary, has lost a step, and when you lose that step, you don’t get it back. This has been evidenced through the first three weeks of the season as the Vikings secondary only ranks 20th overall, giving up over 200-yards per game through the air. Justin McCareins had a nice game last week, and Justin Gage should be back this week, so the Titans should be able to find some room to take a few chances downfield with the running attack that they are able to mount against the Vikings. And I know we say it every week here on Titan Sized, but you just gotta believe that one of these weeks off-season acquistion Alge Crumpler will finally get involved in the offense.
Vikings rushing offense vs. Titans defense:
Adrian Peterson (maybe you’ve heard of him) has set personal goals this season of 4,000 yards rushing and 8,000 total yards from scrimmage. While those numbers aren’t exactly accurate, Peterson has set some very high expectations for himself this season, and that is fair enough considering how well he has played in his young career, establishing himself as one of the best, most exciting players in the league. Peterson comes into this game as the second leading rusher in the NFL, with 340 yards, facing a Tennessee defense that looked fairly mortal against rookie Steve Slaton last week. Tennessee is only giving up 89 yards rushing per game, but don’t be particularly surprised if Peterson is the second strait back to eclipse the 100 yard mark against the Titans. In a game where field position is crucial, this will be very effective in moving the ball for the Vikings, but won’t necessarily equate to touchdowns. Peterson only has one score in three games, and the Titans were able bear down last week, even if they allowed more yards than we are accustomed to seeing. Once again, this will be a battle between two of the best running games vs. two of the running defenses.
Vikings passing offense vs. Titans passing defense:
Last week, veteran Gus Frerotte took over the Vikings offense and led Minnesota to a 20-10 victory against the Carolina Panthers in their first win of the season. Frerotte, much like Kerry Collins, is expected to manage the game well, not make mistakes, and let the running game do it’s work. Last week that was good for 16-28 for 204 yards with a TD, a pick and a win (again looking very much like Kerry Collins). In Bernard Berrian, Frerotte has more of a singular receiving threat than Kerry Collins has, but after Berrian the receiving corps isn’t way too intimidating. For Cortland Finnegan and Michael Griffin (#1 and #2, respectively, in the AFC in interceptions) the Frerotte-Berrian combo shouldn’t in any way be more threatening than the Schaub-Johnson combo or the Palmer-Ocho Cinco-Houshmandzadeh triad.
Well, the Titans still can’t cover kicks, and Chris Carr is another off-season addition that hasn’t done a whole lot thus far. I think this will be a defensive slug fest that could come down to one of those patented game-winning field goals that All-Pro kicker Rob Bironas is so accustomed to nailing.
Like we said in the beginning, these two teams are very evenly matched. Great running games. Great defenses. Old quarterbacks. The Titans have the advantage of playing at home to a rowdy crowd and having a great kicker. That should be enough to win.
The Titans are 3-0 for the first time since the 1999 season in which they made it all the way to the Super Bowl, only to come up one yard short (it hurts to even type it). On Sunday, they will attempt to go 4-0 for the first time in franchise history. The Vikings are trying to get back on track after three tough weeks and a quarterback change of their own. They are playing to stay alive in a division that is still wide open and has a number of question marks of its own. In the end though, the Titans’ home field advantage and their ability to capitalize on some of the chances they may get through the air, should give them enough to win.
Prediction: Titans 20-16