Week 1 Tale Of The Tape: Minnesota Vikings At Tennessee Titans
- QuarterbackThe Vikings were dealt an awful blow when starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered a brutal non-contact knee injury prior to the last preseason game and was lost for the season. The Vikings traded for Sam Bradford after the injury, and while he may take a while to feel comfortable in the Minnesota offense, he is a fine leader when healthy and he could help the Vikings achieve their goals.The Titans enter Year Two of the Marcus Mariota era, and they should be able to show quite a bit of improvement on offense. Mariota is an excellent athlete with intelligence, and his ability to read defenses should help the Titans make more big plays. Look for Mariota to run quite a bit more than he did as a rookie, and that should give the Tennessee offense a dangerous component.
- OffenseThe Vikings still have the best running back in the game, and look for Adrian Peterson to come out on fire as the team needs him to take the lead as Bradford gets used to the offensive scheme. Rookie wide receiver Laquon Treadwell is a tough, nasty and physical receiver who can win the battle against top defensive backs. Stefon Diggs is a polished route runner and a major asset.Bringing in DeMarco Murray to be the team’s No. 1 running back was a very interesting move for the Titans and it could pay huge dividends. If Murray can be a consistent downhill runner as he was in Dallas two years ago (and was not in Philadelphia), that will open things up in the passing game. The Titans don’t have big-name receivers, although TE Delanie Walker is a solid target.
- DefenseThe Vikings are depending on their defense to set the tone for their success this season. Head coach Mike Zimmer is one of the top defensive minds in the NFL, and he has gotten excellent results as he heads into his third season with the Vikings. Free safety Harrison Smith is one of the smartest players at a position that requires intelligence and athleticism.The Titans figure to show significant improvement on the defensive side of the ball as Dick LeBeau is in his second year with the team. Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey is both this unit’s leader and best player. He is capable of shutting down the interior run and collapsing the pocket. The Titans need linebacker Derrick Morgan to stay healthy this year if they are going to show improvement.
- Special TeamsThe Vikings’ season came to an abrupt end in the wild-card round when Blair Walsh missed a 27-yard FG that would have been the margin of victory against the Seahawks. He has been quite dependable throughout his career. Cordarrelle Patterson is an explosive return man.The Titans struggled badly when it came to special teams coverage last year, and head coach Mike Mularkey knows this must improve in 2016. Brett Kern has a strong leg and he is one of the most dependable punters in the league. PK Ryan Succop is just ordinary.
The Vikings had high hopes of winning the NFC North and contending for the NFC Championship before Bridgewater went down. Bradford was acquired to keep the team headed in the right direction, and this game is his first test.