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Know Thy Enemy: Minnesota Vikings

Gonzo from the Daily Norseman was kind enough to answer a few questions from us. My answers to his questions are over there. Without further ado...

The Vikings D has looked improved this year and is currently ranked #2 vs the run. How much is this a product of actual improvement or an indication that they've faced some real RB busts in aging Warrick Dunn and overpaid Tatum Bell?

Well, the Vikings played the run last year at a near historical level, coming up about a dozen yards short of the record for fewest rush yards per game allowed since the merger, so the run defense isn’t a tremendous concern. With the law firm of Williams & Williams on the inside, stopping the run has been the Vikings’ strength for the last year or so.

The pass defense, on the other hand, got somewhat abused last season as a result. . .they were tied for last in the NFL in passing yards allowed in 2006, but they also allowed the 4th fewest TD passes in the NFL and had the 5th most interceptions. This year looks to be the same thus far, as Minnesota is currently 25th in the NFL in passing yardage allowed, yet the defense as a whole has only allowed two TDs in two games while forcing seven turnovers (five interceptions and two fumble recoveries) and actually scoring more touchdowns than the offense to this point (Minnesota has three defensive touchdowns so far this year, while the offense has only scored two). The pass rush appears to be much improved as well, as the Vikings only notched 30 sacks in all of 2006, but already have 10 in their two outings this year. If the pass rush continues improving, the Vikings can have one of the Top 10 defenses in the NFL. . .it’s just a matter of whether or not the offense wants to come along for the ride.

Will the Vikings be relying on AP to pretty much carry their offense the entire season, with 2 young WRs and a QB controversy brewing between Jackson, Bollinger, and Holcomb?

The running game is going to be the Vikings’ strength if the offense is going to get anything done this year. The original plan for the running game was to have Peterson and Chester Taylor split carries in order to keep both of them healthy and fresh. Unfortunately, Taylor hasn’t played since the first quarter of the season opener, so that hasn’t quite worked out the way it was supposed to. Taylor has said that he expects to play on Sunday, however, so maybe we’ll finally get a chance to see that.

As far as a quarterback controversy, I’m of a similar mindset to you in that respect. We have a youngster we drafted in the 2nd round of last year’s draft, and this team isn’t a realistic Super Bowl contender this year, so the kid should get every chance to prove what he’s got. Kelly Holcomb is our answer to Damon Huard. . .a guy that’s been around for a while and has had a few nice games in his career, but he’s not a long-term answer by any stretch.

Who will be starting at QB this weekend? What can we expect?

That tricky, tricky Brad Childress hasn’t named a starter yet, and is expected to tell the team prior to their boarding the plane for Kansas City today. But if I was a betting man (and if you’ve seen my football picks on my site, you can tell that I’m clearly not), I’d probably go with Kelly Holcomb as the starter on Sunday with Brooks Bollinger as the backup and Tarvaris Jackson as the #3 "emergency" quarterback. Holcomb was pretty familiar with the offense prior to Minnesota acquiring him, and should be fully up to speed at this point. Brooks Bollinger is, as the French might say, "le friggin’ terrible," so I hope we don’t see him trotting out to the huddle on Sunday afternoon.

What can the Chiefs expect? Hopefully the same thing that every team that plays the Vikings should come to expect. . .lots of Adrian Peterson, lots of Chester Taylor, and enough short, quick passes to keep the chains moving. I hope the Chiefs see a lot more of WR Sidney Rice (#18) than the Detroit Lions had to deal with last week. Even though it’s only his 3rd NFL game, Rice is probably Minnesota’s best and most talented wide receiver, yet he didn’t have a single pass thrown his direction last week at Ford Field. Why? I really don’t know. Just a part of Brad Childress’ "kick-ass" offense, I guess.

What are your impressions of the Chiefs so far this season?

I haven’t seen as much of the Chiefs this season as I would have liked, but I know that in the pre-season they were picked to be in much the same place that all the "experts" picked the Vikings to be. . .down towards the bottom of the league. From the highlights I’ve seen and the stories and stats I’ve read, it looks like Houston beat them up pretty good, and they responded by putting up a pretty good fight against Chicago. I’ll be honest. . .and it might just be my NFC North bias. . .but I didn’t expect the Chicago game to be as close as it was, so kudos to the Chiefs on their performance there.

The Kansas City offense is almost identical to Minnesota’s. . .strong running game, weak at wide receiver (as far as production, at least. . .with Bowe in Kansas City and Rice and Aundrae Allison in Minnesota, I think both sides have a lot of potential in that regard), and questions at quarterback. I know that Larry Johnson hasn’t fully gotten it going yet, but even after he does, both teams are going to be faced with the exact same question. . .can (insert quarterback here) keep the opposing defense honest enough to allow the run game to work its magic? If the answer to that question is "no," regardless of how good either team’s defense is, it’s going to be a long year for both of our teams.

What is your prediction for the game? Style, points, pace, etc.

I don’t expect it to be pretty by any stretch. Both teams are going to want to pound the run, and the team that’s more successful at doing that is going to be the one that comes out on top. I don’t expect a whole lot out of either passing game, regardless of who starts for Minnesota. The other key for both teams is going to be avoiding the big turnover. If Kelly Holcomb starts at quarterback for the Vikings, I think he gives Minnesota’s offense the best chance of doing that.

I expect a low-scoring affair. . .and, like you, the homer in me is telling me that my team should win this football game, despite the game being at Arrowhead and despite it being the Chiefs’ home opener. I’m going to go with something along the lines of Vikings 17, Chiefs 14.