With the Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings game coming up, I spoke with Chris Gates over at SB Nation's Vikings blog, Daily Norseman. You can read our Q&A below and you can read my answers to his questions here.
1. Is Adrian Peterson still the focal point of the Vikings offense?
DN: He certainly is, and at this point I think he sort of has to be. The opener in San Francisco is looking more and more like an aberration as the season moves on, as he followed that clunker by averaging over 100 yards / game and a touchdown in the three games since then.
At this point, even though Teddy Bridgewater continues to improve and mature, Peterson has to be the focal point of the offense. He's a proven commodity, and now that he's shaken off the rust, he's going to be able to go out and keep defenses honest. The Vikings have had struggles on the offensive line so far this season due to a combination of injury and inexperience, so Peterson's ability to keep the Vikings in manageable down and distance situations is going to be a crucial component of the Vikings' offense going forward.
2. Some Chiefs fans wanted Teddy Bridgewater. Do you still like the pick?
DN: Minnesota fans absolutely love Teddy Bridgewater, and with good reason. While people may debate about his arm strength and whatever other perceived "shortcomings" he might have, he's performed about as well as can be expected at this point. The team's 23-20 loss to Denver in Week 4 was his 16th NFL start, and he went into Mile High and played a very good game against the NFL's best defense in their house. Yes, the Vikings lost the game, but given the fact that he was under siege all afternoon (absorbing seven sacks) and went into the game without two of his top three receivers, he was pretty outstanding, particularly in the second half.
As he continues to get time in Norv Turner's offense and builds even more rapport with his receivers. . .and, hopefully, with some improvement along the offensive front. . .he will continue progressing and eventually become an upper-echelon quarterback in the NFL.
3. The Chiefs offensive line has had its issues. Who are the main pass rushers to watch out for?
DN: The Vikings have no shortage of pass rushers for the Chiefs to deal with. Foremost among them would be defensive end Everson Griffen, who has been making life miserable for quarterbacks over the team's last three games. He can attack you with speed or power, and he's shown that versatility numerous times. The team has also been using second-year linebacker Anthony Barr more as a pass rusher this season, and defensive tackles Sharrif Floyd and Tom Johnson (who usually comes in on obvious passing downs) can get after the quarterback as well.
The team only has eight sacks so far through the first four games (Griffen leads the way with three of those eight), but if you saw the games against Detroit and San Diego, they registered a lot of hits against Matthew Stafford and Philip Rivers, with the Chargers eventually pulling Rivers at the end of that contest. If the Chiefs' offensive line can't step things up, it could end up being a long day for Alex Smith.
4. If you're the Chiefs offensive coordinator, how would you attack the Vikings?
DN: Unfortunately for the Chiefs, the weakest part of the Vikings' defense at this point is one that they might have difficulty attacking, and that's the run game. The Vikings thus far are 12th in the NFL against the pass in terms of yardage, but are just 26th against the run. Carlos Hyde ran all over them in the opener, and after a couple of very good performances in Weeks 2 and 3, the Broncos put up 144 yards on the ground in Week 4 (although half of that yardage came on one run by Ronnie Hillman).
With the improvement of guys like Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith in the secondary and their ability to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks, the optimum strategy against the Vikings would be to use the run to set up the pass. If the Chiefs can do that, even in the absence of Jamaal Charles, the Vikings might have to dial back their aggression on defense a bit. That would be a huge help to the Kansas City offense.
5. What is your prediction for the game?
DN: If the Vikings are going to establish themselves as a serious contender for the rest of this season, this is the sort of game they're going to have to win. The Chiefs are reeling, and are now without their one true game-breaking offensive threat. Without Charles on the field, I think the Chiefs are going to have difficulty sustaining drives on offense. That means more opportunities for Adrian Peterson and the Vikings to grind the clock and, hopefully, hit the occasional big play with Bridgewater and some of his receivers. I think the Chiefs will put forward a game effort, but I think they've just got too much to overcome in this one.
I'll call it Vikings 27, Chiefs 17.