Know the Opponent: Minnesota Vikings

The New England Patriots are fighting for that number one seed in the AFC playoffs.  And if they want to clinch home field throughout, they’ll have to win out.  That road starts Sunday at 4:25 when they host the Minnesota Vikings on FOX.

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This Vikings Offense Will Score…

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Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

A lot of points.  The Patriots defense ranks 22nd in yards allowed, and 25th in passing yards.  With the Duo of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, this secondary will struggle.  So far, Thielen has 93 receptions for 1,138 yards and 8 TD’s.  His teammate Stefon Diggs has 79 receptions for 790 yards, and 6 TD’s.  Combining for 1,928 yards and 14 TD’s, these two will be tough to stop.  Especially with the rough secondary that the Patriots have.  Diggs and Thielen account for nearly 60% of the Vikings passing attack this year and nearly 65% of the passing touchdowns.

But looking at the injury report, Diggs did not practice yesterday due to a knee injury.  So if he isn’t 100%, look for more Thielen than Diggs.  If he is able to go — and be effective the easy solution would be to take them both out of the game right?  Use all of your resources to limit them right?

Well let’s not forget about Kyle Rudolph.  The 6’6″, 256lb Tight End will be the stuff made of nightmares for the Patriots linebackers.  Rudolph has 43 receptions, 425 yards, and 2 TD’s this season.  But his mobility will be an advantage against the Patriots linebackers.  In close games this year (winning or losing by 7 or less) Rudolph shines.  In the final two minutes of the half he has 11 receptions for 117 yards.  Nearly a third of his offense comes in clutch moments.  Defenses who don’t want Diggs or Thielen to burn them leave Rudolph open. So if the Vikings can keep this game close, look for Rudolph to be a factor.

The Defense Will Let Up Points Too…

The Vikings have a top five defense, no doubt about it.  But top corner Xavier Rhodes is injured and didn’t participate in practice and is listed as probable right now.  So it looks like he won’t be 100% come Sunday.  Hamstring injuries are hard to predict so we’ll have to keep a close eye on Rhodes’ hamstring.

And with Sony Michel having a breakout game last week against the Jets and some injuries to the Vikings linebackers, could New England try to pound the ball again?  Well the Vikings run defense ranks fourth in the NFL only allowing 93.6 rush yard.  The Patriots will try to run, but they’ll have to place runs into their offense at opportune times.  Look for Brady to see when the time is right and call the audible.

Furthermore, their pass defense is fifth only allowing 221 yards per game.  With a struggling Brady at time this season and receivers not always on the same page, this is another tough test.  However; for the Patriots, Rob Gronkowski is no longer on the injury report.  If a healthy Gronk shows up he’ll always cause matchup nightmares.

What’s At Stake?

The Vikings are currently a wild card team.  They need this win for not only get a home playoff game, but a chance at the NFC North.  The Vikings are currently 2.5 back of the first place Bears who they’ve already lost to once.  These two will face off in week 17 with the potential NFC North title on the line.

Vikings Wednesday Injury Report

WR Stefon Diggs – Knee
CB Xavier Rhodes – Hamstring
WR Chad Beebe – Hamstring
TE David Morgan – Knee

LB Ben Gedeon – Concussion
WR Adam Thielen – Calf

G Mike Remmers – Low Back
G Tom Compton – Knee
LB Eric Kendricks


-Brian Berard (@CouchGuyBrian)

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