WHEN THE CHIEFS PASS
The Vikings have picked up where they left off a year ago, as they rank 25th in pass defense after two games. During the 2006 season they ranked 31st, but stats can be deceiving. Minnesota has an outstanding pair of safeties in Dwight Smith and Darren Sharper, and an excellent corner in Antoine Winfield.
Here's where the Vikings suffer – they have youth at the other two corner spots. Cedric Griffin is in his second year, and nickel back Marcus McCauley is a rookie. Combine those two players with Minnesota's linebackers (who aren't especially adept in coverage), and you can see why teams like to spread the Vikings out. Griffin in particular is a trouble spot, as his lazy technique often gets him in trouble. If the Chiefs come out passing in this game, they'd be wise to pick on him.
From a pass rush standpoint, the Vikings have changed up their look this year. With former defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin (a proponent of the Cover 2) leaving to become head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Minnesota now runs a more blitz-happy scheme, similar to the hybrid defense the Chiefs run. Faced with a Kansas City offense that presents little in the way of downfield threats, you can bet new coordinator Leslie Frazier (a member of the '85 Bears) will send linebackers and safeties screaming after Damon Huard. Also, watch out for rookie defensive end Brian Robison, who has two sacks already. He plays exclusively in passing situations.
WHEN THE VIKINGS PASS
With veteran Kelly Holcomb likely receiving the starting nod over the injured Tarvaris Jackson (groin), the Chiefs have a blessing/curse situation on their hands. Holcomb is a player who's much more adept at reading defenses, making the right decision and throwing accurately, but Kansas City's pass rush will have no trouble tracking him down. Jackson would have presented more of a running threat, which has given KC's defense problems in the past, but his decisions (five interceptions in two weeks) leave much to be desired.
Here's the constant – Minnesota's huge offensive line, which no one will confuse with the 2003 Kansas City Chiefs' offensive line. Turk McBride wasn't kidding when he said these guys were soft. Right tackle Ryan Cook hasn't played well, and will have his hands full with Tamba Hali. Left tackle Bryant McKinnie is a good player, but Jared Allen is perfectly capable of having his way with him should the situation be right (i.e. third and long). The unit as a whole has had a problem with penalties, too, and don't be surprised to see a few false starts credited to the Arrowhead crowd on Sunday.
Minnesota's receiving corps has talent, but is widely inexperienced. The Vikings didn't throw deep, or even intermediate, much at all with Jackson under center, and it's doubtful they will with Holcomb. The last time Kansas City faced the veteran in Buffalo, he was running a largely conservative offense and took few chances downfield. Rookie Sidney Rice is a threat, however. He runs in a manner that's eerily similar to the long, loping gait Randy Moss used to gallop with. Rookie running back Adrian Peterson is catching the ball well (60-yard touchdown reception in Week 1) despite only 24 receptions at Oklahoma.
WHEN THE CHIEFS RUN
The Chiefs aren't running the football well at the moment, and likely won't have much success against the league's best run defense. Pat and Kevin Williams, Minnesota's dynamic defensive tackle duo, shut down every inside run an offense throws at them. It's scary watching teams try to run up the middle on this Vikings defense – you simply can't do it with any sort of consistent success.
Kansas City must attempt to establish a perimeter running game, complete with sweeps and off-tackle running plays. The Atlanta Falcons did an effective job of this against the Vikings in Week 1, at least for a half, piling up 64 yards rushing from running backs Warrick Dunn and Jerious Norwood.
It's going to be interesting to see how Mike Solari and company attack this run defense. They can't possibly attempt to do it straight up. Even third-and-one is a risky proposition against this "immovable object."
WHEN THE VIKINGS RUN
Adrian Peterson is every bit as good as advertised, but he's alone right now. Chester Taylor injured his hip in Week 1 and is a question mark for Sunday's game (he was limited in practice on Thursday). Regardless, the Vikings should be able to run the ball on the Chiefs, especially after the Bears did a more than passable job of it a week ago.
Minnesota's offensive line is mammoth on the left side with McKinnie, left guard Steve Hutchinson and center Matt Birk. They don't, however, run as well to the right, and the Chiefs can probably use this to their advantage. Fullback Tony Richardson is also an injury question mark for this game after missing Week 2 action.
The Vikings have the edge at kicker with veteran Ryan Longwell. Dustin Colquitt is outstanding for the Chiefs, but don't knock Minnesota's Chris Kluwe, who's almost as good and has already dropped six of nine punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line this year. Rookie Aundrae Ellison and Troy Williamson have both busted long returns for the Vikings.
Vikings head coach Brad Childress displays far more imagination in his offensive playcalling than the Chiefs have thus far. Big edge to the Chiefs for playing at home, however, where they dominate NFC opponents historically. The Vikings, who led the league in penalties a year ago, are off to a similar start this season, with 16 penalties in two games.
Is it tough beating the Chiefs inside Arrowhead Stadium? Absolutely, but it might be even tougher for Larry Johnson to find running room against the Vikings. Kansas City's defense is improved, but Minnesota clearly has the superior unit in this matchup. They also have the superior offensive line. That might be too much for even Jared Allen and the power of Arrowhead Stadium to overcome.
Vikings 13, Chiefs 6
Film Review: Chiefs vs Vikings
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