There is more to stopping the Chiefs than simply limiting Priest Holmes, just as there is more to stopping the Vikings than working over Randy Moss. Get all the intriguing matchups for Saturday's game.
VIKINGS GAME PLAN
Defensive coordinator George O'Leary said the Chiefs' No. 1-ranked scoring offense presents "a challenge."
The quarterback (Trent Green
) just pitched a perfect game (158.3 QB rating) in the 45-17 victory over Detroit. And the running back (Priest Holmes
) has 22 touchdowns, more than any team in the league.
The Vikings hope to neutralize the Kansas City offense with run defense and a ball-control offense. The Vikings' run defense has climbed the past two weeks and is 19th (122.1).
The Chiefs' weakness is their defense. They rank 29th (145.5). The Vikings are fifth in rushing (140.7).
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Vikings front seven against RB Priest Holmes and his offensive line. The Chiefs lead the league with an average of 6.6 yards on first down. Holmes, who has 1,315 yards rushing, is mostly responsible for that. The Vikings need to control the middle of the line with DTs Chris Hovan
and rookie Kevin Williams
. MLB Greg Biekert
is too slow to shed blocks and make stops outside the tackles. Safeties Corey Chavous
and Brian Russell
will have to help out in run support, but the more the front seven can do, the less likely the Chiefs will be able to use play-action passes. The Chiefs' offensive line has been intact for 30 consecutive games, the longest streak in the NFL.
Vikings secondary against QB Trent Green. Green was perfect against the Detroit. Literally. He completed 20 of 25 passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns in the 45-17 victory. He and Peyton Manning are the only quarterbacks to post a perfect 158.3 passer rating this season. The Vikings counter with an NFL-high 25 interceptions, 22 by their secondary. They have 15 INTs at home, including four for touchdowns.
Vikings WR Randy Moss against Chiefs CBs Eric Warfield and Dexter McCleon. Moss is angry and on national television. That's always a good combination for the Vikings. Moss was embarrassed by Bears rookie CB Charles Tillman in last week's 13-10 loss at Chicago. Tillman ripped the ball out of Moss' hands for an interception on a jump ball in the end zone with 1:02 left in the game. Afterward, Tillman suggested Moss took a play off, a reference to Moss' well-documented declaration that he plays when he wants to play. Look for McCleon, a seven-year veteran with six interceptions, to spend a lot of time on Moss. McCleon is only 5-10. Moss is 6-4. Tillman is 6-1.
Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper against the Chiefs' defense. Culpepper has nine interceptions and has lost six of 13 fumbles. The Chiefs lead the league with a plus-21 turnover margin. The next best total is plus-10 by Indianapolis and New England. The Vikings are plus-9. Kansas City is second to the Vikings with 22 interceptions.
P Leo Araguz against Chiefs PR Dante Hall. Araguz was signed Tuesday to replace rookie Eddie Johnson. Hall leads the NFL in punt returns with a 17.6-yard average. He also is sixth in kickoff returns (26.3). Hall tied an NFL record with four returns for touchdowns (two punts, two kickoffs). Araguz hasn't punted in a regular-season game since 2001 when he spent three games with the Lions. He doesn't have a big leg, but the Vikings expect him to punt consistently between 38 and 42 yards with good hang time.
Vikings running game against Chiefs run defense. On paper, the Vikings think they have a chance to hold the ball for about 37 to 38 minutes. They rank fifth in rushing, while Kansas City's weakness is its 29th-ranked run defense. RB Michael Bennett didn't play last week because of a sprained ankle, but is expected to play Sunday. He said he's about 80 percent. RB Moe Williams' strained left knee is better and he should be a factor on third downs. Rookie RB Onterrio Smith didn't finish the Chicago game because of a hamstring problem. But that had more to do with fatigue than injury. The Vikings were impressed he carried the ball 27 times without fumbling.
Vikings outside linebackers and safeties on TE Tony Gonzalez. The Vikings have trouble with athletic tight ends. Well, Gonzalez might be the best. Gonzalez has 60 catches for a team-high 797 yards (13.3) with 10 touchdowns. He has a league-high seven in the red zone. OLB Chris Claiborne (Achilles' heel) is too hobbled to run with Gonzales, if Claiborne even plays. OLB Nick Rogers, a former rush end, is too raw in pass coverage. Safeties Corey Chavous and Brian Russell probably will have to help out against the much bigger Gonzales.
INJURY IMPACT: LB Chris Claiborne, who was inactive against the Bears because of an inflamed Achilles' heel and a sprained ankle, is of little use if he can't run. He needs surgery after the season. If he's hobbled, the Vikings will be better off with Henri Crockett at weak-side linebacker.
RB Michael Bennett, who was inactive against the Bears because of a sprained right ankle, is about 80 percent, he said. Bennett at 80 percent probably is 10 to 20 percent faster than any other back the Vikings have.
RB Onterrio Smith, who strained his left hamstring and missed the final four minutes of the Bears game, was more fatigued than injured against the Bears. With Michael Bennett still not recovered from an ankle sprain, Smith should share the workload Saturday.
RT Mike Rosenthal, who is still feeling the effects of a concussion from last Sunday, would be replaced by veteran backup Everett Lindsay. Lindsay had two false starts last week. Of course, Rosenthal had three false starts three weeks ago at St. Louis.
CHIEFS GAME PLAN
The Chiefs have to show the same kind of run-pass efficiency they had against Detroit last week to win what likely will be a high-scoring game in Minnesota. The Vikes defense is more vulnerable to the pass than the run, but the Chiefs have to establish Priest Holmes to set up Green's play-action passing game.
Defensively, the Chiefs have to pressure Daunte Culpepper without leaving themselves vulnerable to his big runs and bootleg plays, which killed the Chiefs in the kicking they took in Denver. Controlling Randy Moss is always a challenge, as he's put up some nice numbers against the Chiefs secondary in the 1999 meeting and again in several preseason contests.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Vikings WR Randy Moss vs. Chiefs CB Eric Warfield. Warfield got a confidence boost with a solid showing against Moss in a two-day training camp workout in Wisconsin this summer. But when the lights of national TV come on, Moss comes out and should give Warfield more than he can handle in live fire. Warfield will get safety help over the top, but it may not be enough.
Vikings offensive line vs. Chiefs rush unit — The Chiefs pass rush was most effective in a meaningless preseason game this past August. If they can do it again when it really counts, they'll take a major step toward winning.
Chiefs C Casey Wiegmann vs. Vikes NT Chris Hovan. These guys exchanged words in training camp, and they just flat don't like each other. Wiegmann and Pro Bowl G Will Shields should be up to the task of keeping Hovan off Trent Green.
INJURY IMPACT: Starting LB Mike Maslowski (questionable, knee) will likely miss a fifth straight game, and his absence is a factor in the Chiefs' woeful run defense. Starting SS Greg Wesley (questionable, thigh contusion) did not practice Wednesday, but likely will play. LB Monty Beisel, a key special teams contributor, will miss a third straight game with a groin injury. WR Marc Boerigter, a key reserve and strong gunner on punt coverage, is very doubtful with a sprained ankle. Backup DT Eric Downing is very questionable with a groin injury.