New England Patriots (5-1) at Minnesota Vikings (4-2)
KICKOFF: Monday, 8:30 ET
TV: ESPN, Mike Tirico, Joe Theismann, Tony Kornheiser, Suzy Kolber, Michele Tafoya
The Patriots and Vikings have only faced each other nine times, with New England holding the edge in the all-time series, 5-4. Most of the contests have been close. Only twice in this series has a game been decided by more than eight points, and two of the games have gone into overtime.
The last time the two teams met, the Patriots scored on their first three possessions to take a quick 21-0 lead. Despite giving up 417 yards of total offense to the Vikings, New England hung on to prevail 24-17.
Patriots: offense 15th (6th rush, 22nd pass); defense 10th (6th rush, 20th pass).
Vikings: offense 12th (10th rush, 15th pass); defense 7th (1st rush, 18th pass)
KEYS TO THE GAME
The Patriots enter the game averaging 131.5 rushing yards per game, but they are the only team among the top 11 in the league averaging less than 4.0 yards per carry.
Meanwhile, the Vikings have the top-ranked run defense for the first time since 1994. New England can't run it down the throat of DT Pat Williams & Co., so QB Tom Brady will need to continue to spread the ball around - and he has appeared more comfortable with his revamped receiving corps each week. The Vikings' Tampa-2 defense is designed to prevent big pass plays, so Brady will have to be patient engineering sustained drives.
Minnesota finally started to show some confidence offensively last Sunday in Seattle, with RB Chester Taylor getting in sync behind the mammoth left side of the line led by LT Bryant McKinnie and LG Steve Hutchinson. But the Patriots are also very solid against the run and QB Brad Johnson has to make some plays downfield to open up running lanes for Taylor.
Patriots: Have outscored their opponents 156-64 during their five-game road winning streak. ... Rookie RB Laurence Maroney ranks second in University of Minnesota history with 3,933 rushing yards.
Vikings: Are 23-22 on Monday nights. ... Have a four-game home winning streak on Monday nights.
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