Quarterback Gus Frerotte led the Vikings to victory last Sunday over Carolina but that doesn't mean all is well with Minnesota's offense. The Vikings have scored only three offensive touchdowns in three games.
The Titans, meanwhile, are surrendering an NFL-low 9.7 points per game. Tennessee's overall defense and pass defense are both third in the league, while the Titans are 10th against the run.
There is little doubt the Vikings will try to establish their run game early with Adrian Peterson leading the way. Peterson was slowed by a hamstring injury last Sunday against the Colts, enabling veteran Chester Taylor to get 11 carries.
Frerotte is going to need to hit a few downfield passes in order to loosen up things for Peterson and Taylor.
The Vikings defense is coming off a strong performance against Carolina in which it accounted for a touchdown. Veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield sacked Jake Delhomme late in the second quarter on a blitz and then scored on a 19-yard return.
One key to the victory was the fact the Vikings front four of Ray Edwards, Kevin and Pat Williams and Jared Allen got consistent pressure without much blitzing help. The Vikings finished with a season-high five sacks and seven quarterback hurries.
That type of pressure on veteran quarterback Kerry Collins could help keep things close against a Titans team that is ranked 22nd in passing offense. Tennessee is seventh in the league in rushing, averaging 156 yards per game, but the Vikings run defense is among the NFL's best.
Odds are this thing is going to end up as a low-scoring game.
The Titans and Vikings only see each other every few years, thanks to scheduling, but the two clubs are largely mirror images of each other.
Both are geared around the running game offensively with explosive running backs in Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson who can stress a defense and easily hit a crease for a big gain. Gap control will be extremely important to both defenses, which are geared to stop the run and rush the passer.
Speaking of passers, both teams have shelved their struggling young quarterbacks for the foreseeable future and turned to graybeards like Kerry Collins and Gus Frerotte in an effort to minimize mistakes.
Whoever can get their running back freed up for big gains, and whichever quarterback makes the fewest mistakes or burns an opponent in a loaded-box situation will likely come out on top.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Vikings LT Artis Hicks vs. Titans RE Kyle Vanden Bosch — Hicks has played well in starting the first three games in place of the suspended Bryant McKinnie. He has faced Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila of the Packers, Dwight Freeney of the Colts and Julius Peppers of the Panthers. All are considered, or have been considered, top-notch pass rushers. But Hicks' biggest test might come Sunday when he faces Vanden Bosch. Vanden Bosch had 121/2 sacks in 2005, 12 last season and has 21/2 in three games this year. This will be Hicks' final start in place of McKinnie, who will be eligible to return for the Vikings' game against New Orleans in Week 5.
Vikings C Matt Birk and LG Steve Hutchinson vs. Titans DT Albert Haynesworth - Birk and Hutchinson, both Pro Bowl players, figure to get an interesting test against the talented Haynesworth. He had six sacks last season and already has three this year. Birk and Hutchinson are both going to have to have good games if the Vikings are to protect Gus Frerotte on a consistent basis and also establish the run game.
Vikings NT Pat Williams vs. Titans C Kevin Mawae — Williams has been a key reason the Vikings have been so effective against the run the past three seasons. His next test will come against Mawae, 15-year NFL veteran.
Titans LT Michael Roos vs. Vikings DE Jared Allen – Roos held Houston's Mario Williams without a sack last week and will be challenged to do so again this week against Allen. Roos said that playing against Allen last year, when Allen was a Kansas City Chief, can help him as he plans to hold him off on Sunday. The Titans' O-line was exceptional in protecting Kerry Collins, who was not sacked and hit only once against the Texans.
Vikings RB Adrian Peterson vs. Titans front seven – Peterson will provide the biggest challenge yet for a Titans defense that strives each week to shut down the run. It will take a better effort than last week's first half, in which Houston's Steve Slaton rushed for 104 yards. Tennessee tightened in the second half, allowing Slaton just 12 yards. The switch to Stephen Tulloch at MLB should add more speed to aid in pursuing Peterson, but gap control is essential.
Running back Adrian Peterson played through a sore hamstring against Carolina and isn't believed to have suffered any setbacks. He had 17 carries versus the Panthers after having 48 in the first two games. It wouldn't be surprising if he again shares some of the workload with veteran Chester Taylor.
Wide receiver Sidney Rice wants to return after suffering a sprained posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in Week 2 and was able to take part in practice on a limited basis Wednesday and Thursday.
Safety Madieu Williams has been out since early in training camp because of a neck injury. He was practicing on a limited basis this week, but he isn't expected to play. Safety Tyrell Johnson is expected to continue to start in place of Williams on Sunday.
For the Titants, WR Justin Gage was back from a groin injury after missing last week's game against Houston. Gage, still leading the wide receivers with seven catches despite missing a game, made several athletic plays on the practice field, leading to speculation that the injury is completely behind him. WR Justin McCareins missed Wednesday's practice with a groin injury, but he should be healthy enough to play.
CB Nick Harper missed Wednesday with an ankle injury, but was running on the side, and should be a go Sunday.
Vikings-Titans game plan
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