Behind Enemy Lines: Part I

The Vikings and Jaguars are both experiencing a season that isn't quite living up to expectations, but both are still hoping to squeak out a playoff spot. A win this weekend would help those possibilities. team experts Charlie Bernstein of and Tim Yotter of exchange questions and answers on their respective teams.

Charlie Bernstein: Adrian Peterson is a fantastic running back, but if a team can slow him down, can Gus Frerotte lead the Vikings to victory through the air?

Tim Yotter:
With Frerotte as the starter and the Bernard Berrian acquisition in the offseason, the Vikings offense has slowly transformed into one that attempts to pound defenses with the running game and then hit a few big plays in the passing game. That worked well for about five weeks in a row with Berrian, but then the Vikings ran into two different kind of defenses that slowed down that approach somewhat. The Packers, with physical cornerbacks Al Harris and Charles Woodson, shut down Berrian, but Peterson put up 196 yards in a win. The Bucs were able to limit both by swarming Peterson and Frerotte and keeping two safeties over the top to make sure Berrian didn't get loose long. With the aid of a couple of fourth-quarter turnovers by the Vikings, the Bucs were able to keep the ball out of Peterson's hands in that final period and Frerotte couldn't get comfortable in the pocket to lead them on a fourth-quarter drive (he didn't even pick up a first down).

CB: The Jaguars have had trouble covering deep passes this season, as the combo of Drayton Florence and Brian Williams have been picked on quite often. Assuming the Jaguars put Rashean Mathis on Bernard Berrian, can any of the other Vikings wide receivers be a deep threat?

Aundrae Allison has the speed to get deep, but I'm not sure if he's polished enough yet to lure cornerbacks up with other sharp route-running skills. Next to Berrian, the most consistent threat to get an explosive play in the passing game has actually been tight end Visanthe Shiancoe working the seams in the middle of the field. If the Jaguars lack a solid cover linebacker or safety, that would probably be the most likely area the Vikings would find an explosive play in the passing game if Mathis can limit Berrian.

CB: Have the Vikings' special teams coverage units improved in recent weeks?

Not much. Their kickoff coverage team has been fairly solid, but their punt coverage team has been awful. They've given up four punt returns for touchdowns – two to Reggie Bush in one game (and he nearly broke another) and two to Will Blackmon in two meetings with the Packers. The preseason loss of linebacker/special teams captain Heath Farwell has proven to be a huge loss for the coverage units. They don't seem to be able to find anyone aggressive enough to lay out the hit while covering punts. It's led to historically bad coverages on punts and a huge disparity between Chris Kluwe's gross average (47.5 yards) and net average (34.1). The Vikings have also been uninspiring return kicks, where they may replace Maurice Hicks, and punts, where they lost Charles Gordon for the season two weeks ago to a broken ankle.

CB: The Jaguars have been susceptible to big receiving performances from tight ends this year. Can Visanthe Shiancoe make an impact?

Absolutely. As mentioned above, he has been the Vikings' second-most consistent receiver when it comes to getting deeper passes. That's quite a turnaround from his performance last year, his first with the Vikings, when he was routinely dropping passes and fumbling the ball after catches. But Shiancoe has stuck with it despite a couple of early-season drops and fumbles and really turned it around. He is a hard worker who often stays after practice to work on his receiving skills. He's probably still under the microscope of Vikings fans, but the last eight games have been a big improvement for him.

CB: Is there any word on the possible suspensions from the dietary supplements that Pat Williams and Kevin Williams reportedly test positive for?

They are supposed to meet with the NFL this week, along with several other players around the league who were named in various reports as violating the NFL's policy on steroids and related substances. While they have never said exactly what they reportedly tested positive for, it is believed to be Bumetanide, a diuretic that can also be used as a masking agent for steroids. Looking at the Williamses, it seem apparent it was used for weight-control purposes, and Pat Williams seems embarrassed by the situation, as he is a standup guy who wants to be viewed positively in the community, especially with kids. It seems likely that they could have been taking a supplement known as StarCaps, which marketed itself as all-natural but has reportedly been found to contain Bumetanide. The maker of StarCaps has since suspended sales and been sued by two other players who are seeking retribution from the makers of the pill for lost wages because of suspensions or potential suspensions. It's really quite a mess for the NFL, but my guess is that since they aren't meeting until this week that the Williamses will be playing against Jacksonville. After that, all bets are off.

CB: Can the Vikings make the playoffs if they don't win the NFC North?

The odds certainly aren't in their favor. In addition to the division leaders in the NFC, there are five other teams with winning records, while the Vikings join a cluster of four teams that are 5-5. That's a total of nine teams fighting for two wild card spots (although one of those 5-5 teams will win the NFC North, so we can bring that number down to eight teams). With six games left, the Vikings' best hope is to win the division by beating out the Bears and Packers, who also have 5-5 records right now. Everything else with the wild cards depends on too many other scenarios, and the Vikings only have a 4-3 conference record.

Charlie Bernstein is the editor-in-chief for and Tim Yotter is the editor and publisher of

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