The Vikings defense figures to match up pretty well against the Jaguars.
Jacksonville is 11th in the NFL in rushing, but only 21st in passing offense. The Vikings, meanwhile, are No. 2 in the NFL in rushing defense, giving up 73.9 yards per game. Minnesota's passing defense is a less-than-spectacular 21st in the league.
Kevin and Pat Williams, the Vikings' Pro Bowl defensive tackles and two of the league's best run-stoppers, could be facing four-game suspensions for violating the NFL's steroids and related substances policy. However, their appeals were heard Thursday and a ruling isn't expected until at least next week, meaning they will Sunday.
If the Jaguars do go to the air, it would not be surprising to see them use the short seam passes that have seemed to work against the Vikings since standout middle linebacker E.J. Henderson was lost for the season because of a toe injury.
Like the Jaguars, the Vikings also are more effective running the ball and figure to have a good shot at success in this area considering the Jaguars' rushing defense is giving up 113.2 yards per game, which ranks 20th in the NFL.
The Vikings will help themselves, however, if they can establish a downfield passing game.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin did an excellent job of containing the Vikings last Sunday - star running back Adrian Peterson was held to 85 yards, and Gus Frerotte's longest pass was only 23 yards - and it's likely the Jaguars will attempt some of the same tactics used by the Bucs.
The Jaguars will have to find a way to throw the ball if they're to have any success against the Vikings, who are ranked second in the league against the rush. But they're also eighth in sacks per pass play so the Jaguars will need some quick passes before the Vikings can get to him with their pass rush. On defense, they've got to stop Adrian Peterson from controlling the game even though their run defense has been shaky this year.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Jaguars LT Khalif Barnes vs. Vikings RE Jared Allen – This is going to be a tough match for Barnes, who played poorly in the second half against Tennessee, so poorly that he said he was embarrassed by his play. Allen may have a big game.
Jaguars LG Uche Nwaneri vs. Vikings RT Kevin Williams – Williams has eight sacks while playing alongside Allen and will likely give Nwaneri, playing for the injured Vince Manuwai, a long day.
Vikings OLB Chad Greenway vs. Jaguars TE Mercedes Lewis – Greenway could find himself busy if the Jaguars decide to try to get the ball Lewis. And that's likely to happen. Lewis is third on the Jaguars with 22 receptions. Considering that Vikings opponents have been going to the tight end often, that trend will probably continue. On Sunday, Bucs tight end Jerramy Stevens caught a team-high six passes for 84 yards. Greenway, along with fellow linebackers Napoleon Harris and Ben Leber will be relied on keep Lewis in check.
Vikings-Jaguars game plan
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