Vikings-Browns game plan

The Brett Favre era begins, but the Vikings are much more than just Favre. On the other side of the ball, the Browns will have to create running lanes against a stingy run defense. We analyze those topics, take a look at some matchups to watch and examine the injuries.


The Vikings are expected to beat a Browns team that is coming off a 4-12 season and has a new coach in Eric Mangini. However, Minnesota coach Brad Childress is going to have to be careful that his offense doesn't get caught up in the hype of Brett Favre playing his first game with the Vikings.

Favre also is going to have to make sure he keeps his emotions in check and remember that this is really running back Adrian Peterson's show and that the future Hall of Fame quarterback is merely along for the ride.

Favre's presence should mean that teams are going to have to respect the pass more than ever when facing the Vikings, but there is little question defenses are going to continue to stack the box against Peterson.

Favre will need to make opponents pay for this and he certainly will have that ability, especially with speedy first-round pick Percy Harvin now working out of the slot. Harvin also lines up as the quarterback in the Vikings' version of the Wildcat. It would not be surprising to see that formation used on Sunday.

Defensively, the Vikings are very sound and the return of middle linebacker E.J. Henderson should provide a major boost. Henderson, lost in the fourth game of last season because of a foot injury, not only is an emotional leader on the defense but also handles many of calls.

Pro Bowl right end Jared Allen is entering his second season with the Vikings and his familiarity should make him that much more effective. If anything, Leslie Frazier's defense should have the ability to give Cleveland some new looks from last season because their experience meant Frazier could install more schemes during training camp.

One advantage the Browns might have is the fact the Vikings don't know exactly how Cleveland will approach this game. Childress has been studying film from Eric Mangini's time with the Jets to try to get an idea.


It was good news for the Vikings but bad news for the Browns when the NFL ruled Minnesota defensive tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams will play Sunday. They will leave little room for the Browns to run.

The run offense was inconsistent in preseason. Jamal Lewis averaged 2.6 yards a try on 24 carries. Rookie James Davis averaged 7.8 yards a carry in preseason, but in all of his 24 carries he did not run into a defense like the one he'll see Sunday.

The Browns might try running a spread offense. Brady Quinn delivers passes quickly and is accurate on his short passes. It is one way to neutralize the Vikings pass rush.


Vikings C John Sullivan vs. Browns NT Shaun RogersSullivan will be making his first start as the Vikings' center and it doesn't figure to be an easy test. Sullivan, a sixth-round pick from Notre Dame in 2008, will be matched up against a Pro Bowl nose tackle, who is expected to play despite missing time in training camp because of injury. Sullivan is taking over for longtime center Matt Birk and while he clearly has the smarts to handle the position he is going to have his hands full physically trying to contain Rogers and open up running lanes for Adrian Peterson.

Vikings WR Percy Harvin vs. Browns CBs Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald - Harvin, a rookie, stands to create fits for opposing defensive coordinators early in the season as they try to learn exactly what the first-round pick is capable of doing. Harvin primarily will work out of the slot but members of the Browns defense, and especially cornerbacks Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald, are going to have to be aware of Harvin at all times or risk getting burned for a huge play. Harvin has the athletic ability to take a short pass and run away from defenders. He also could prove to be extremely dangerous working out of the Vikings' version of the Wildcat.

Browns run defense vs. Vikings RB Adrian Peterson – It won't take long to learn whether the Browns' defense has improved. Eric Mangini rebuilt the defensive front seven to be better against the run. He replaced Andra Davis with Eric Barton, Willie McGinest with David Bowens and benched Corey Williams in favor of Kenyon Coleman. He let Sean Jones go in free agency and acquired Abe Elam via trade with the Jets.

Peterson led the NFL with 1,760 yards rushing in 2008. He rushed for 10 yards or more 42 times last season. Mangini said the key to defending Peterson is for every player to maintain his position in the defensive scheme and not desert his post to help a teammate.

Browns S Abe Elam vs. Vikings QB Brett Favre – Elam showed in preseason he could be vulnerable to the play-fake. Favre is deft with the ball, and since Peterson is in the Vikings' backfield and a threat to run on virtually any play, the play-fake is a strong weapon for the Vikings. Elam is still young. He made eight starts with the Jets in 2007 and nine in 2008.


WR Bernard Berrian has been slowed by a hamstring injury since the first preseason game and even if he does play Sunday he won't be 100 percent. He also is going to need to build chemistry with quarterback Brett Favre. The two did not get an opportunity to play together in an exhibition game. TE Jim Kleinsasser (hand) also missed much of the preseason and continues to be slowed. Kleinsasser is one of the league's top blocking tight ends.

G Rex Hadnot (knee) will not play against the Vikings. LB David Bowens (knee), RB Jerome Harrison (knee), NT Shaun Rogers (foot) and TE Steve Heiden (knee) were limited during the week. RB Cedric Peerman, picked up on waivers from the Ravens on Sunday, did not practice Wednesday because of a knee injury. That, coupled with Harrison's knee, leaves Jamal Lewis and Jerome Harrison as the Browns' only healthy running backs.

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