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Intriguing 1-on-1 Matchups for Vikings in 2018

Posted Apr 19, 2018

Every season, a team’s lineup of games offers particularly intriguing matchups between players from opposing squads.

Now that the 2018 schedule has been set in stone, let’s take a look at nine of the top 1-on-1 showdowns that fans can expect to see between Vikings players and their opponents.

Week 1 vs. 49ers: DE Everson Griffen vs. QB Jimmy Garappolo

Everson Griffen is entering his ninth season in Purple and coming off three consecutive Pro Bowl campaigns.

Griffen racked up 13 sacks in 2017, a career high, including an eight-game streak with at least one sack per outing. In 15 starts last season, he led the team with 16 tackles for loss and totaled 47 tackles (coaches’ tally), three forced fumbles and a pass defensed.

The defensive end has played against the 49ers twice in his career, the most recent being a Vikings loss in 2015 during which Griffen was credited with four tackles and one-half sack. The season opener will mark his first time facing QB Jimmy Garappolo, who served as Tom Brady’s backup in New England from 2014-16 before joining the 49ers in 2017.

Garappolo played six games and started the final five, leading San Francisco to five consecutive wins. He was 120-of-178 passing for 1,560 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions with a quarterback rating of 96.2. Garappolo was sacked eight times in six games.

Week 4 at Rams: Vikings O-Line vs. Rams D-Line

It’s tough to pick two individual players for the Vikings West Coast outing against the Rams.

All eyes will be on second-year Vikings center Pat Elflein when he goes against defensive tackle Aaron Donald, a four-time Pro Bowler. But the larger-picture matchup of the Rams defensive line against the Vikings offensive line likely will draw plenty of attention, as well.

The Vikings revamped their offensive line in 2017, improving from 32nd overall in rushing yards in 2016 to seventh. Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers, both of whom signed with Minnesota in free agency last season, played significant roles in the overhaul of the line. The Vikings must replace retired Joe Berger on the interior of the line. There has been some speculation that the Vikings could add to the offensive line through the NFL Draft, as well.

Alongside Donald, the Rams in free agency added veteran defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. The 31-year-old is a five-time Pro Bowler (2010, 2012-14, 2016) and three-time All-Pro (2010, 2013-14). The Vikings are well-acquainted with Suh, who spent the first five seasons of his career in Detroit. He played 2015-17 in Miami, and in 2017 totaled 48 tackles (29 solo), 4.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and two passes defensed.  

Week 5 at Eagles: CB Xavier Rhodes vs. WR Alshon Jeffery

Alshon Jeffery and Xavier Rhodes have seen a lot of each other in their careers.

Jeffery, entering his seventh NFL season (and second with the Eagles after five seasons in Chicago), has scored more against the Vikings than against any other team. In nine regular-season games against Minnesota, Jeffery has seven touchdowns. Rhodes wasn’t matched up with Jeffery throughout the NFC Championship when the receiver caught five passes for 85 yards and two touchdowns. Jeffery also scored a touchdown to help the Eagles win Super Bowl LII, during which he totaled 73 yards on just three catches.

Jeffery finished the 2017 regular season with 57 receptions for 789 yards and nine touchdowns.

For Minnesota, Rhodes recorded 63 total tackles (coaches’ tally), two interceptions, two passes defensed and a tackle for loss.

In his past three regular-season outings against Minnesota, dating back to December of 2015, Jeffery has totaled 83 receiving yards and two touchdowns. In two of those three games, he was limited to just 10 yards through the air.

Week 6 vs. Cardinals: CB Patrick Peterson vs. WRs Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen

The last time the Cardinals came to Minnesota, cornerback Patrick Peterson could set his sights primarily on Stefon Diggs.

This time around, Peterson could have his hands full against a talented receiving duo in Diggs and Adam Thielen, who led the Vikings in 2017 with 1,276 yards and four touchdowns en route to his first career Pro Bowl nod. Diggs had fewer yards (849) but found the end zone eight times.

Peterson has yet to miss the Pro Bowl since entering the league as the No. 5 overall pick in 2011. The cornerback, who will turn 28 in July, has also never missed a game. In 2017, he totaled 34 tackles, one interception, one fumble recovery and eight passes defensed.

Week 8 vs. Saints: LB Eric Kendricks vs. RB Alvin Kamara

After the Vikings pulled off the Minneapolis Miracle to defeat the Saints with a walk-off touchdown in the Divisional round playoff game, the Week 8 matchup against New Orleans should be an electric one.

The Vikings opened and closed their 2017 season at home with wins against the Saints. Minnesota’s defense held rookie Alvin Kamara to seven carries for 18 yards in his pro debut, but the running back gained momentum as the season went on. Kamara rushed for 43 yards on 11 attempts in the playoff game at U.S. Bank Stadium; he also added four catches for 62 yards and caught a touchdown against linebacker Eric Kendricks.

Kendricks will get another chance at defending Kamara in 2018, when the Saints return to U.S. Bank Stadium for their third time in two seasons. Kendricks led the Vikings with 136 tackles (coaches’ tally) in 2017 and also recorded one interception, 1.0 sack, 10 tackles for loss and nine passes defensed.

Week 12 vs. Packers: S Harrison Smith vs. QB Aaron Rodgers

After leaving the first game against Minnesota early with an injury in 2017, Aaron Rodgers was sidelined for the remainder of the season, with the exception of Week 14 against the Panthers.

The quarterback will return to the field in 2018 and is slated to face the Vikings for the 20th and 21st times in his career. The Packers will host the Vikings in Week 2 before meeting at U.S. Bank Stadium on Nov. 25 for Sunday Night Football.

Rodgers’ last full game against the Vikings was on Christmas Eve 2016, when Green Bay defeated Minnesota 38-25. In that game, Rodgers was 28-of-38 passing for 347 yards and four touchdowns with a passer rating of 136.6. Smith recorded four tackles during the matchup.

The Week 12 matchup will mark the 11th time Smith and Rodgers have faced each other since the Vikings drafted Smith in 2012.

Week 13 at Patriots: Mike Zimmer vs. Bill Belichick

On Dec. 2, a couple of football guys will go head-to-head.

The Vikings haven’t defeated the Patriots since 2000, and they’ve faced the New England team only once under Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer. The two teams squared off in Zimmer’s second game at the helm on Sept. 14, 2014, and Tom Brady led the Patriots to a 34-6 victory.

Belichick is entering his 24th season as a head coach and 19th in New England. He has an overall record of 250-118, including four wins and three losses against the Vikings. All four wins were with the Patriots.

Zimmer has gone against Belichick as a defensive coordinator or head coach four times over his career since the Patriots head coach started on the East Coast in 2000.

Week 14 at Seahawks: RB Dalvin Cook vs. LB Bobby Wagner

The return of Dalvin Cook has been long awaited.

The rookie got off to a hot start in 2017, rushing for 354 yards and two touchdowns on 74 attempts before suffering a torn ACL in Week 4.

Cook is expected to be healthy for the start of the 2018 season, and it will be interesting to watch his comeback and see where his numbers are by the time Week 14 rolls around. If the running back plays during the preseason, he could see some action against the Seahawks at U.S. Bank Stadium on Friday, Aug. 24.

The Seahawks and Vikings will meet again on Dec. 10, this time at CenturyLink Field, and Cook will likely face off against Bobby Wagner, one of the top middle linebackers in the league. Wagner has started 32 consecutive regular-season games and has gone to the Pro Bowl after the past four seasons; in 2017, he 133 tackles (97 solo), 1.5 sacks, two interceptions, six passes defensed and returned a fumble recovery for a touchdown.

Week 16 at Lions: QB Kirk Cousins vs. CB Darius Slay

Enter Kirk Cousins to the Black-and-Blue Division.

The Vikings signed Cousins shortly after the opening of free agency. The quarterback, who will turn 30 on Aug. 19, will suit up for his first season in the NFC North and have his second outing against the Lions in Week 16 when the Vikings travel to Detroit.

Cousins will need to be wary of cornerback Darius Slay, who had a career season in 2017. Slay racked up an impressive eight interceptions (none against Minnesota) in addition to recording 60 tackles (54 solo), 26 passes defensed and a fumble recovery.