The Vikings are in Buffalo to play the Bills in each team’s second preseason game of 2013. Last week, the Bills defeated the Indianapolis Colts in impressive fashion, thrashing their AFC rival 44-20 behind impressive showings from their young quarterbacks and a 107-yard kickoff return touchdown from rookie Marquis Goodwin. The Vikings come off a preseason-opening loss at home to Houston in which the starters saw brief action.
So what can we expect from both teams in Friday night’s contest? Let’s take a look…
1. More Playing Time For Vikings Starters
Christian Ponder and most of the Vikings first team offense saw the field for just two plays against Houston last week. Ponder hit wide receiver Jerome Simpson for 15 yards on the first play and then his second offering was tipped by Simpson and intercepted, ending the series and the night for Ponder. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier indicated earlier this week that the starters will see more time against Buffalo, so expect anywhere from two-to-four series from Ponder and Co., depending on what happens in each of those series.
2. Will Adrian Play?
A big question at training camp this week was: Will Adrian Peterson play? And that question is not just valid in this game, it’s a valid question for the entire preseason. There are pros and cons to each side. Playing Peterson gives Ponder a full complement of weapons as he prepares to lead the offense this season. It also gives Peterson and the offensive linemen blocking in front of him an opportunity to get their timing and rhythm down. Of course playing Peterson also exposes him to injury, and no one is interested in exposing the MVP to injury more than is necessary. It’s a quandary for Frazier and his staff, and I’m sure they’ll make the right call for Peterson and the team. But don’t be surprised if you see Peterson riding the pine until the games count for real.
3. Fans Finally Get To See Xavier Rhodes
The Vikings had three first-round picks this past April, and most of the conversation has surrounded the first of those three – defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd – and the flashiest of those three – wide receiver/returner Cordarrelle Patterson. But I won’t be surprised if Xavier Rhodes turns out to be the best selection. Rhodes is a physical corner in coverage with great instincts and ball skills, and he’s also displayed a willingness to come up and make a play against the run during practice. It’s one thing to do it in practice and another to do it in a game, but this is Rhodes’ first chance to prove he can do all of those things in a game. I feel Vikings fans are going to love the way this kid plays, and we’ll get to see the way he plays in a game for the first time tonight.
4. Let’s Locke It Up
Early reviews are very good for rookie punter Jeff Locke. He impressed during the offseason program and has had a good training camp, including his work as a holder for Blair Walsh. In the first preseason game, Locke had two punts downed inside the 10 and another inside the 15. He also held for three successful Walsh kicks – two field goals and one extra point. But there were also two not-so-great punts by Locke in the game and he’s had a few like that in training camp, too. To be clear, there’s no reason to be concerned about Locke and his ability to punt for the Vikings this season. There’s no question about his punting accuracy and his ability to pin the opposing team deep. But what would be great to see tonight are a couple of 50-yard punts that are covered up well by the coverage group.
5. Is Stephen Burton For Real?
When you talk about the Vikings wide receivers, the conversation usually centers on Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson or Joe Webb. But last week against Houston it was Stephen Burton who looked the best. Burton has looked good all of training camp, in fact, and against Buffalo he has a chance to take another big step in his development and in his mission to earn the trust of Vikings coaches. Burton was a seventh-round pick by the Vikings back in 2011, so the fact that he’s just one the team at this point is a huge accomplishment. But Burton isn’t satisfied with that. He’s worked hard to earn his spot on the Vikings roster and, entering his third season, is poised to earn a prominent role on the team and help improve this passing game. Another big performance this week against Buffalo will be huge for Burton and for the Vikings.
Next week the Vikings will head to San Francisco to take on the 49ers at Candlestick Park in a game that will be televised nationally as part of NBC’s Sunday Night Football.
The Vikings added 32 new faces to the roster since the conclusion of the 2012 season. Along with nine draft choices, the Vikings also signed free agents Desmond Bishop, Greg Jennings and Matt Cassel in addition to signing six other free agents and 14 undrafted rookie free agents. The Vikings roster currently stands at 90 players but will be cut to 75 by August 27 and 53 by August 31.
Did You Know?
Vikings wide receiver LaMark Brown spent time on the Bills practice squad during the 2012 season.
Vikings In The Preseason
-- The Vikings have a combined record of 139-94-3 (.595) in their 236 preseason games.
-- The team has finished undefeated in the preseason six times (1964, ‘65, ‘73, ‘92, ‘98, ‘01).
-- The Vikings have finished with a .500 record or better 40 times in the team’s 52 preseasons.
-- In the 40 previous preseasons when the Vikings have finished at .500 or better, the team has gone on to finish at .500 or better 31 times in the ensuing regular season.
-- In the 12 preseasons when the Vikings have finished below .500, the team has gone on to finish below .500 six times in the ensuing regular season.
-- Head Coach Leslie Frazier has a 3-6 preseason record and will coach against the Bills in the preseason for the second time this week.