Captivating 1-on-1 Matchups for Vikings in 2019

The Vikings 2019 schedule has been released, and there are plenty of juicy individual matchups to keep an eye on.

Minnesota will play 16 games over 17 weeks, with six games against NFC North opponents Chicago, Detroit and Green Bay.

But take away the usual yearly matchups, and that leaves 10 games against teams Vikings fans don’t usually get to see on an annual basis.

Here are 10 captivating 1-on-1 matchups between the Vikings and non-division foes in 2019.

Week 1 vs. Falcons: QB Kirk Cousins vs. CB Desmond Trufant

Year 2 of the Cousins era begins at home in what will undoubtedly be a fired up Purple crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium.

And Minnesota’s 2019 campaign kicks off against a Falcons defense — and their star cornerback — hungry for success after a down year in 2018.

With Kevin Stefanski now at the helm as the Vikings Offensive Coordinator, plus Gary Kubiak headlining a handful of new offensive coaches, fans will be curious to see what Minnesota’s offense will look like right away.

Trufant is regarded as one of the league’s top cover cornerbacks, but he and an Atlanta defense missing multiple starters didn’t meet expectations this past season. Trufant didn’t snag at least one interception for the first time in six seasons, and the Falcons finished 28th in the league in both yards allowed per game (384.5) and opponent red-zone percentage (70.37).

With Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn now calling the defensive plays in Atlanta, Cousins will need to be sharp early on to help the Vikings start the season off on the right foot.

Week 3 vs. Raiders: CB Xavier Rhodes vs. WR Antonio Brown

Hello, old friend.

The fact that Rhodes and Brown went to the same Miami high school and have remained close over the years would be enough to warrant a storyline.

But add in the fact that Rhodes will likely be counted upon to stop Oakland’s shiny new toy on offense, and the drama is intensified.

These two last met in 2017 when Brown was on the Steelers, as Rhodes put in a solid day’s work by limiting Brown to five catches for 62 yards and no touchdowns on 11 targets.

Rhodes battled injuries in 2018 and didn’t play to his All-Pro standard of 2017, so you can bet he’s out to prove he still belongs in the top tier of cornerbacks around the league.

What better way to do so than against a wide receiver who has six straight seasons with at least 1,200 receiving yards?

Week 5 at Giants: Vikings HC Mike Zimmer vs. Giants HC Pat Shurmur

You can bet these guys will share a laugh or two before kickoff. But once the game begins, the chess match is on.

Zimmer is regarded as one of the league’s best defensive coaches, as his unit has finished in the top 10 in points allowed each of the past four seasons, with three top-10 finishes in yards allowed since 2015.

Shurmur, as Vikings fans surely remember, guided a balanced and creative Vikings offense to the NFC title game in 2017 before taking the Giants job the following offseason.

Will Zimmer have any tricks up his sleeve against the guy who recently spent two seasons in Minnesota? And how will Shurmur use star running back Saquon Barkley against Zimmer’s defense?

Minnesota’s first non-division road game offers plenty of intrigue between the two head coaches.

Week 6 vs. Eagles: RB Dalvin Cook vs. DT Fletcher Cox

It seems the Vikings and Eagles have seen a lot of each other in recent years, whether it was a January 2018 playoff matchup or Minnesota’s 23-21 win in Philadelphia in Week 5 last season.

But one player who hasn’t been involved in the budding rivalry is Cook, who missed the playoff game with an ACL injury and then sat out the 2018 matchup with a hamstring issue.

When healthy, Cook is one of the most dynamic playmakers in Minnesota’s offense. And the Vikings will surely need some big plays on the ground against Cox and a stout Eagles defense.

Philadelphia’s run defense has finished no worse than seventh over the past two seasons, and the mammoth defensive tackle is a key reason why.

An All-Pro selection in 2018, Cox has made four straight Pro Bowls. If Cook can slither past him at times, it could help Minnesota gets its second straight win over the Eagles.

Week 8 vs. Redskins: LB Anthony Barr vs. RB Adrian Peterson

Remember this guy?

You know, the running back who is the Vikings franchise leader in rushing yards (11,747), rushing touchdowns (97), 1,000-yard seasons (seven), 100-yard games (49) and yards per attempt (4.90).

As Peterson continues his climb up the all-time rushing list (he’s currently eighth all-time and second among active players with 13,318 yards), the Vikings will turn to its biggest linebacker to try and take down one of the game’s greatest power runners.

Barr warmed hearts this offseason by taking less money in free agency to return to the Vikings, and he’ll be counted upon to stop a future Hall of Famer.

Week 9 at Chiefs: DE Danielle Hunter vs. QB Patrick Mahomes

A road game against the electric reigning MVP?

Sounds like a job for one of the NFL’s best young pass rushers.

Hunter burst onto the scene in 2018 as he recorded a career-best 14.5 sacks to go along with Second-Team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors. And with 40 sacks in four seasons, he’s well on his way to a stellar career.

But nobody took the league by storm in recent seasons like Mahomes, a first-round pick in 2017 who essentially redshirted a season before becoming a bona fide star in his own right in 2018.

Mahomes threw a whopping 50 touchdown passes (tied for second all-time in a single season), and his 5,097 passing yards rank as eighth-best in a single season. He also had seven games with at least four touchdown passes, including a pair of six-score games.

This midseason road tilt could be Minnesota’s toughest defensive task of the season. Look for the young star defensive end to try and get after the young star quarterback across from him.

View images of who the Vikings will play for home and away games during the 2019 regular season. For information on 2019 Vikings tickets, please visit vikings.com/ticketalerts.

Week 10 at Cowboys: LB Eric Kendricks vs. EB Ezekiel Elliott

Kendricks does a little bit of everything in Zimmer’s defense, whether that’s playing the run in the box of hustling to cover running backs through the air.

It’s no surprise that he has led the Vikings in tackles in each of his first four seasons in the NFL, but he’ll need to be on his ‘A game’ against one of the league’s most versatile running backs.

Through his first three seasons in the league, Elliott has averaged 100-plus yards per game on the ground. He has added 28 rushing touchdowns in 40 games.

But Elliott is also a threat in the passing game, as he is good for almost nine yards per reception and a pair of receiving touchdowns each season.

This could be one of the most athletic matchups of the year.

Week 11 vs. Broncos: WR Adam Thielen vs. CB Chris Harris, Jr.

You know Thielen loves a challenge, and they don’t get much bigger than this.

The Vikings wide receiver has stamped himself as one of the best players at his position in the game, as evident by his 273 receptions for 3,616 yards and 18 touchdowns over the past three seasons while working on the outside and in the slot.

Harris is an established veteran who has made four Pro Bowls and garnered an All-Pro nod in the past five seasons. He also has four career pick-sixes, meaning a wrong throw his way could be points for the Broncos.

There was a time when Thielen would have only played special teams for the Vikings. But now, he’ll relish the chance to compete against one of the game’s top cornerbacks.

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Week 13 at Seahawks: WR Stefon Diggs vs. CB Shaquill Griffin

If there is one player you know will enjoy the spotlight of Monday Night Football on the road, it’s Diggs.

The former fifth-round pick has three career touchdown catches on Monday nights, but didn’t have one last year when Minnesota lost in Seattle.

That Week 14 matchup was one of the worst performances of the season for the Vikings offense, so you can bet Diggs and his teammates will be juiced up for this one.

He’ll be matched up against Griffin, one of the top rising cornerbacks in the league and a key part of a strong Seattle defense.

Griffin has three interceptions in two seasons in Seattle after being a third-round pick in 2017.

Week 15 at Chargers: S Harrison Smith vs. QB Philip Rivers

Veteran, crafty, passionate … use whatever word you want to describe Smith, and you might as well be talking about Rivers, too.

Never one to be quiet on the field, Rivers has aged like fine wine in Southern California. He’s thrown for at least 4,000 yards in 10 of the past 11 seasons, and has hit the 30-touchdown mark six times in his 13 seasons as a starter.

Rivers will turn 38 years old exactly a week before this game on Sunday Night Football, so the entire nation can tune in to watch the battle against one of the league’s premier safeties.

Smith is the jack-of-all-trades for Zimmer’s defense, and often knows the play call before it happens.

A pair of players who could each be headed to the Hall of Fame will be a fun, late-season matchup by the California coast.

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