In what is the NFL's marque Week 13 matchup, the Vikings travel to Foxboro, Massachusetts for a matchup against the New England Patriots. Here are five storylines to watch this week during the buildup to Vikings at Patriots.
1. Many try, few succeed in beating Brady at Gillette in December
Winning is hard. Beating Tom Brady in his home stadium in December is really hard. In fact, it's only been done four times in 36 attempts. That's right. Brady is 32-4 at home in the month of December, including 5-0 the past two seasons. The last time Brady lost a home game in December? It was Week 13 of the 2015 season to the Philadelphia Eagles (December 6). The Vikings have been told they can't do a lot of things during head coach Mike Zimmer's tenure, from winning at Soldier Field to winning prime time games, etc. Looks like this is another one to add to the list.
2. Two prolific passing attacks with contrasting methods
The Vikings and Patriots each have had no problem moving the ball through the air. Minnesota boasts the No. 7 passing offense (282.3 yards per game) and New England comes in at No. 11 (270.0). They use different methods to achieve their production, though. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are among the NFL's most targeted receivers. Thielen ranks No. 2 in targets with 124 and Diggs ranks tied for No. 5 with 114. Incredibly, quarterback Kirk Cousins has connected with his star tandem on 172 of those targets (72.2%) for 1,928 yards and 14 touchdowns. Thielen needs seven receptions and two touchdowns and Diggs needs 21 receptions and four touchdowns for the wide receiver duo to become the first to each reach the 100-catch and 10-touchdown threshold in the same season. Meanwhile, New England's attack is more spread out. The Patriots most targeted pass catcher is actually a running back – James White. He has 94 targets while the next most-targeted receiver, Julian Edelman, has 61. Both approaches have worked and both approaches will be employed on Sunday, which means each team's defense will have a different type of challenge in the passing game.
3. Flash back!
Cordarrelle Patterson rolled with the nickname "Flash" while in Minnesota. Now, Patterson is rolling with the Patriots and the Vikings will have to contend with the play maker in several areas. On top of still being a dangerous kickoff returner, Patterson is also involved in the Patriots offensive attack as a gadget player, wide receiver and even as a featured running back on occasion.
4. Vikings offensive line, coming off stellar outing, looks to build momentum
The Vikings offensive line has been much maligned this season. Often times the criticism has been a little more than has been warranted, especially considering the group is blocking for an offense that scores 24.1 points per game. But there was no criticism of the group coming off last week's performance in which quarterback Kirk Cousins enjoyed plenty of clean pockets and shredded the Green Bay secondary for 342 yards and three touchdowns. This week, the Minnesota Moving Company hits the road to play in a tough environment against a defense orchestrated by one of the most respected coaching minds in football. It all spells a great opportunity for the Vikings offensive front to continue building momentum as the final stretch of the season approaches.
5. Vikings *prime time run continues
Sunday's game, which kicks off at 3:25 p.m. CT, is technically not in a prime time broadcast window. But it is battle of two teams who were in the final four of last season's playoffs and look to be heading back to the postseason in 2018, it is FOX's game of the week, it has drawn the network's No. 1 broadcast crew of Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and Erin Andrews and it will finish in the dark and under the lights of Gillette Stadium. Suffice it to say, it has that prime time feel. The Vikings are getting accustomed to the spotlight. They are coming off two consecutive games on Sunday Night Football and they have a Monday Night Football date set for next week in Seattle.