It's here. The regular season is upon us and the Vikings will kick it off by traveling to Nashville, Tenn. this weekend for a tilt against the Titans. The game is scheduled for a noon CT kickoff and will be televised by FOX, with Dick Stockton and Chris Spielman (brother of Vikings GM Rick Spielman) calling the action. The game will also be broadcast across the Vikings Radio Network.
Adrian Peterson begins his defense of his third rushing title and the Vikings open the road for the seventh time in the last nine years. Those are just two storylines to follow this week, but here are five more.
1. Quarterback question
For the last week and for the next four days, much of the talk surrounding the Vikings has been and will be about the quarterback. The big question right now is: Who will start for the Vikings on Sunday? Don't expect head coach Mike Zimmer to answer that question, though. Until the Vikings offense strolls onto the field in Tennessee on Sunday, it's a question without a (public) answer.
2. Zimmer has '15 Week 1 disappointment as a teaching point
Favored to win in the season opener on the road. Sound familiar? That's the situation the Vikings are currently in and it's the same situation they faced last season, right before they dropped the season opener to San Francisco in disappointing fashion. The injury to Teddy Bridgewater has some neutralizing effect on the comparison, but there is one major commonality in place: the running game. A big part of San Francisco's upset last year over the Vikings was their rushing offense, which generated 230 yards and two touchdowns on 39 carries. With heavy investment in their offensive line and at running back (two-headed attack of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry), don't be surprised if Tennessee attempts to replicate this formula in search of their own Week 1 upset.
3. Through it all, Vikings passing offense must still generate explosive gains
Even with the changes at quarterback and the presence of the best running back in the game, the Vikings offense will be asked to throw the ball explosively. The loss of Bridgewater would seem to wash away any possibility that opposing defenses even think about easing up on crowding the box to stop Peterson, so expect there to be opportunities for the Vikings in the passing game. If they hit on those opportunities, then space will be created for the rushing attack and the Vikings defense will bear less pressure.
4. Vikings offensive line
Two new starters, two returners and one position switch. That is the composition of the Vikings offensive line. C Joe Berger and LT Matt Kalil are the returning starters, LG Alex Boone and RT Andre Smith are the newcomers, and RG Brandon Fusco is back in his spot after a one-year stint on the left side in 2015. Lots of work has been put in by this group to improve and gain synergy over the past five months, but with Berger sharing reps with John Sullivan during that time and also playing at RG when Fusco was hurt, there is still some room for improvement. The pass protection looked improved during the preseason and now with the regular season here the full force of the running game – Adrian Peterson included – will be unveiled.
5. Injury report!
Much to the chagrin of coach Zimmer and every other head coach around the League, the dawn of the regular season represents the dawn of the first injury report. It may be the first regular season game, but that doesn't mean every team is perfectly healthy. The Vikings (and Titans) will release their first injury reports on Wednesday afternoon.