1. CB Xavier Rhodes vs. WR Julio JonesIs there a wide receiver in the NFL playing better than Julio Jones right now? Probably not. Xavier Rhodes is the Vikings best neutralizer on receivers like Jones and these two will battle in Week 12. Jones was targeted eight times and caught six passes, but only two of them (for 27 yards) were completed with Rhodes in coverage. Also, Rhodes made a highlight-worthy pass breakup in the game when he stayed in coverage down the field after a double move by Jones and knocked a pass away.
2. RB Adrian Peterson vs. RB Todd GurleyA pair of special running backs will take the field in Minnesota on November 8 when Todd Gurley and the Rams visit Adrian Peterson and the Vikings. In terms of NFL production, there is obviously no comparison between the two. But the Rams hope that Gurley can one day impact the offense in similar fashion to how Peterson still impacts the Vikings offense.
3. DE Everson Griffen vs. LT David BakhtariEarly in Aaron Rodgers' career, the Vikings made a habit out of bringing him to the ground. Of late, though, Green Bay has done a better job of protecting their franchise QB. The man charged with protecting Rodgers' blindside is David Bakhtari, and he's the man who will see the most of Everson Griffen in the two upcoming Vikings-Packers matchups. Griffen had 1.0 sack against Green Bay last season and you can be sure he's looking for more this year.
4. QB Teddy Bridgewater vs. QB Derek CarrTaken four picks apart in the 2014 NFL Draft, QBs Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr may have gone to different conferences but they remain close for comparison's sake. They will be close for proximity's sake in Week 10 when their teams battle in Oakland. Some of Carr's numbers are gaudier (4,192 passing yards to 3,693 and 28 TDs to 16), but Bridgewater throws for a higher percentage (65.0 to 58.9), for more yards per attempt (7.14 to 5.81) and has more wins (8 to 5).
View exclusive images shot by the team photographer from the Oct. 4 game against Denver.
5. Mike Zimmer vs. Bruce AriansBoth are long-tenured and well-respected coaches in the NFL. Both have won a Super Bowl as assistants. And now both are trying to parlay past experience with current opportunity to bring a Super Bowl to their current team. Bruce Arians, one of the brightest offensive minds in the NFL, is 33-15 in his last 48 games as a head coach in the NFL and he will host defensive mastermind Mike Zimmer and the Vikings in Week 14. The coaching acumen of these two cannot be questioned, but it will be tested in this affair because the teams meet on Thursday Night Football, just four days after their Week 13 contests.
6. OTs Matt Kalil & TJ Clemmings vs. LBs Tamba Hali & Justin HoustonPass protection is a point of conversation surrounding the Vikings right now because QB Teddy Bridgewater has been sacked 13 times in four games. The Vikings progress in this regard will be tested immediately coming out of the bye because a talented pass-rushing tandem comes to town in Week 6 – Chiefs LBs Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. Together, Hali and Houston have registered 32.0 sacks in the last 20 games, including 22.0 sacks from Houston alone in 2014.
7. S Harrison Smith vs. QB Jay CutlerHarrison Smith has 11 career INTs, and he's victimized Jay Cutler more than any other QB. Three of Smith's INTS have come against the Chicago Bears and Cutler, and Smith will try to increase that total twice in the next 12 games – Week 8 in Chicago and Week 15 at home. Cutler, on the other hand, has a solid 23-13 TD-INT ratio in 11 career games against the Vikings, so don't expect the veteran QB to cower at the challenge of facing Smith and the Vikings defense twice in the next 12 weeks.
8. LB Anthony Barr vs. LB Khalil MackOne went No. 5 overall and the other went No. 9 overall in the 2014 NFL Draft. Both are dynamite players and both will take the same field in Week 10. LB Anthony Barr, who went ninth to the Vikings, LB Khalil Mack, who went fifth to the Raiders, are do-everything standouts for their respective defenses. Barr was on track for serious Defensive Rookie of the Year consideration through 12 games last season before an injury ended his rookie season prematurely. Mack started all 16 games for the Raiders as a rookie and tallied 84 tackles, 4.0 sacks and four pass breakups.