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Lunchbreak: The Athletic Previews Vikings-Bengals Season Opener

The 2021 NFL season has officially kicked off, as Tampa Bay opened the season with a last-second win over Dallas on Thursday night.

The Vikings still have a few more days to wait, with Minnesota set to take on Cincinnati at noon (CT) Sunday.

Chad Graff, Arif Hasan and Jon Krawczynski recently previewed the Week 1 matchup for The Athletic. Each writer picked an area he will have an eye on.

Graff and Krawczynski both noted they will be watching Minnesota's secondary.

Graff wrote:

We all know that the defensive line is miles better than the front four they put out a year ago, and the defense as a whole should be much better. But I'm curious to see how the secondary looks. They didn't play any preseason snaps together and now face a pass-happy offense. It's our first chance to see if Patrick Peterson can still be the No. 1 cornerback the Vikings believe he is or if his tendency to pick up penalties will continue.

Krawczynski added:

The Bengals have had some … interesting developments this summer in their passing game with Ja'Marr Chase having trouble catching the ball. Joe Burrow is back from his knee injury and will probably try to test the cornerbacks to try to neutralize the stout Vikings front. How Patrick Peterson, Bashaud Breeland, Mackensie Alexander and the crew hold up will be a good early-season indicator of where this defense can go.

Hasan went with the Vikings offensive line, noting he's interested to see how Ezra Cleveland and Olisaemeka Udoh fare in their first starts in new positions along the line.

And all three reporters projected the Vikings to take home a victory, although each score prediction had Minnesota by less than a touchdown.

Graff wrote:

The Bengals may have some weapons on offense, and it'll be fun to watch Joe Burrow in his return after a gruesome injury a year ago. But the Vikings are simply a better-coached team with a better roster. Don't overthink this one.

Hasan added:

The Vikings are a chaotic team, but I have a hard time believing the Bengals are in a position to take advantage of it. Right now, it looks like the Vikings will (mostly) have who they want to have for this game.

Krawczynski noted:

After all of the vaccination angst, a few injuries and an overall feeling of being unsettled, I really thought long and hard about picking the Bengals. It would be a classic Vikings move to come out flat and gift-wrap a game on the road against a team it should beat. In fact, I picked the Bengals in a podcast appearance earlier this week. But the more I look at it, the harder it is for me to believe the Vikings are going to stub their toes against a team that they appear to match up with very well.

The Athletic's full Week 1 preview can be found here.

Cousins at No. 13 in CBS Sports' QB power rankings

The regular season is here, which also means the return on CBS Sports weekly quarterback power rankings.

Cody Benjamin compiled this week's list, explaining how it is assembled.

How are the QBs ranked? We try to factor in both current standing and future upside. So a long résumé doesn't always guarantee an edge over untapped potential, just as a cold streak doesn't always erase a history of success. At the end of the day, we're simply trying to sort the QBs based on 2021 value, both now and in the near future.

Benjamin led off his rankings with Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins came in at No. 13 on the list.

Benjamin wrote:

Captain Kirk probably gets criticized a bit too much, even though he's anchored in the tier below championship-caliber talents. His crunch-time résumé leaves a lot to be desired, but he's accurate, efficient and capable of big plays; solid, if unspectacular.

Cousins is entering his fourth season in Minnesota as a starter and has gone 25-21-1 in the previous three regular seasons.

Since 2015, Cousins is the league's only quarterback to throw for 3,500-plus yards and at least 25 touchdowns in each season.

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