With kickoff fast-approaching, here are a few final thoughts about today's game...
3 things to expect from Broncos offense
This is more of a hunch than anything, but below is a list of three things to expect from the Broncos offense today:
1) Rushes early in the game: The Vikings have a great pass rush and they had a hard time stopping the run at San Francisco in Week 1, so expect Denver to test the run defense before they assume they can't run on it.
2) Stacked formations: Vikings CBs did a great job in coverage last week, which was part of the reason the pass rush was so productive. One way to neutralize physical coverage, particularly when its press coverage, is to stack the WRs in their formation. This allows the receiver lining up in the trail position to get a clean release from the line of scrimmage and avoid contact early in the route.
3) Lots of TEs: The Broncos surely saw the success San Francisco had against the Vikings using TE-heavy formations ("13", "12" and "22" personnel). Denver will want to keep their talented WR duo of Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas on the field as much as possible, so 13 personnel may not be in play much but 12 and 22 may well be. Keeping a pair of TEs on the field can help in the running game, can help in pass protection and could keep the Vikings in their base defense (unless the Vikings play nickel or another sub package).
Teddy may have to take off
As Voice of the Vikings Paul Allen and I broke down in the Menards Film Room segment of this week's Vikings GamePlan, the secondary has played a significant role in Denver's success on defense this season. Aqib Talib is playing as well in coverage as any CB in the League, fellow starter on the outside Chris Harris, Jr. is a quality player and nickel CB Bradley Roby is solid. In the NFL, QBs make their money and help their team win games by operating well from within the pocket. But it won't be shocking if Denver does a nice job in coverage today, and if that's the case then it may be incumbent upon Teddy Bridgewater to extend plays – and drives – by making plays with his legs. With as good as Denver's pass rush is, Bridgewater won't have all day to wait in the pocket for receivers to break open. Making plays by scrambling for 1st downs can be demoralizing for a defense, and it may be necessary today for Bridgewater and the Vikings.
Field position: Can you repeat that?
A team has to do a lot of things properly to march into Denver and defeat the Broncos in their own stadium. Denver is 23-2 at home since signing Peyton Manning, after all. If the Vikings are to tack on a third home loss to that mark, it's a good bet they will have won the field position battle in so doing. The Vikings dominated in this facet of the game last week in a pounding of the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers didn't start a drive outside of their 20 the entire game, which forced QB Philip Rivers and Co. to constantly have to battle with their backs against the wall. Limiting turnovers, getting off the field on 3rd down defensively, and covering kickoffs and punts well is the way to win the field position battle and it'll be vital for the Vikings to perform well in all of those phases of the game today.
Time to break tendencies and trends
We are three games into the season, and in the span of three games it's only natural that teams develop tendencies and trends in their schemes, strategies and play calling. This week could be the week the Vikings and Broncos throw a curveball to their opponent by doing something that represents a change from the norm. It could be the deployment of a new personnel grouping, it could be a trick play, it could be a lineup change. There's nothing specific to point out or tease, but there is the possibility that either or both teams will do something to mix it up a bit today.
Big game for B-Rob?
A lot of defensive linemen/pass rushers have been talked about this week. Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware form as good a pass-rushing tandem as you'll find. Everson Griffen has 3.0 sacks this season and is playing lights out. Both teams are deep at DT. Left out of the conversation has been Brian Robison, but he has a chance to change the conversation entirely today. With LT Ty Sombrailo ruled out, the Broncos may move Ryan Harris from RT to LT and have Michael Schofield start and play in his first career game at RT. With all of the Broncos attention likely focused on Griffen and the DTs, Robison (and anyone else who lines up over the RT) may have plenty of one-on-one opportunities against an untested blocker.