The Vikings (6-2) are making a rare road trip to Kansas City to face the Chiefs (5-3) at noon (CT) Sunday.
Minnesota is searching for its first win at Arrowhead Stadium since December 1974. The 45-year gap is kind of misleading since the Vikings have only played at the iconic venue four times since, and because NFC teams only visit AFC teams every eight years under the current scheduling format.
The Chiefs prevailed 22-17, despite a 41-yard reception by rookie Kyle Rudolph and a sack by Everson Griffen to go along with two by Jared Allen.
The Vikings claimed a 16-10 win at the University of Minnesota in 2015, thanks to a 4-yard touchdown catch by Rudolph, who along with Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are the only three offensive players from that game that are still on Minnesota's roster.
The defense, however, is another story. Six Vikings who opened that game four years ago are poised to start on Sunday. Danielle Hunter, Linval Joseph, Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes all opened the most recent contest against the Chiefs (Griffen was inactive that day). Trae Waynes and Shamar Stephen also played in that game and are projected to start.
Kansas City Head Coach Andy Reid and others noted the uncommon continuity of Minnesota's defense this week, which could be helpful against a Chiefs offense that likes to use tricks to accentuate its track speed.
Often seemingly superhuman at home in one of the loudest venues, the Chiefs have dropped three this season in their friendly confines. Even so, Kansas City remains an incredible challenge that will start a second half of the Vikings schedule that is loaded with contenders.
The overarching question at the start of the week remains just that because Thielen and Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes were both listed as questionable for Sunday's game.
Both were listed as limited participants in all three of their respective practices this week.
Thielen, however, was the only Viking to receive a designation.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, ruled out three starters on Friday: G Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (ankle), T Eric Fisher (groin) and DE Alex Okafor (ankle). Kansas City also listed DE Frank Clark (neck), CB Kendall Fuller (thumb), DT Chris Jones (groin) as questionable.
One of my favorite personnel packages that the Vikings run on offense are the sets with three tight ends. I know that this package started as mostly run, but we are starting to see how dynamic it can be in the passing attack. How do you think this personnel grouping will evolve in the second half of the season?
— Vikings fan Aaron in Green Bay, Wisconsin
First, Aaron, thanks for your support across the border. Second, I think you and the Vikings offense are on to something. Sure, each game will have a different plan, but Minnesota has had considerable success when using "heavy personnel" including the 13 grouping with one running back and three tight ends.
NFL's Next Gen Stats highlighted that the Vikings rank second in the NFL with 7.7 yards per play when using 13 personnel:
The grouping of Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith, Jr., and Tyler Conklin can make opponents lean on trying to stop a formidable running game or create confusion against man coverage. The versatility of all three helps this.
Minnesota has used two or fewer receivers on a league-leading 77.1 percent of their plays this season, which is 16 points more than the 49ers had entering Week 9. Teams have responded by putting seven or more defenders in the box on 66.3 percent of plays against the Vikings offense.
Kirk Cousins and the passing game have been able to take advantage of a loaded box. According to Next Gen Stats, he has faced seven-plus defenders in the box on 118 pass attempts, the most in the NFL, and leads the league with 1,070 passing yards and 12 passing touchdowns in those scenarios.
"I have a crystal ball, but I haven't used it this week, so I don't know. We'll have to see on Sunday."
— Zimmer on Thielen's status for the game
Stat of the Week — 39 of 10+
The Vikings are tied for first in the NFL with 39 runs of at least 10 yards in 2019, an average of almost five per game. They also are tied for first with 21 runs that have gained 15 or more and lead the league with 11 runs of 20-plus yards.
As for Kansas City's defense, the Chiefs have allowed 29 runs of 10 or more yards (tied for the fifth most in NFL), nine runs of 15-plus yards (tied for 15th most) and five runs of 20 or more (tied for 10th most).
View Vikings practice images from October 31 as the team prepares for the Kansas City Chiefs.
FOX (KMSP in Minneapolis/St. Paul) and NFL Network
Play-by-Play: Kevin Burkhardt
Analyst: Charles Davis
Sideline Reporter: Pam Oliver
Because this is a national broadcast, fans from coast to coast will be able to watch the game on their iOS mobile devices with the VIKINGS APP or VIKINGS MOBILE SITE (Safari browser only).
According to 506sports.com, the game will be televised (and viewable on mobile) across a large swath of the country that includes much of the North, Midwest, Great Plains and South, as well as New England, several Rocky Mountains states and a good bit of Southern California.
KFAN 100.3-FM/KTLK 1130-AM in Minneapolis/St. Paul
Play-by-Play: Paul Allen
Analyst: Pete Bercich
Sideline Reporters: Greg Coleman & Ben Leber
Radio Pre-game Show: Mike Mussman | 10 a.m. (CT)
KFAN and KTLK serve as the flagship stations for the five-state Vikings Radio Network.
Compass Media Networks
Play-by-Play: Chris Carrino
Analyst: Brian Baldinger
Sirius: MIN 108 or Streaming 819; KC 83 or Streaming 815
XM: MIN Streaming 819; KC 226 or Streaming 815
Click here for the full bevy of options that include over-the-air, cable, satellite, over-the-top and streaming methods.