Kickoff for Vikings-Chiefs is quickly approaching. Here are a few final thoughts on tonight's game.
Turning up the heatThe intensity will be cranked up because it's the third preseason game, often referred to as the "dress rehearsal" for the regular season. Tonight, the increased intensity comes with increased heat. When the team arrived at Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday afternoon at about 4:00 p.m. CT, the temperature was 95 degrees. The forecast calls for 90 degrees at 7:00 p.m.
Tonight will be a good test for the players to perform in this heat.
Vikings first road testThe Vikings did not win a road game in 2013. They were 0-9-1, losing both road preseason games and failing to win a regular season game on the road. A lot goes into playing on the road, even before the team hits the field. It will be interesting to see how the Vikings respond to how Mike Zimmer sets up road trips for his team.
Many say winning is contagious, and those who believe that are also inclined to believe that while preseason games don't count in the standings they are still important to win. The Vikings are 2-0 this preseason, establishing a winning mentality at TCF Bank Stadium. Tonight represents the Vikings first try at establishing a winning mindset on the road.
QB playing timeMatt Cassel will likely start for the Vikings tonight and will eventually give way to Teddy Bridgewater, according to NFL Network's Albert Breer. Earlier on Saturday, Breer tweeted the following:
Vikings' plan for tonight similar to last week -- To go with Matt Cassel until about halftime. Teddy Bridgewater could get a few 2Q snaps. — Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) August 23, 2014
This comes as no surprise. Cassel has been productive as the starter, driving the offense for a touchdown in the preseason opener and then leading the offense to 13 points in the first half against Arizona last week. Bridgewater, of course, had the late-game heroics that caught most people's attention. Whether he has a chance to do that again tonight remains to be seen, but Zimmer did say earlier in the week that Christian Ponder may get a chance to play, as well.
Ultimately, expect to see a lot more of Cassel and Bridgewater for the balance of tonight's game.
View behind the scenes images of the Vikings traveling from Minneapolis to Kansas City.
Talkin' turnoversOutside of points scored and allowed, the most critical variable when it comes to determining winners and losers in the NFL is turnovers. There are only about 12 offensive possessions per team in a regular season NFL game, so giving any away is detrimental to the winning cause.
The Vikings so far this preseason have been good in the turnover battle. The offense has yet to turn the ball over, a trend you can be sure Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner has pointed out to his group. On the other side of the ball, it would be great to see the Vikings first team defense force a turnover or two as they go against a Chiefs offense that features plenty of playmakers and an ordinarily very sharp and careful quarterback in Alex Smith. Last season, the Chiefs were the NFL's second-best team in terms of turnover differential, going 18 for the regular season.
Blanton could win a starting spot tonightOne of the jobs that is still up for grabs is the starting safety spot next to Harrison Smith. Robert Blanton had a beat on it in the early stages of training camp, but then a hamstring injury sidelined him and muddied up the picture. Tonight, Blanton can take a huge step toward re-clarifying the picture. Zimmer said earlier in the week that Blanton will see plenty of action tonight.
Watch out for familiar facesVikings fans who watch tonight's game on television may get a glimpse of some familiar faces on the Chiefs sideline. Former Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress is the Chiefs Spread Game Analysis/Special Projects coach and former Vikings running backs coach Eric Bieniemy has the same title with the Chiefs now. Vikings fans may also remember former Packers cornerback Al Harris – he's an Assistant Secondary coach for the Chiefs.
Andy Reid is Kansas City's head coach.
Oklahoma Joe'sIf you ever make it to Kansas City and you're in the mood for some authentic BBQ, look up a place called Oklahoma Joe's. The location we went to on Friday night was small in size – it shared space with a gas station – but grand in taste and atmosphere. People were lining up out the front door and down the block, but the friendly folks behind the counter took orders and distributed food quickly. It's a legit spot. My favorite item was actually the "dirty rice."
Watch tonight's game!Not in the Twin Cities/Minnesota area but still want to see the game tonight? Click here for a solution.