In every NFL matchup, there are a seemingly endless amount of angles to analyze. It's hard to get to them all during the week of practice, and I'm sure there were some that slipped through the cracks despite all of the Vikings vs. Patriots preview content we provided on vikings.com this week.
With kickoff fast approaching, here are a few final thoughts on today's Vikings-Patriots contest.
How to Take In Today's Game Game Time: 12:00 p.m. CT TV:CBSRadio:Vikings Radio Network; KFAN-FM 100.3/KTCN-AM 1130Mobile:NFL Mobile (exclusively on Verizon)
Zimmer's Done This BeforeAdrian Peterson will not be in the lineup for today's game, and the loss of such an important player just two days in front of a game is a profound one and is one many expect will doom the Vikings. You cannot put Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer in that population of people, though. With 30 years of coaching experience, Zimmer knows football is the ultimate team game and he's also been through countless experiences where a star player became unavailable. In fact, Zimmer's Cincinnati defense last year lost two of its best players – DT Geno Atkins and CB Leon Hall – and still finished third in the NFL.
Furthermore, today marks a tremendous opportunity for Zimmer in his second game as head coach of the Vikings. Should the Vikings defeat the Patriots today without the services of Peterson, Zimmer will have earned even more respect than he already has from the locker room. While some fans and observers can grow cynical when adversity rears its head, coaches and teams and locker rooms often times become galvanized. I expect that's what will happen with the Vikings today.
Asiata Likely Starts, But McKinnon May Factor In, TooThe Vikings have Matt Asiata listed behind Peterson on the depth chart, meaning he'll likely get the start today when the Vikings offense trots onto the field for the first time. But rookie RB Jerick McKinnon, who impressed during the preseason, will likely get plenty of opportunities, too.
I watched every Miami Dolphins run of seven-plus yards last week against this Patriots defense. Many of the runs were belly and slash runs and most of the explosive runs were designed cutbacks. I feel it's fair to wonder if McKinnon's skill set is better suited for these designed cutbacks, and therefore I also feel it's fair to speculate that McKinnon's role in today's game plan may have increased significantly.
This is not to diminish the role Asiata will now play, though. Asiata is a complete running back, one who can pound a defense between the tackles but also one who is a reliable receiver out of the backfield and an effective pass protector, as well. Running back is a position of strength for the Vikings because they have the best one in the NFL in Peterson and multiple quality backups. That depth at running back will be tested early this season – it'll be tested today.
Weather Now a Consideration for Vikings Home GamesFor the first time in over 30 years, weather is now a consideration for Vikings home games. Today, though, weather will be no worry. Game time temperatures are expected to be in the 60s with no thought of precipitation even possible. There may be some cloud cover and winds could reach the 15-20 mph range, so fans in the stands may be a bit colder than they'd like if they're in the shade and are being hit by the wind, but players will love the conditions and it'll be a perfect day for football.
Expect a Few Patriot GamesYou never know what to expect from Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick. He is as smart and crafty a coach as there is in the game, and he seemingly always has something up his sleeve. What will it be today? One thing I am anticipating is for New England to use some tactic on offense to offset the Vikings pass rush. With a couple lineup changes due to injury and performance from last week, perhaps New England will use a quick count or silent count. Defensively, it could be any number of things and of course the loss of Peterson throws a wrench into things. Regardless, it'll be interesting to see how each team handles this game and what things they do differently from their Week 1 contests.
Patriots Starters Declared Out: LB Collins, OL WendellOn Friday we noted that Patriots starting lineup Jamie Collins did not practice at all on Friday with a quad injury after practicing earlier in the week. Collins was listed as questionable on Friday's injury report. While it seemed Collins' injury was genuine, it also seemed as if he'd be able to play. But reports surfaced that Collins is indeed out for today's game because he did not make the trip. Also not making the trip is Patriots starting C Ryan Wendell.
The Patriots signed practice squad LB Deontae Skinner to their active roster.