Kickoff for the Vikings season-opener at Tennessee is only hours away. Here are a few final thoughts on the game.
Vikings must play well around whichever quarterback is playing
The Vikings have not said who will start at quarterback, but reports have emerged over the last 24 hours that it will be Shaun Hill. Regardless of which quarterback is on the field, and even as important as the quarterback position is, the Vikings must also play well around the quarterback. A lot of focus was placed on the offensive line this past offseason and a young wide receiver corps has worked diligently to improve. Those two groups will face their first test today, plus the Vikings will welcome Adrian Peterson back to the fold after he sat out the entire preseason.
A matchup that matters
With all the focus on the Vikings quarterback situation and the desire of both offenses to run the ball and establish a physical presence, one interesting matchup that has been lost in the shuffle is Vikings DE Everson Griffen versus. Titans LT Taylor Lewan. The Titans selected Lewan with a first-round pick in 2014 and he's now entrenched as their starter on QB Marcus Mariota's blindside. His matchup today is a tough one in Griffen, who was a fourth-round pick in 2010 but who has now produced back-to-back double-digit sacks seasons. Whether it's Tennessee trying to run the ball or attempting to attack through the air, this matchup will be pivotal to the outcome of the game.
All the talk about TEN running game, but then there's Adrian…
The Titans are heavily invested along the offensive line, with three first-round picks and a free agent signing among the starting five. They acquired DeMarco Murray and drafted Derrick Henry this offseason. Mariota can run the read option. The Vikings allowed 230 yards and two touchdowns on 39 rushing attempts to the San Francisco 49ers in last year's season opener. So you can see why there's been so much talk of the Titans running game this week. Through it all, it's the Vikings who have last year's rushing champion – Adrian Peterson. It's the Vikings who have the running back who is an annual Week 1 star – Peterson has averaged 94.8 rushing yards per game in nine Week 1 games. And it's the Vikings who've consistently had the running game as their offensive identity in what's become a pass-happy league. For once, Peterson has not been in the limelight in the build up to the game. It'll be interesting to see which team's running game is being talked about after today's game.
Don't be surprised if special teams plays a significant role in today's outcome
With so many expecting a physical, possibly low-scoring game in Tennessee today, it won't be a surprise if something or a series of events on special teams is considered a significant factor. The Vikings have two of the best returners in the game in kickoff returner Cordarrelle Patterson and punt returner Marcus Sherels – can they register impact plays? If the Vikings coverage units are sound, can the Titans offense drive 80 yards to put points on the board? Which team can make a difference with their special teams?
Tennessee weather – shouldn't be a major factor
Temperatures were in the upper 80s in Nashville just before the Vikings arrived. Then, once the Vikings were on the ground, heavy rain fell on the area for about an hour. On Sunday, the weather is and should remain much calmer. The forecast calls for a game-time temperature of 79 degrees and there is almost no chance of precipitation for the area between noon and 3:00 p.m.