Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer routinely talks about wanting his team to be a tough, gritty bunch, a unit that prepares the same each week no matter who the opponent is.
That's certainly the mantra Zimmer will heed this week as the Vikings prepare to face the winless Cleveland Browns in London.
Matthew Coller of 1500ESPN.com wrote that Zimmer will have the Vikings focused and locked in for Sunday's Week 8 matchup.
[The Browns] are 0-7 this year and 1-22 over the last two seasons. This year they have scored 14.7 points per game, dead last in the NFL. On defense, they've allowed 24.1 points per contest, giving up the No. 2 quarterback rating in the league, allowing a 105.7 rating to opposing QBs.
The Browns started rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer, then benched him, then started him again, then benched him again.
On Monday, future Hall of Fame left tackle Joe Thomas announced he's out for the year.* *
It's hard to look at the 5-2 Vikings' matchup in London with the Browns as anything but a massive mismatch. Mike Zimmer talked Monday about how he's approaching the weakest opponent on the schedule.
"I just want us to continue to try and get better and improve. I think our team will believe that this team is a good team when we get back into it and we start getting more in preparation with it," Zimmer said. "They lost by three to Pittsburgh, lost by three to Indy, lost in overtime to Tennessee – who is leading that division, and they had another real close one against somebody."
Coller noted that the Browns should already have a couple of wins under their belt based on how they've played.
While the Browns have played a number of tight games, their expected win total isn't much difference from their regular total. According to Pro Football Reference, **they should be 2-5* instead of 0-7 based on point totals.*
"It's going to be about us and how we play, and that's usually how it is every single week," Zimmer said. "Do we play with the same? Do we prepare the same way? Did we play at the same intensity? Do we play as a smart football team – understand the things we have to do to beat this particular team? And I think that's the points of emphasis that we'll be making this week."
Vikings won't go hungry in London
The Vikings have already mapped out sleep schedules and will use special smartphone glasses when they travel across the pond this week.
And then the team gets to London, the food will be taken care of, too.
Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com recently wrote that the Vikings have also have a plan for making sure players are well fed and ready to play, a strategy that was designed by Geji McKinney-Banks, the team's director of food service operations.
Chef Geji, as she is known at the team facility (and **on Twitter*), knows what her players like and is fully aware that the days leading up to an NFL game are not the time to expand palates.*
That's why McKinney-Banks already has requested a specific vendor that guarantees delivery of USDA beef. And it's why she has shipped two boxes of commercial-size Bisquick mix, 10 bottles of hot sauce, a box of Lipton tea and a case of cherry juice concentrate for smoothies. The care package also included waffle and pancake flour.
"We don't want them going over there and not eating right because they aren't used to the food," McKinney-Banks said. "There can be some stark differences in flavor, especially if you're talking about beef. They've got a game. We don't want them feeling hungry because they can't or won't eat what they're given."
McKinney-Banks traveled with the Vikings on their trip to London in 2013 and crafted her menu based on that venture.
If the details of feeding a football team some 4,000 miles from home appear daunting, McKinney-Banks doesn't appear to be sweating it. She was smiling and relaxed as she discussed the challenge last week.
"I've always said I wanted to be a world-class chef," she said. "That's the kind of thing you write down and put away when you're 11 years old. We're going to another country, and I look at this as my opportunity. I'm not afraid. I love this and I'm so confident in what I do. It's going to be OK."